Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £26,892,676, 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, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid."—[NOTE: £16,000,000 has been voted on account.]
When I first entered this House in 1906, the total of the Exchequer Estimates for that year was £149,500,000, and in the year 1914 it had risen to £197,500,000. The education Estimates in those two years were £12,652,548 and £14,660,311. To-day the Government are asking the Committee to give its approval to Estimates of £42,892,676, which compares with the Estimates last year of £48,362,677. With the sum raised from the rates by the local education authorities, there is a total of £86,000,000 for all educational purposes, in which I include grants to universities and some grants by the Department of Agriculture. If we include Scotland, very nearly £100,000,000 is raised from rates and taxes for the cause of education—more than half the total of the whole Budget of 1914. This is a colossal sum, and I assert with some pride that there is no other country in Europe that spends nearly as much.
When the call for economy came last year, it fell to the Department over, which I had the fortune to preside to take its part. The May Committee recommended that there should be a total saving of over £11,000,000 in education, but this was based on a 20 per cent. reduction in teachers' salaries. Broadly speaking, teachers' salaries constitute about two-thirds of the total cost of edu- cation; for instance, taking elementary education alone, teachers' salaries amount to £40,000,000 out of the total of £62,000,000, and it is perfectly obvious that any alteration in the percentage must have important results on the amount of economy. The Committee will remember that the final cut was reduced to 10 per cent., and that is the principal reason why the proposed reduction of the Board's expenditure by the May Committee was roughly halved, the actual saving contemplated for the coming year being £5,466,701. If one excludes unemployment pay and the Road Fund, this is more than half the total reduction for the Civil Service Estimates in the year. In any year there must always be some inevitable new expenditure on general developments, such as school accommodation on new housing estates like Becontree, the reconditioning of schools, the elimination of blacklisted buildings, and so on, and the May Committee took the estimated addition at £2,250,000 and recommended that it should be reduced to £1,000,000. The Board have fully complied with that recommendation.
I am sure the Committee will understand that such economies as these have been no welcome addition to the task either of the Minister or of the Department. In fact, it has been a difficult and a trying job, and I would like to express my thanks to the officers of my Department for all the help they have given to my colleague and to myself in undertaking this duty. Civil servants are impersonal and even more silent than the "silent Service." Ministers, on the other hand, have to take not only blame but occasionally praise, and I am sure the Committee will allow me to pay a special tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary of this Department, whose very remarkable industry and talents have been at our disposal in the task which we have undertaken. His assistance has been of the greatest value to myself and to the Department. The Postmaster-General, in the early days of these economies, gave me the great benefit of his genial companionship and valuable aid.
Departments are often criticised, and I have taken my share in criticising their size and their expenditure from the opposite side of the House. It therefore affords me special satisfaction to let the Committee know that the Administrative and Inspecting Staff of the Board has been reduced in numbers since 1926 from 1,800 to 1,300, a 28 per cent. reduction, and the cost over the same period has fallen from £750,000 to £585,000, a reduction of 22 per cent. During that time, as I am sure hon. Members opposite will bear testimony, there has been no decrease in the general work of the Board, but rather, in some important Departments, a material increase.
If hon. Members have looked at the Estimates they will see on page 6 that there has been a reduction in expenditure under every head from A to K, with two exceptions—the pensions of teachers and aids to students. Even the most acute critic of expenditure on education always, or nearly always, says, "We do not mind an increase in the expenditure if it goes towards those who are best fitted to make use of the education they receive," and to such a critic I am able to say that the increase of £4,483 for aids to students has gone in providing, in the main, scholarships to universities. I am sure the Committee will be delighted to know that the majority of these scholarships have been won from the secondary schools by boys and girls from the elementary schools who had in the first place gained scholarships in the secondary schools.
The increase under the head of teachers' pensions is £350,000. There is nothing abnormal in that increase. Actuarial calculations made when the last Bill was before the House, in 1925—Members who take an interest in these matters will know that there were three Pension Acts, those of 1918, 1922 and 1925—foreshadowed it. It was estimated that in 25 years' time the cost would be over £9,000,000 a year, as compared with £6,000,000 today. On the other hand, the contributions of 5 per cent. from the teachers and 5 per cent. from the rates, each calculated on the salaries paid, will not materially alter; in fact, the probabilities are that those contributions will remain static. One reason for the heavy charge is the fact that teachers retiring now are, being pensioned on full service, although they only began to contribute under this scheme in 1922, and the rates only began to contribute in 1928. The Emmott Committee estimated the value of this gift as equivalent to an annuity of about £4,500,000 a year for 40 years. I am sure that this heavy and increasing charge will not be begrudged. It was a step taken by this House, which, I am pretty sure, no Parliament is at all likely to go back upon. Further, it is perfectly clear that this will be regarded, as it is regarded to-day, as a first charge on the funds voted by Parliament for education.
With regard to teachers' salaries I can do no other than repeat here the answer which I gave in September in this House when I said:
The reduction in teachers' salaries is occasioned by the national emergency, and is not to be regarded as the view of the Government of what should be proper rates of remuneration of teachers under less abnormal conditions. The position should be reviewed on its merits when the financial position of the country allows."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th September, 1931; col. 1006, Vol. 256.]
I should be very much surprised if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his statement to-morrow, will say anything which will justify me in making any other reply if that question is repeated to me on Wednesday next.
With regard to unemployment I will, at the risk of wearying the Committee, repeat a statement which I made in this House on the 24th September last:
I have made very careful inquiry into the matter and, while I can give no pledge …, yet, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there is scarcely any calling connected with the State in which those who are at present leaving college have less reason to fear unemployment. It may come; I cannot say."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th September, 1931; col. 1915, Vol. 256.]
That is still the position, and the latest information with regard to the 8,500 young teachers who came out of colleges last year shows that of this number only 743 were known to be unemployed on the 31st of December last year, and I have reason to believe that the number has been further decreased since. As for the future I do not care to prophesy, but steps have been taken to restrict the numbers in the training colleges by 1,000 as from August next.
Speaking generally, the teaching profession in this country have taken these reductions in good spirit, and so have the education authorities in carrying out the necessary economies. Last January at a meeting which I addressed in London I referred to a very small body of teachers who threatened to dissociate themselves from the children's play hours and recreation out of school hours, but that small body in no sense represented the feeling of the general body of teachers.
As far as my investigations have gone, I have reason to assert with some confidence that the teaching profession in this country, which comes under the cognisance of the Board of Education, is not only as well, but better remunerated than teachers in any other country in Europe. I know that in some States of America teachers have been paid at a higher rate, but I doubt whether any British teachers would, under present conditions, wish to exchange their positions with their American contemporaries.
I will now return to the effects of these economies. In the Board's Circular 1413, which was issued in the middle of the crisis on the 11th September last year and has stood the test as a remarkable conspectus of the future, I referred to the effect of these economies, and I stated that existing facilities should be generally maintained. I desire to bear testimony to the active and skilful way in which the local authorities have dealt with a situation of extreme gravity and difficulty. I am strongly of opinion that, as has been the experience of the business world, enforced economies need not lead to a corresponding loss of efficiency. If I thought that I was making myself responsible for a serious blow at education by these economies, I should not be standing at this Box to-day.
I will now turn for a minute or two to the health services in which there has been or will be some increase of expenditure. I do not suppose that there is any measure of expenditure which anyone would be inclined to criticise so long as it is devoted to the development of the health of the children on reasonable and proper lines. Health is a fundamental necessity of sound education and of national well-being. It is perfectly hopeless to have the finest educational machinery in the world if you are trying to impart it to a poor, undeveloped child. That is only ordinary common sense. I have no doubt that the children who are leaving school to-day are healthier and fitter than those who left 20 years ago. On the other hand, it must be recognized that complaints are made of the physique of many young men by employers. I understand that the Army authorities are concerned at the physical condition of the recruits. Those complaints undoubtedly point to what is a very serious national problem, namely, the risk of physical deterioration during the period of adolescence after leaving school. That is a problem which is beyond the control of the school authorities. Many workers to-day are engaged in splendid voluntary efforts to tackle this danger, which confronts so many hundreds of thousands of our young fellow-citizens. I would mention in this connection boys' and girls' clubs, boy scouts, girl guides and the many other similar activities. On Friday last, when there was a very interesting Debate in Committee on the Estimates of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) referred to the gang instinct among boys, and suggested that this instinct should be organised more effectively for good than it is at present, rather than be allowed to dissipate itself in evil. I think I ought to let the Committee know that, in this connection, since 1924 there has been a very remarkable development of work among juvenile organisations to which I have already alluded, and to which the Board of Education Juvenile Organisation Committee has paid, and is paying, very special attention. There has been an increase of nearly 100 per cent. in the case of girls and over 50 per cent. in the case of boys who are brought within the ambit of these organisations, and taking only the largest half dozen of these organisations, there is a membership now of well over 1,500,000. The Committee I am sure would be glad if that number were doubled or trebled if that were possible, although, as it is, it is very welcome progress. In connection with the Board of Education Juvenile Organisation Committee, I wish to recognise the great help and the valuable services of the Noble Lady the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education.
It is precisely in a time of national stress like this that this voluntary work is most needed, and I would not like to leave this part of the subject without referring to the very generous financial assistance given by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trustees, especially in South Wales and the Tyneside, where such assistance is sorely needed. The trustees have devoted large sums of money—well over £20,000—already. My right hon. Friend Mr. Lees-Smith, when President of the Board of Education, assured the trustees of the most cordial sympathy of the Board, and all possible assistance and encouragement. That is being given to-day. The gap is at present, as far as possible, being filled up by voluntary helpers, and I wish to bear testimony to the fact that the stirring appeal of the Prince of Wales to the young of the country to come to the assistance of this kind of work has had very satisfactory and most useful results.
In regard to this problem of the health of the adolescent, there is a point to which I might direct the attention of the Committee, and that is the recent report of the Royal Commission on Licensing. That committee was composed of persons of the most divergent opinions. They represented various interests, and produced, naturally, a number of recommendations, but on some things they were unanimous. If I may paraphrase the saying of Sheridan in "The Critic,"
When Royal Commissions agree, their unanimity is wonderful.
They agreed, among other things, on one point, and that was the importance which they attached to suitable instruction in the schools of the country in regard to alcohol, and they asked that consideration should be given to it by the Board of Education, and the Board have endorsed it. The Committee will be aware that there are two publications—the Board's syllabus on "The Hygiene of Food and Drink" and "Suggestions for Health Education" and it is proposed, instead of issuing these separately, to combine them into one pamphlet for the future. I think it would be very much better that the whole of this question should be treated as a matter of hygiene, and as part of the instructions relating to health.
On one other matter affecting the subject of health to which attention has been directed on many occasions, may I say a word? Recent experiments have shown the very great value of milk as an addition to children's diet. About 800,000 children are now receiving a daily ration of milk for which they pay 1d. as compared with 350,000 two years ago, and 120,000, in addition, have had milk provided free by the local education authorities. That is a very gratifying development. It is undoubtedly due to the work of the voluntary organisation in connection with agriculture. May I suggest to my agricultural friends that they have organised, so to speak, a market for their milk at their very door, and that this has been a great advantage to the children and also to agriculture itself.
A word or two about the future. If I had the time, it would be easy to develop the subject under three heads—quantity, quality and direction, but to-day I regard direction as the most important. Future progress is inevitably cramped by questions of economy, and we know that the best that can be said about the national finances at the present time is that the operation has been successful, but that a long period of convalescence is necessary before the patient can be regarded as having regained normal health and strength. But this enforced pause in the development of education, as far as finance is concerned, must not mean, and need not mean, stagnation. Assuming conditions were fairly normal financially, it would be no disservice to education or the nation if a period were taken for quiet review and consideration as to the lines upon which to work in the future. Conditions have changed all over the world with regard to education, as in regard to other things, and education must adapt itself to these new conditions which are imposed on us as a nation, as on other nations. Success in the industrial struggle, not only for supremacy but for the maintenance of our present position, unsatisfactory as it is, will go to the nation whose citizens are best equipped to deal with it, and it is perfectly obvious that preparation for a livelihood is by no means a bad preparation for life. Other countries think so, and they are shaping their educational systems accordingly. European countries such as France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Czechoslovakia are all hard at work, and harder than ever at work, in training their young people for the future, and craftsmanship and technical training are being given their full place from the most primary form of education up to and including the universities themselves.
There is no lack of reports and investigations to guide us in the immediate future. For instance, there is the very remarkable report on Salesmanship under the chairmanship of Sir Francis Goodenough, with which, I hope, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will take an opportunity of dealing, and also with kindred subjects, in his reply. There is also one of the most far-seeing and interesting reports I have read for many a long day—that of the committee on Conditions in South Wales presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). Quite apart from those in South Wales, I would suggest to Members who take an interest, as I am sure all do, in the problems which confront distressed areas and education in those areas, to study that report. There is another rather important report which will shortly be published, namely, the report of the two inspectors of the Board—inspectors on the technical side of the Board—whom I sent to investigate what had been done in France and certain other countries in connection with technical training in the junior schools. It is very interesting to know that the further East they went in Europe the more intensive was the preparation for practical livelihood among the young, and the more skilful the equipment of the young for their place in industry.
One day last week my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade referred to the large place which Czechoslovakia is already playing in the industrial life of the world, and my information goes to show that in that country, from the mountains down to the foothills, and in the larger urban centres in the plains, the most elaborate and successful training is being accomplished. I will give one instance. In Czechoslovakia, 170,000 young people who have left school are released by their employers for further training in their working time—not outside working time, but in their working time. On the population figures for England and Wales, in this country, if that practice were adopted, there would be 500,000 young people being trained in this way; at present there are fewer than 15,000. I would say, "Keep your eye on Czechoslovakia, and on the example that is be- ing set there in connection with the intensive training of its young citizens for future industrial life in that country."
I am well aware that none of these problems can be settled by any ex cathedra pronouncements from Whitehall. We can issue circulars and pamphlets, but, unless this work is undertaken by the local authorities themselves, and determined in the light of the particular conditions in different areas, and of the particular schools and industries, not much good will be accomplished. There is a great field here for enterprise, not only by this Board, but by local authorities, by the teaching profession of all ranks, from the elementary schools to the universities, and by every department of industry and commerce. In order that no time shall be lost in this most important matter, I am already arranging to meet the Advisory Committee of Local Education Authorities, which was set up last September, and which has already proved its value. I hope to meet them in the course of the next two or three weeks for consultation as to the best way to get this matter into active and beneficial operation.
Now I have done. There have been two or three eloquent perorations from this Box during the past few days, but I have nothing of that kind to present to the Committee. I will only say that it is a coincidence that this Vote should precede the Budget of to-morrow. The Budgets of future Chancellors of the Exchequer will depend very largely indeed on the output which the educational system of this country gives of wealth producers—of those who create the wealth upon which taxes are levied. I hope and believe that, not only from a purely financial point of view, but from an international and an ethical standpoint, large as these Estimates are, and economically administered as I hope they will continue to be, this nation will never lose sight of the fact that these expenditures, wisely used, are the greatest and best investment that any nation could make through the whole range of its services, in order to produce, not only an educated, but an honourable and effective citizenship.
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I feel sure that the Committee will desire me to express on their behalf, as I do most heartily on my own, our thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for having presented to us so lucid a statement of the activities of the Board of Education during the time that he has been in charge of that Department. I confess that the right hon. Gentleman did not give me any special cause for rejoicing, for, if he will allow me to say so, the opening remarks of his speech sounded very much like an apologia. He seemed to me to be at very great pains to assure his followers behind him that these figures reflected in the fullest possible degree the most patient and devoted attempt to realise what is called economy through the medium of the activities of the Board. He used a phrase which I was rather surprised to hear from him. He spoke, almost in doleful terms, of an inevitable, unavoidable new expenditure, as though new expenditure on the part of the Board of Education were something of which he need in some wise be ashamed. I have a better opinion of the right hon. Gentleman than that; I can only think that his new associations have corrupted him in some way. However, he had to present to us a statement which, frankly, from the point of view of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, is one which, we have no hesitation in saying at once, is far from encouraging to us. The right hon. Gentleman, quite rightly, expressed his thanks to the officers of his Department for their assistance in the course of his period of office, and, as one who had the great pleasure and privilege of being associated with those officers, I know that any tribute that he may pay them is in no wise undeserved, but, rather, is less than would be adequate to the case. When the right hon. Gentleman offered them his thanks for their services, I felt like offering them my sympathy on the presentation of this story.
This afternoon's discussion of our Education Estimates takes place, as we all know, in circumstances which are very different from those which attended the similar discussions that we had last year. Our country particularly, and the world at large, has seen a very grave financial crisis, and, in response to the implications of that crisis for our own country, there has been a change of Government—I think for the worse—and an em-
barkation upon a policy of what is called economy. With regard to this proposal for economy, the point of view of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee is well known. Speaking for myself, I regarded, and still regard, the point of view adumbrated by the May Committee as being a challenge to the whole philosophy of the movement to which I belong, a philosophy which that movement has preached in season or out of season for something like 40 or 50 years; and, if for no other reason than that we regard social services as being in real fact a definite contribution to our national well-being, I should regard opposition to the proposals of the May Committee's report as being amply justified. When the right hon. Gentleman entered upon his office, he naturally did so on the assumption that he was prepared to cooperate in these proposals for economy, and I daresay he entered upon that task quite conscientiously; I do not question that in any way. But when he came to discuss in his Memorandum the attitude of his Board concerning educational economy, he did, as he has reminded us this afternoon, give certain clear and explicit assurances. He said:
The Board contemplate that existing facilities should be generally maintained. … Local authorities should, however, forthwith review their expenditure and consider what economies are possible consistent with the maintenance of this principle.
That statement was made in the early days of his Governmental activities. Then, later, in January, speaking in Len-don, he made this observation:
As far as I am able at present to ascertain, there should be an increase of employment rather than unemployment during the coming winter. There can be no sliding back from the standard at which we have already arrived, and, in particular, no reversion to those huge classes which were the bane of educationists and the despair of every teacher.
I cite these observations because they indicate, I think fairly, the attitude of mind which the right hon. Gentleman desired us to accept as being his own in approaching the task of educational administration in this country.
May I make this other general observation? In embarking upon the principle of economy, it seems to me that special responsibilities devolved upon the Board. In the first place, they had to make sure, as they still have to do, that they would be able to curb the tendency which is always present in some parts and in some minds—the tendency to abuse economy; and, secondly, while the right hon. Gentleman had in view the introduction of some measure of economy, it seems to me that the responsibility remained with him to prevent that economy from in any way jeopardising the gradual development of educational opportunity in the land. What about this business of economy as we have seen it in operation in the country? It is a curious feature of certain types of political thought in this country that, whenever economy is spoken of, forthwith those particular minds turn automatically to education. It is the first Department that secures their attention. We have had experience of this before, in the days of the application of the Geddes Axe, as we sometimes called it. Many people in the community have rushed wildly to see what they could do in order, if I may so put it, to lop off branches from the educational tree. Indeed, there is reason to fear that economy becomes all too frequent an excuse for parsimony. In many areas it seems to become an opportunity for being simply mean. It is effected by depriving poor children of their copy books. When you are applying economy to education, as far as the Board of Education is concerned, you are applying it in the main to children of the poorer classes, because the children of the well-to-do either go to private schools or to what are called public schools, which are not public in any sense. The population of the elementary schools consists of the children of the poor and, if you are going to apply economy, let it always be remembered that, in applying it to the educational system as controlled by the right hon. Gentleman, you are applying it to those least able to look after themselves. The greater the poverty of the subject with whom you are dealing, the greater should be your care in the exercise of economy at their expense.
I have done my best to follow the reports from week to week as I see them in the educational papers and the impression left on my mind gives me ground for the gravest apprehension. I know the right hon. Gentleman is in some little difficulty administratively in the matter, because you cannot compel these local authorities to spend more. You cannot always compel them to spend less though it is easier to compel them to spend less than to spend more. But the power of compulsion is, I admit, to some degree limited. All the same, a perusal of this memorandum itself indicates the almost immediate effect of this economy campaign. The second table on page 20 shows that capital expenditure grew steadily from 1924–25 until 1930–31. Then, in the year 1931, we have a sub-division from the beginning of the financial year to the entry into office of the first National Government—it is not the same as this Government; the more it changes the more it is the same—and then from the beginning of the National Government to the end of December. We have, therefore, five months of the period of office of the Labour Government and three months of this Government's period of office last year. Look at the enormous drop in capital expenditure approved of under every head. Of course, if you must accept the proposition that you are to embark upon economy, it is no indictment of the right hon. Gentleman but, from the point of view of my argument at the moment, those last figures indicate the extraordinary fright that seems to have possessed the mind of educational administrators up and down the country.
The record of the late Labour Government indicates that we really made definite preparations for development educationally. I know the Postmaster-General does not like this kind of thing, but then he never has done and, if we reduced this to the lowest possible figure, he would still be dissatisfied. The big figure that stands opposite our year of office is £9,186,000. We did our best to stimulate local authorities to go ahead with their building programme, raising the basis of grants in respect of all such operations contractually undertaken between 30th September, 1929, and 30th September, 1932, from 20 to 50 per cent. I make no apology whatever for it because, from our point of view, education is to be regarded as a national rather than a purely local service. On that basis no sort of apology is to be expected from us for raising the basis of grants. Details are given on pages 20 and 21 as to how that money was spent. There were 191 new schools, 222 enlargements of existing schools, 215 rebuilding or alteration of existing schools, and 532 sites with or without buildings thereon, playing fields etc. The figures for 5th September to 31st December are indicative to no small degree of the measure of fright that possessed administrators of education in the early days after the economy campaign of last autumn.
When we pass from the presentation of the picture by the central authority to an examination of it in more local areas, we find ground for the gravest uneasiness. I read, for instance, of discussions in certain county areas and I read of a leading member of the farming community making a terrific attack upon the educational service of the county when at the same time, probably, that very same gentleman has rejoiced in a really substantial measure of exemption—complete with the exception of the farmhouse building—from local rating. At the very time these people are shouting for economy, this very month, we have carried through the House a Bill which is to present to a section of the farming community almost a subsidy of £6,000,000 a year, and yet they demand a cutting down of expenditure on schools and what not. It is so easy to be economical at the expense of other people. In these rural areas the school buildings are, on the whole, rather less efficient—I am putting it mildly—than they are in urban areas. I dare say there are large numbers of buildings which, according to any ordinary or decent standard, would be adjudged to be almost unfit for the purpose of a school. They are certainly not up to our modern educational standard. If they are allowed to remain as they are now, and if the amenities of the urban schools are, as I am sure is the case, yearly being enhanced, the handicap imposed upon the rural child, great as it is now, will, I fear, be substantially greater in the years to come. Therefore, I would plead that some pressure should be brought to bear upon these rural areas to improve their school buildings.
I am very interested, as I believe many others are, in the very influential campaign that has been conducted in the last four or five years for providing national playing fields. Is it not odd that many schools in the heart of the country have less playground accommodation than many a school in a thickly populated urban area? Surely, that is a state of affairs which must receive attention, and I very much hope that the Board will keep its eye upon the point.
Before we come to the playing fields, there is another elementary provision to which we ought to pay attention. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not regard the matter as in any way a condemnation of his administration. It is not personal to his administration at all. It is something which has appertained to schools all too long, but as we grow older the conditions become more imperative in their insistence for attention. Take the question of the sanitary accommodation at those schools. Oftentimes there is no water available and no decent lavatory accommodation. On the other hand, children come for many miles to school under wet conditions, and they sit in their wet clothes all day long, and it is not surprising that oftentimes we find children from country areas whose health has been undermined at those very early ages. I therefore urge the right hon. Gentleman not to allow the principle of economy to exorcise altogether the spirit of educational development.
While I am still dealing with the question of rural conditions, I should like to say a few words upon a matter which again is not pertinent to the particular administration of the right hon. Gentleman but rather a concomitant of the administration of every Government, namely, the question of fees in secondary schools in county areas. I was astonished some months before I left the Board of Education to see what very high fees were charged in some county areas in the country. I speak from memory now, but I recall a county, which shall be nameless, where the fees were as much as 14 guineas a year. Fourteen guineas for an agricultural labourer makes secondary education almost impossible—I should say wholly impossible. When we remember that the secondary schools in those areas are necessarily in some central market town and that children have to go some distance from their homes to the market town which involves the expense of travelling, or possibly even lodging, it clearly makes the whole business of entering a secondary school through the medium of fees wholly impossible for the children of less well-to-do parents. On the other hand, the number of free places in those secondary schools is very far from adequate, and consequently a secondary education in those areas tends largely to be the preserve of the better-to-do people.
I turn to urban areas, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman, or the Parliamentary Secretary, to let us know how the position stands in regard to certain areas. The extraordinary thing about the application of some of the proposals for economy is that they have been so blind and unreasoning in character that it is clear there has been no thought about them. There has been no working out of the application of the principle at all, but just simply cutting as though they were simply butchers. I will take the Salford district. There is a case where there was no semblance of reasoning but just merely an edict issued by some economy committee like that which the unjust steward issued to his servants in the parable, "Take thy bill and write down so and so." The result is that you have an infinite number of odd results accruing from a blind adherence to the fetish of economy. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary where the Board stands in regard to authorities which take up an attitude something similar to that of the Salford Education Committee? And indeed, not the Salford Education Committee, for let me be fair to them. The education committee in Salford, I think, were wholly against the proposal of the economy committee who carried it in the teeth of the opposition of the education committee at the dictates of a sort of local Sir George May.
I am interested personally in another case. What is the present position with regard to Bristol? Before we left office we were obliged to indicate to that authority that we were so displeased with the rate of progress, or with the fact that there was no progress, that we even had to indicate that we should have to withhold the grant. I do not know if my information is correct, but I read that the Bristol committee still remain unrepentant. I hope that it is not so. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I am very glad to hear it. If there has been progress made so much the better, but I want to know where the progress has been, because it is not enough merely to give us a little progress, say, in regard to the new housing sites. What about the schools inside the city itself? After all, the late Government took almost the only step which a Government could take in the matter by indicating that they were proposing to withhold the grant for a period of months. If the right hon. Gentleman or the Parliamentary Secretary can assure us that there has been a change in this matter, I shall be extremely glad. Not to go too far afield, what of our neighbours across the river, at the London County Council Hall? They are enthusiastic supporters of certain Governments, I believe, and I gather that just now they are putting themselves with full vim and vigour behind the chariot of economy. I shall be very glad to know the present position in regard to London.
I turn to the question of secondary education, and I invite the Committee to look at page 17 of the Memorandum. I have already made a reference to fees in rural areas, and, if I had the time, I could dwell upon the table given at the bottom of the page indicating the fees which are still charged—I ascribe no fault to the right hon. Gentleman personally for it—in secondary schools up and down the land. When you remember that only 5.8 per cent. of the schools have no fees, 18.7 have fees not exceeding eight guineas, and so on all through the table, we see that the progress towards freeing secondary education from the incubus of "feedom" is still somewhat slow. I emphasise it, not because I expect any great change to take place during the period of economy, but because I wish to emphasise the point of view of my party. We visualise the time—I do not say that it will come immediately; it cannot come at a stroke perhaps—and I make no apology for saying it, when secondary education in this country will be as free as elementary education. Education, in our judgment, is not a privilege reserved for a few or handed to all, but rather a right to which all are entitled if the State is to expect from each child the full measure of service of which each child is capable.
If the Committee will look at page 17—the first table—they will see that in regard to the non-fee paying pupils there has been a substantial increase in numbers in 1930 as compared with 1929, and that in 1931 there was still a substantial increase of 37,000 free places. Of that I am not in the least degree ashamed. When we turn to the other column, the fee-paying pupils, and take those from the public elementary schools, we observe, comparing the figures of 1930 with the previous figures, that in regard to the number of children passing into the secondary schools by fee-paying we have almost slipped back to the condition of affairs in the year 1925. There has been a decline also, I must admit, in the number of fee-paying pupils who are not public elementary school children, but the figures, in regard to public elementary school children as well as non-elementary school children, reflect the straightened financial conditions in which the parents have recently found themselves. Poverty, clearly, is proving a bar to children whose parents would pay, if they could, whether they come from elementary schools or from non-elementary schools. I do not know that you can find a clearer indication of the effect of poverty interfering with the educational progress of a child than the figures to which I have just directed attention.
Lastly, I notice that the right hon. Gentleman spoke at some length—and I am very glad that he did so—about the question of training college students. He will understand that we on this side of the Committee feel a little unhappy about the situation, because, while we were in office, we definitely stimulated and encouraged students to go to the colleges. We had in mind two educational proposals. One was the raising of the school leaving age Bill which never matured into legislation, and the other the question of re-organisation. There is no doubt, I think, that many of those young people went into the training colleges largely upon the assurance that there would be a job available for them when they emerged from the colleges in 1931 and 1932. The right hon. Gentleman said, in the statement I read to the House at the beginning of my speech, that from his point of view he saw no reason to anticipate unemployment. I hope that that is true. I think that he said that there are sill 743 unemployed.
I will take it that the number is less than that. My hon. Friends on this side are receiving representations, I am sorry to say, from a large number of parents whose sons and daughters have passed through the training colleges during the period under review, and are now unemployed. Moreover, I regret to say, no doubt owing to the mood of economy abroad in the country, large numbers of other young people who normally would go into the training colleges are not being allowed to enter them. It is a very serious state of affairs. I do not attribute any fault to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to those who are coming out of college—that was our job in 1929–30—but it is an important matter for the right hon. Gentleman that economy should be so carefully guided that as many of these young people as possible shall speedily find employment in schools, and that others who have not yet been to college shall be able to find places therein.
I should like to put a few questions to the right hon. Gentleman. Am I right or am I wrong when I suggest that, very largely on account of this economy campaig, reorganisation is at a standstill? If that be true, then a very serious change has taken place in our educational development. The right hon. Gentleman knows that when the Hadow Committee's Report was presented to the country it was acclaimed by everybody as a piece of real educational statesmanship, and for two periods—while the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was in office, followed by our administration—since the publication of the report, endeavours have been made by two successive Governments to implement as speedily as possible the general proposals of that report. I should like to know what is the present attitude of the Board of Education concerning reorganisation. A child goes through school only once. You may postpone if you like certain educational changes for two or three years, and that may be convenient, but in consequence of that postponement certain children passing through the schools can never regain the chance which they lose. However generous your intentions may be concerning children in 1934 or 1935 the important point is, how are you dealing with those who are now passing through the schools and who will never again have a chance of returning to any form of educational instruction?
I am sure—and with this I would couple the last point with which I wish to deal—that if hon. Members who normally look with suspicion upon educational effort would only realise the immense potentialities that lie within a well-considered scheme of reorganisation they would change their view concerning the contribution which education can make to our national wellbeing in the future. It is often urged against our education that we are only catering for children of one type of mind. I think that largely in regard to our secondary school system that has been true. Educational reorganisation would have given us a chance to make a decent start in catering for the child who so disastrously has been overlooked in the past, namely, the practical-minded child. If reorganisation is to be held up for three or four years more, then we really are going to delay a most important and an extremely necessary development and departure in our educational arrangements.
The right hon. Gentleman very kindly made reference to a committee over which I had the honour of presiding when I was at the Board of Education—I am obliged to him for the reference—in which we inquired into the educational affairs of South Wales. There we were dealing with one-industry areas, where children grew up almost without any knowledge of the existence of other trades. So cribbed, cabined and circumscribed were their lives that the world outside their valleys was entirely terra incognita, unknown territory, to them. I am certain that tens of thousands of boys and girls in the mining areas in South Wales and elsewhere are condemned to a life of comparative futility and of economic waste from the point of view of the nation unless we can devise ways and means for reorganising the form of technical instruction presented to our children. We have done a great deal in regard to elementary education and we have done a great deal in regard to secondary education in the last 30 years. But technical education still remains the Cinderella of our education service. That will not do. We are handicapping our youths and our maidens unjustly in the great race with the youths and maidens of other countries.
The right hon. Gentleman has very wisely—I have not seen the report, but I anticipate seeing it and reading it with very great pleasure—sent two inspectors to visit a certain number of countries in Europe, from Czechoslovakia down to France, countries in the very heart of Europe. He has told us of the superlative efforts which are being made by those countries in order to meet the needs of the new world by equipping their young people technically. Looking upon the changes in our industrial system in this country since the War, can anyone doubt that technical equipment and technical education is long overdue here? For my part, if I see in any forthcoming Education Estimates presented by the Board signs of more ample financial provision for developing our technical education activities, I shall not be the last in expressing my hearty appreciation.
I would like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in dealing with technical education—I suggest it on account of my experience in the committee to which he referred—that we should try to induce the local education authorities not to study their technical education requirements in isolation. To do so is of no use. There are a number of education authorities in South Wales; I forget how many. What is the use of small Part III authorities trying to tinker about with technical education on their own? The thing simply cannot be done. The only effective and efficient way in which it can be done is on a regional basis, and I hope that the Board will encourage and exhort local education authorities to act in that spirit and in that direction.
I apologise to the Committee for having delayed them already too long. I am sorry that I cannot speak enthusiastically about the story which the figures disclose. But if it will give my right hon. Friend any personal comfort, I will say that I believe his heart is better than his Estimates. I believe his intentions are far better than these figures have disclosed, and I have no doubt that if the financial condition of the country justified it in his view he would be happy to present a, better story than he has been obliged to present this afternoon. I thank him very heartily for the way in which he has presented the Estimates and, although we cannot accept them as an adequate reflection of what might and what ought to be done educationally in this country to-day, I still say to my right hon. Friend that I am willing to believe that he is prepared to express repentance at some future date.
In rising to speak for the first time I am not ashamed to confess to some feeling of awe and trepidation, but I am encouraged by the recollection of the kind consideration which has been extended to those who have ventured to do the same thing before. Some years of experience in the training of teachers and in secondary schools have taught me that in connection with education it is very easy to fall into the peril of phrase-making, and equally easy to think that the more money that is spent, the more efficient the product is likely to be. It has also taught me that a policy of cheeseparing on the one hand or a policy of seesaw expenditure on the other is productive of very evil results. The Minister has told us this afternoon that he proposes to take this opportunity of taking stock of the educational position. I sincerely trust that he will use his time to the best advantage.
One is forced to the conclusion that we have not yet decided, something like 14 years after the Fisher Act, upon any settled policy in connection with education. We have not yet decided where exactly our secondary school is to stand, or what part our junior technical schools, our senior schools and so forth are to play in the general scheme. In spite of that, we have made certain efforts in the past. We have built up, say, our jigsaw puzzle, but as soon as we have got it done someone has come along and upset the whole lot, and we have made a. tentative effort to start again in the same direction. I do hope that the Minister really intends at this juncture to get busy and to plan out some scheme which shall show the relative parts to be played by the different schools.
I want to see our secondary schools and our technical schools brought much more directly into touch with industry. I was interested in an experiment made a few years ago to bring the Manchester High School of Commerce into touch with the trade and commerce of that city, and I was most disappointed to read one morning in a Manchester newspaper that the attempt had broken down. Reading between the lines I was forced to the conclusion that there has never been very much drive behind it, that it was more of a paper scheme than an actuality, but I should like the President of the Board to urge both sides, the educational side and the trading and industrial side, to come together and work together because it is only by so doing that trade and industry will reap the full benefit of what we are spending as a nation on education. There is no place, I think where reform is needed more than in our secondary schools, and may I be permitted to make one or two suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman. We have heard a great deal both in this House and outside of the joys of free education; how every child should be admitted to the secondary school without fee. I want to make one or two observations on that matter.
In the first place, I should like to ask the Minister whether he cannot introduce a little more of that blessed elasticity, of which we have heard such a great deal in connection with various Bills brought before this House during the last few months. One of the greatest virtues of those Bills has always been that they were very elastic, and I should like the President of the Board of Education to make the entrance age of 11 years a little more elastic than it is at present. Some authorities I believe, like the London County Council, make arrangements by which a child over the age of 11 years can be admitted to a secondary school. My experience in the North of England is that unless a child can pass from the elementary school to the secondary school at the age of 11 its chance is gone for ever, and it will have no subsequent opportunity of getting into a secondary school except via what used to be called the central school. I should like the President to do something for that child. I also put in a plea for the dull child in connection with secondary education. Schooling and education are not synonymous terms. That is a fallacy into which we are very apt to drift. We think that the more schooling you can give the better educated the child is and that the more schooling you give the more desirable citizens they are. I suggest that very often the most desirable members of the community are not the most learned and that the most learned are not always the most desirable. That is the case very often in our school life. I know of scores of instances of children who, through this absurd entrance test, have been debarred from moving into secondary schools who by their temper and attainments and their character and influence, would be worth a thousand children who may be able to tell you how soon it will take to empty a bath if both taps are left running.
May I refer to the other magic age, the age of 16. Secondary school children finish their education, as we call it, at the age of 16 and take the school-leaving certificate examination; or most of them do so. I think about 75,000 of them do so every year. I am going to ask the President of the Board, even if it means setting up another committee, to do something to alter the nature of this test which brands a child for the rest of its life. At the present moment the test for a school-leaving certificate examination is identical with the matriculation examination, which should never be the case because it has nothing to do with it. The matriculation examination is a test to enable a child to pass to a university, and of the children who now take that examination only 10 per cent. pass on to a university while 90 per cent. do not. They are compelled to take this matriculation examination and if they pass well are given a certificate that they have matriculated, but if they do not pass so well they are given the school-leaving certificate. In that examination, in my modest opinion, far too much stress is laid upon the purely academic side. A child must be able to recognise certain passages of poetry, a little piece taken from a huge chunk of poems, and must be able to say where it comes from, write notes upon it and explain it. This test is applied to other subjects as well. By that sort of instruction you are simply cramming a child with facts, whereas the child who can make things, who can paint and draw and do something practical, is really out of the race altogether from the beginning because he is heavily handicapped in competition with the other child. I want to appeal to the Minister to try and make this school-leaving certificate what it really is, a warranty, a guarantee of the child's attainments, what the child actually has done during the whole of its school career, something he can show his employer, and not merely the result of perhaps two or three months' hectic cramming to be followed by a feverish week of examinations with perhaps three or four years' slackness beforehand.
I hope that the speech which the President has made is not related in any way to his fiscal views. I am rather suspicious. I remember that those who held the same fiscal views in the last century as the right hon. Gentleman holds now were in favour of child labour, of half-timers, and the exploitation of girls and children in our factories. I hope that in his zeal for the shades of a century ago the right hon. Gentleman will not allow his enthusiasm to extend to the educational field. The Education Estimates are cut to the bone. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that; although his three colleagues at the head of the Services took the trouble to impress that point upon us. I think the Education Estimates are cut to the bone, and I appeal to hon. Members of the same party as myself that it shall not go forth to the nation from this House, or by any misinterpretation to which we may be subject, that the party to which we belong is a foe of education. I am aware that there are a few Members of my party who think that education breeds Bolshevism, unrest and upheaval. Far from it. If you look at the history of modern times you will find that it is where education has been the privilege of the few and denied to the many that the greatest upheavals have taken place, and not the least of the influences which have kept this country on an even keel has been the education which we have spread over a wider area than has been the case in those countries which are sinking to decay.
It is with great pleasure that I have to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for St. Helens (Captain Spencer) on his maiden speech. It is difficult to believe that it is a maiden speech, and if I had not an assurance of that fact I should have thought that he had gained his first experience in this House many months ago. I also want to congratulate him on the whole tone and temper of his address. It shows a remarkable practical knowledge of the big business of education, obviously, learnt in school. I welcome his clarion call to the Conservative party. As far as I am able to speak for my Liberal colleagues on these benches I may say that he was not preaching to deaf ears. Every word of his eloquent peroration we endorse. Education is cut to the bone, and I have a shrewd suspicion that in his heart of hearts the President of the Board of Education thinks the same. Whether he is allowed to say so is another story. His task now unfortunately is to put on the brake. I want to deal with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. No-one who listened to him could fail to be attracted by his personal charm. He conveyed the impression of being full of human sympathy, but he had a. very hard and difficult task as the President of the Board of Education, and one felt that we were not listening to the President of the Board of Education but to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, whose main business it is to guard the public purse.
Let me refer to the delicate and difficult problem of salaries. It is a real and living problem, and we cannot avoid it. It is no use apportioning blame, there it is, and I was hoping that my right hon. Friend would have been able to send out a message of hope and encouragement to the great teaching profession. After all, the success of our education depends upon them. You may give them good buildings, excellent appliances and the best organisation, but if the teachers are discontented and are under any grievance inevitably the children suffer. The May Report showed a complete misunderstanding of the business of education. I have a shrewd suspicion that they did not trouble to take evidence and that they were guided too much by mere figures. I am the last to under-estimate the financial stringency of the country. I do not think we are yet out of the wood. The world blizzard is still shivering every country in Europe and it must be reflected in our trade and finance. At the same time I think we should take a true perspective in this matter. A sum of £64,000,000 for Elementary education is a big figure, a big burden on the nation; but let us realise what is done out of that sum. You are dealing with an army of no less than 5,000,000 children, taught and trained, their health attended to and buildings and playgrounds provided for them. It requires as officers, if one may use military parlance, 170,000 teachers, and they are now getting what some think the princely sum of £224 a year for their job. That is an average figure. In those 170,000 officers there have to be included 30,000 commanding-officers or head-teachers. Those figures give an entirely different perspective to the cost of education, and I am sure I have the Committee with me when I say that if education is worth doing it is worth doing well. A cheap and nasty education is money wasted. More and more we are realising that 20 or 30 years ago most of our educational effort was wasted, because of insanitary buildings or unqualified, untrained and inexperienced teachers. One of the great advances of the last 30 years has been the toning up of the whole teaching profession and the drawing into it of a better type of men and women with ambition and character, properly trained, not only in training colleges, but, as we want in the future, in the universities.
Nothing would be worse than that a message should go from Parliament, as was suggested in the May report, that the business of the teacher was work in which any ordinary person could engage. Not only is teaching a profession, but it is a vocation, and for its success needs the highest attributes and qualities. It needs the missionary spirit. It needs that a person shall give of his best, if he is to do good for the children under his care. Therefore, I say to the Parliamentary Secretary, that when he replies he should give some encouragement, some stimulus if you like, to the profession. He should make it clear that this is merely a temporary expedient to meet an economic crisis, and that as soon as things have come right, or even earlier, the teachers will be one of the first sections of society to be considered and to be generously treated by the State. That is especially important, because I hear comparisons with the unemployed going on. Do not forget that the teachers were in a special position. They had a distinct contract with the State and the local authorities. That contract was brought about as the result of long negotiations by a committee especially set up by the Board of Education. I am the last person to want the mind of this Committee to be diverted from the big problem of education by this unfortunate controversy. I would only say that all your effort at reorganisation and at new buildings will be largely wasted if you have not, first and foremost, the cooperation of the teachers.
May I make one reference to the alteration in the grant formula; the Minister did not make much reference to it. The hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) has been for several years on an education committee, and she is far better qualified to talk on the grant formula than I am, so that I am not going to say very much about it. Speaking to a prominent official last week, I said that I was going to refer to-day to the grant formula. "For God's sake don't try to explain it to the House of Commons," he replied, "there are very few people who understand it, and those who do find it impossible to explain it to the others." I am not going to try to do that. I would point out that under the grant formula a place like London is very much the loser, and has to find, even when economies and additional burdens are reckoned, something like £350,000 out of the rates. They have to make economies in every direction, in books, apparatus, painting, cleaning and repairs. I do not think there is any serious loss this year as the result of these economies, but if they have to be repeated next year, they will mean a serious loss in educational efficiency.
That is the thing the Minister will have to face. He will have to realise that if this economy stunt—although I do not want to use the word and I would rather say "policy"—is to go on for another 18 months, it must be at the expense of educational efficiency and at the expense of the children. The right hon. Gentleman did not refer much to reorganisation, but the hon. Gentleman opposite made a very ample reference to the whole policy of reorganisation. He suggested that reorganisation as the result of the new policy had been curtailed, stopped or abandoned. To my personal knowledge that is not so. Reorganisation is going on. The policy initiated by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) when he was President of the Board is still being pursued, or the serious part of it, I think I may say throughout the country. The utility of reorganisation is rather frustrated by these economies, such as they are.
The Committee will remember that the idea of the Hadow Committee was that there was to be a change in the schooling of children. They were to be transferred to a new environment, either to a new building or to some senior classes. I will quote a sentence from the report bearing upon that:
We desire to mark as clearly as possible the fact that, at the age of 11, children are beginning a fresh phase in their education which is different from the primary or preparatory phase, with methods, standards, objectives and traditions of its own.
Then there is another paragraph in which they say that many of the children feel ill at ease in an atmosphere of books and lessons and are eager to turn to some form of practical and constructive work. Anybody who has been in the schools and in contact with education, as I have for the last 25 years, can bear out the wisdom of that policy. It is no use having a mere paper change, a mere shifting of a block of children from this building to that building. You need a change in equipment. I very much agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for St. Helens when he referred to the so-called dull child. That is a complete misnomer, because the child is so often one that will express itself with its hands through crafts, through the paint brush or through any of the applied crafts that have been carried on in our central schools so successfully in the last few years. That work cannot be carried on without equipment. It is no use asking the teacher to change his habits to give children opportunities for craft-learning as opposed to book-learning without the proper tools and equipment being available.
What is happening? Undoubtedly—and I think the right hon. Gentleman should realise this—everywhere throughout the country, as a result of this financial crisis, there have been little economies that have invariably meant the cutting down of the equipment of the schools. I have a whole list of authorities who have abandoned their woodwork or metalwork centres or laboratories, because of the difficulty of the provision of the necessary appliances. The same thing is going on in the rural districts. I have an example in the county of Gloucester, where three months' notice has been given to the instructor in agriculture. At a time when there is going to be a great agricultural revival, and when we have spent £6,000,000 on stimulating production by agriculture in order to give employment, the county of Gloucester thinks fit to give three months' notice, not because of inefficiency, but on the grounds of economy, to its agricultural assistant instructor. That is spoiling the ship for a pennyworth of tar. That is really being penny wise, pound foolish.
I want the right bon. Gentleman, as President of the Board, to stop these mere petty economies and not to allow our agricultural labourers to be starved and stinted of their opportunities for education over small economies of that kind. That is the kind of spirit we do not want to see among our local authorities, and I would like the Board to stop it. I was very much impressed by the right hon. Gentleman's reference to foreign countries. For the last few years I have been trying to persuade the Minister to explore what was being done abroad, but I have had but little encouragement. Now a Liberal Minister has listened to this suggestion and has at last sent two of his inspectors abroad. I am sure we have much to learn. A reference Las been made to Czechoslovakia. He might have sent his inspectors to Germany; I do not know whether he did. In these times of financial depression, in Germany there has been no serious stinting in education. I remember, when I was in Germany five years ago, speaking to one of the burgermeisters, I think it was the oberbürgermeister of Nuremberg. I said to him: "How can you afford all this expenditure on education, these new buildings, new organisations, and new equipment in your technical schools? You are supposed to be going through a great financial crisis." The answer I got was: "When, under the Dawes Plan, we had to pay reparations, we realised that we could only pay reparations by developing the intellectual equipment of our nation."
We, too, can weather the storm here, and come through our economic crisis, only by taking this opportunity for the youth of our country. Revival must come sooner or later. Some hon. Members think it is going to come because of tariffs. We are going to have new industries. The President of the Board of Trade waxed eloquent last week on a great industrial revival, with new factories. I suppose that if factories are to be a success they must be manned. It is very significant that the President of the Board of Trade had to admit that the men who were starting these factories were foreigners who had the necessary training, scientific and technical, to enable them to do the work. Many of these new industries are of a highly technical character. If they are to last, both employers and employés must have the advantage of scientific and technical education.
In the last Parliament we had a proposal for raising the school-leaving age which caused a good deal of controversy. The right hon. Gentleman, I know, is in favour of the principle; indeed, I think he was the first to move a Resolution in favour of that principle, a fact which is to his credit. Now the possibility of raising the school age seems as remote as the Greek Kalends. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, an hon. Member says, "Hear, hear," and we know that in the present financial position of the country the possibility of raising the school age seems very remote. It does not sound like practical politics but the right hon. Gentleman does not say that we are to sit still and do nothing, or that we are to imagine that the last word has been said in education policy. On the contrary, we have a great responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Czechoslovakia. In that country every boy and girl in working hours, in the employers' time, has to go through some form of continuation school and the same thing goes on throughout Germany. There, the Children are getting an opportunity which is, I will not say denied to our children, but which is certainly not taken advantage of in this country. It is true that many of our children could go to such classes, if parents or employers insisted, but the opportunity, as I say, is not taken advantage of by the greater number of our young people in industry. Nothing of this kind can be done without some form of compulsion.
We know that the Act of 1918, the great charter of education for which Mr. Fisher was responsible, made full provision, as an alternative to raising the school age, for some form of compulsory continuation school. I am not sure that it is not the better policy. There is much to be said for it. We made the experiment in London in 1921 and, educationally, it was a complete success, but it had to be dropped because of the then financial difficulty, and because outside local authorities did not co-operate by doing the same thing. The right hon. Gentleman during the next few months ought to put on his thinking cap and try to work out some policy, with his Board, which will provide for the continued education of the great army of children—the vast majority of children indeed—who leave school at the age of 14. Less and less is there a demand in industry for unskilled men and women. More and more are young persons losing situations at the ages of 16 or 17—those who have left school at 14 and have finished their education on the lower standards in the elementary schools. A very interesting report reached me to-day from the Committee on Juvenile Employment in London to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The report mentions the experiment now being carried out by the Ministry of Labour in providing training centres for unemployed young people under 18 years of age.
There are about six of these centres in London and I happen to be familiar with them. There is one at Hammersmith, one at Bethnal Green, and another at Battersea, and at such centres one may see those who are more or less the failures among juvenile workers, that is to say those who have lost their situations at the ages of 16, 17 or 18, as opposed to those who have remained in jobs. These young people, at first, came unwillingly to these education centres. I remember visiting a centre in the early days of the experiment and the head of the institution told me that he had had to face something like a not in which desks were destroyed and windows broken and he was very uncertain about the success of the experiment. But, after 18 months, the experiment has proved a complete success. These lads who have been in blind-alley employments, who have been van-boys, messengers, lift-boys, hotel pages and so forth, find themselves at 16 or 17 thrown on the labour market. When they go into these centres almost invariably great talent or skill can be discovered among them. Very often these boys instead of growing up to be charges on the State develop some talent or skill in some craft, and become potentially good citizens and useful producers.
If that can be done with the derelicts and the failures what could be done with those who remain in employment, if they were given the opportunity to attend, or compelled by the State to attend during working hours at similar centres. The right hon. Gentleman has a great opportunity. He holds a big office, behind which there is a fine tradition. It is a bold thing to say but I venture the statement that the biggest Education Ministers have belonged to the party to which I belong—Mr. Foster and Mr. Fisher. I want the right hon. Gentleman to take his place with them. He has a far more difficult task than they had. He has taken office under an Economy Act and at a period of trade depression and financial stringency, but, with his heart in his work, and with a desire to achieve, he may yet take his place with his two distinguished Liberal predecessors as a great Education Minister.
I rise to join in this discussion with the feeling that we are now dealing with what is probably the most important question which has been before us since I became a Member of Parliament. I wish to enter my protest against the suggested reduction indicated by these Estimates on the education services of the country. I have compared the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister to-day with the speeches made by those Ministers who presented the Estimates for the fighting services and, as the representative of a working-class constituency in the North of England, I enter my strongest protest when I see this Committee ready to pass—in some quarters even glorying in passing—Estimates for the fighting services which represent a reduction of less than £1,000,000, while prepared to agree to a reduction of nearly £6,000,000 on the education services.
I think the Minister himself was very uneasy when he made his review of the situation in presenting these Estimates. He said that if he thought the Estimates he was putting before the Committee would impair the efficiency of education he would not be standing at that Box. But does the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that these Estimates can go forward without impairing education and elementary education in particular, even as we know it? [An HON. MEMBER: "They should do."] If either the Minister or the hon. Member who has just interrupted imagines for a moment that the policy behind these Estimates can be carried out without injuring the education of our children in elementary and secondary schools they are certainly mistaken. Not only are we faced with a proposed reduction of nearly £6,000,000 in the national provision for education, but in nearly every instance, all through the country, the authorities who administer education, acting on the circulars which have been sent out by the National Government, are curtailing and, after they know what has happened here to-day, will probably seek further to curtail expenditure on educational services in every branch that is within their administration.
I came to the House of Commons as a collier, as a man who has not enjoyed the privilege or the facilities of a very wide education. I feel the lack of education and I am exceedingly anxious to see that the education services of the country should not go backwards but should at the very least be maintained at their present standard. Even in face of the great majority supporting this National Government I am not prepared to accept the statement that the financial position of this country is such as to call for further economies in our education services. I am alarmed at what is taking place in some parts of the country as a result of the National Government policy. In the West Riding of Yorkshire from which I come we have to face, not only the reductions in education services suggested by the Minister, but other reductions. On top of the 10 per cent. cut already made in those services a further £1,000 reduction is proposed by placing in the schools teachers of a lower grade in substitution for teachers on higher scales. It is also proposed, to decrease the staff to the tune of £4,000 in this year's Estimates. By the replacement of teachers of higher grades the estimates in the West Riding are being reduced by £16,000, and the net result of these proposals is, on the elementary education estimates of this year, a proposed reduction of £21,000.
These economies are being made in face of the fact that, at the moment, without any reduction in staff, we have 1,560 classes in the West Riding with More than 60 children in each class and 690 classes with over 60 children in each class. I suggest to the hon. and gallant Member for St. Helens (Captain Spencer), who made such a fine maiden speech, that with classes of that size it is impossible for the teacher to give the children that attention which is necessary if those children are to receive a reasonable education. Yet it is proposed to reduce the staffs, and consequently the efficiency, even of schools which were already working with these large classes. When we come to secondary and higher education we find even worse reductions suggested. A 17 per cent. cut is proposed on the grants given to the two principal universities in the county. The number of county minor scholarships has been reduced to 511 and the number of bursar scholarships has been reduced from 450 to 350—a very severe reduction. In continuation scholarships there is also a reduction of 100 and, the county major scholarships have been reduced from 58 to 45. These are scholarships on which, working-class pupils have to depend for their chance of getting higher education. One of the most serious things that has happened is that there has been in operation in that part of the country a scheme whereby a boy or girl, after passing their matriculation examination, could get help, according to the circumstances of the parent, to go on to a university or college. These grants have been in operation for years; but as a result of the economies very largely suggested from the Minister of Education and this Government, these grants are entirely cut off, and no child in any secondary school in the West Riding of Yorkshire will get any financial help in going forward to a university or college this year. And this is under an education authority that has been looked upon for years past as a very advanced authority. In our secondary schools in that part of the country we have hundreds of children, turned the age of 16, who will sit and matriculate and get their school certificates this July, children whose parents have made great sacrifices to keep them at school since they have have been 10 or 11 years of age, under a definite promise that when the time arrived that they were fitted to go forward to the universities or colleges, as the county handbook told them plainly, some grant would be made to take them there. This is now entirely cut out, and there will be hundreds of those children who are qualified in our secondary schools this year in that part of the country, who will be able to go no farther, owing to the fact that these economies have been put into operation.
In his speech this afternoon the Minister of Education eulogised foreign countries on their advancement in both technical and physical education, and yet in the West Riding we find that, as a result of his own activities—he did for a time give some consideration and some grants for physical training to juvenile organisations in Yorkshire—these economies are going to stop there, and from henceforth they will get no grants from the education committee in that part of the country. I suggest that that policy is very largely being operated by all the education committees of the country, owing to these economy cuts, and I wish to make my protest in this House against a Government which will agree to continue spending £104,000,000 a year, without complaint, on the building-up and fostering of our fighting forces, and yet come forward with a reduction of nearly £6,000,000 for our educational services.
We are dealing here with the inheritance and birthright of every child, and it is one of the last services on which this country ought to endeavour to economise. We should give to these children the fullest and best possible education, and make for them a free road to the universities and colleges. I want to remind the Committee that God, in His wisdom, has not ordained that the aristocracy of the country should be blessed with all the brains. In the humblest homes of this country, given a real opportunity, we have genius and ability, and the present Government are endeavouring to stultify the very genius which has been sent and which would improve civilisation, given an opportunity of a real, open, liberal education.
I endeavoured to think kindly of the right hon. Gentleman while he was making his speech, but if ever I listened to a man who was speaking through his teeth and making a speech that did not come from his heart, it was the Minister of Education this afternoon, and I want to plead with him to go back to his Cabinet colleagues and do all that he possibly can to restore all the cuts that have taken place in education, including salaries. The Home Secretary, when he was dealing with juvenile crime on Friday last, emphasised the fact that during the War, when teachers were called to do service, the children suffered, and it is the children of that age that we are finding have suffered much, owing to the lack of educational facilities and of the guidance of good qualified teachers that they missed during the War.
I want us to realise that in the teaching profession of recent years we have brought in some of the best characters in the British Isles, and that there is no greater impression on a child than the characteristics of its teacher. It is their teachers to whom they look up, and I am hoping we shall not impair the coming into that profession of the best men and women of the country. We cannot look upon it as a profession that anybody can practise. It is not true, as some Conservatives say—and the hon. and gallant Member for St. Helens, who made his maiden speech, admitted that they do so—that anybody can teach children. You have to have well-trained, well-equipped people, specially prepared for it. Therefore, I plead with the Minister to do his best with his colleagues in the Cabinet, as early as he can, to restore these cuts and to open the gates of education once more, as they were before the National Government took office.
In addressing the House for the first time, I should like to crave that indulgence which the House so generously bestows and to ask for a large measure of patience. As one who is interested in the educational problems of this country, I should like to say that, in considering the Estimates before the Committee, we have to see whether we are really reconciling efficiency with economy, and I find that there are two major economies in the Estimates. One is the economy effected on teachers' salaries, which amounts to nearly £4,000,000, but I do not wish to dwell upon that. I think that I interpret the Minister of Education aright when I say that he looks upon that 10 per cent., and that we Members on the Government side look upon it, as a sort of bargain between the Government and the teaching profession, and I refuse to believe that either side will refuse to honour its bargain.
As far as the teachers are concerned, I should say that they themselves, although they may disagree as to the psychological moment when the bargain should be made good by them, do not doubt for a moment that when that time does come the Government will keep faith with the teachers. Some of my hon. Friends think the teachers have been rather precipitate and over-eager in their demand for restoration of the cut, but I can only ask those hon. Friends to temper their judgment by remembering the attitude of the teachers during the Great War, when those teachers were receiving something like an average salary of 36s. a week. During that time they refrained absolutely from making an appeal for an increase in salaries, and later this House, without solicitation of any kind whatever, made a grant of £6,000,000 to meet their distress. I think we can rely upon them to adopt a similar attitude in these stringent times of economy.
I rather want to dwell, however, on the second great economy, that is, the economy made by withdrawing the 50 per cent. grant, and I feel that in this we have a very questionable economy. Somebody has asked how the reorganisation schemes are progressing throughout the country. I believe the answer is that in many of the more progressive towns these schemes have been completed, that in other parts of the country they are in a sort of half-way stage, and that in still other unfortunate parts of the country the schemes have not even been attempted. That is, I take it, the present position, but at a time when we are all talking about reviving the agricultural districts, I will make the major part of my plea to-day to the Minister of Education that he should give his best attention, and that of his Department, to the exceptional difficulties of the rural schools—I mean the English rural schools.
These schools are one of the institutions of which we as a nation are exceedingly proud. There is no more democratic institution than the English rural school. You find, in the earliest stages of education at any rate, labourers' children, farmers' children, and the children of professional men, all congregated in those schools, and I see at the present time a very real danger with regard to those schools. The difficulty is that they are naturally small and that the cost of adequately staffing them is necessarily high. It is easier to reorganise in the urban districts than in the country districts, and so, when the economic blizzard, of which an hon. Member spoke just now, came along in August last, many of these rural schools found themselves in a state of very imcomplete re-organisation.
I suggest to the Minister that he should get some financial and other assistance for these rural areas. Two years ago, when the same problem presented itself in Wales, a Commission was appointed to deal with the question there, and they recommended grants-in-aid. In Scotland, I believe I am right in saying, such aid is automatically forthcoming to the more thinly populated districts, and I suggest to the Minister that it would be a good thing to do this for the rural districts in England. It would remove a gross anomaly. I refer to the lower payment of teachers in rural areas. If there is any teacher who earns his corn, if I may put it in that way, it is the teacher in the rural area, the teacher who is the leader and forefront of so many communal activities for good, and I should like to see the Minister take some steps, if it can possibly be done in these days, to see that these teachers are compensated in the way that I have suggested.
That is the difficulty with regard to elementary schools, and the same difficulty arises with rural secondary schools. That is a more difficult problem, but it arises from very much the same causes, that is to say, the smallness of the school unit and the requisite cost. It would be wise for the State to take some definite steps to see if secondary education could be established in our rural districts on a sounder basis and in a more easily accessible form. In most of the country districts there axe a large number of small grammar schools, and we have had to rely on the testamentary benefactions of the past to run these schools, but we can no longer rely on these to-day, and we must find other means. I hope that our county authorities will carefully survey their areas so that they can make good the provision of secondary schools in the rural districts. I admit that much has been done, but much more might be done. In Scotland more has been done than in this country. Although as a party we stand for economy, we desire also that there shall be efficiency in this direction. Economy is only defensible when it does not strike at the foundations of our national health, our national strength and our national efficiency, and it would be a real danger if certain small schools were wiped out because they were uneconomical to manage. I was reading in the newspaper on Thursday about the threatened extermination or shutting down of the Perins Grammar School in Hampshire. That is a school of long standing, and I can only hope that the county authority have thought again or that the Minister of Education has been able to step in and advise them to spare the building. There is a real danger that we shall lose a large number of good points in the secondary school system unless assistance is forthcoming.
I might be asked where we can effect economies in other directions than those indicated in the Estimates. I suggest that the Board should look for a wider administrative unit. In many of the districts there is gross overlapping of education authorities, with their consequent staffs. There seems to be a tendency on the part of certain education authorities to indulge in unnecessary officials. To take an example. I was looking through some estimates the other day, and I noticed provision for what are known as six registration inspectors. I have had considerable experience in schools, but I do not know what a registration inspector is. If he is, as I think he is, merely a person who goes round to see whether a certificated trained teacher is able to put in the register a stroke to mean "present" and a nought to mean "absent," that is a gross waste of time and money. Another way in which expenditure might be saved is in a more careful survey of the new schools that are being built. I notice a great differentiation of costs of similar types of schools in various parts of the country. Local charges would not account for the great difference. It is really due to the fact that one authority seems to compete with another in order to make more ornate buildings than its neighbour. That is one of the directions in which costs could be reduced. When people talk about the extraordinary cost of education, I might remind them that there is something which is far more costly than education, as was pointed out by the late Mr. Gladstone, that is, national ignorance.
If the huge amounts that are spent are carefully analysed, it will be found that education is not the sole cost by a long way. Excellent institutions have sprung up round education, like the medical services and the feeding of necessitous children. These are all splendid things in their way, but allowing even for them, if we got what we ought to get from education, if we are inculcating the fundamental loyalties in our schools among our young citizens, we are spending wisely. One of the things which I fear to-day is that many of our county authorities are suffering from what I would call an impartiality complex. If they desire to be strictly impartial and not to be laid open to the charge of sectarianism, very little religion is taught in the higher branches of education—in our universities and in our higher secondary schools. Again, in their endeavours to be impartial, there is no emphasis placed on the teaching of patriotism in the schools; for fear of being charged with political bias that is rather overlooked. In our excellent desire to forward the health of the child by State care, there is a great danger that we shall not inculcate in the young citizen the duty that he himself will have to the State when he grows up. I am sure that if we get a guarantee that the fundamental loyalties will be taught to the children, all the money we spend on education will not be in vain.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has given us the kind of speech that was expected from him—thorough and lucid—and if I ventureé to criticise him he will understand that I have no intention of attacking him. I am sure that he has been with us long enough not to take it ill from me if I criticise him for what he has said. At this time next year, I may have something more to say; he will have had a greater experience, and I trust then that my criticisms will be even milder than they are now. The tone of several speeches this afternoon has been extraordinarily high, particularly the two maiden speeches to which the Committee has listened and the speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). The Minister said very little about economy, but it is clear that the teachers' cut, which the teachers and some other people look upon as a sore point, will continue "for a considerable period," as Sir Harry Lauder says. There is a very small link between economy, efficiency and money. It may be economy to build a battleship, but a waste to build two cruisers. Nobody brought that home to us better than a famous Sirdar of Egypt, and, to those who lived in a later generation, the late Lord Haldane when at the War Office. There he produced economy and efficiency together, and he was the greatest War Minister we have ever had, largely because he understood those two facts.
Economy is a purely relative matter at its worst. Several hon. Members have said that the Estimates are cut to the bone. I entirely disagree. Except in the matter of teachers' salaries, which may be an arguable point, there is considerable economy still to be made on education, and I will indicate two points where I believe that money could be saved with advantage. I do not much care for Royal Commissions, but I should like to see a small commission appointed—but not of Members of this House or of the other House—to inquire into the whole system of education. There have been many inquiries into the system, but I should like at least one more. I will give my reasons. In the last year of the last Government quite a number of boys called upon me asking me to find them employment. The eldest was 19 and the youngest was 15, and all these boys could neither read nor write. They could not read my writing, which is not surpris- ing, and they could not read print. They could sign their names, but when their signatures were taken away from them and brought back again to them, they could not be sure which was theirs. Think of what those boys must have cost the country. If a boy can read and write, he can teach himself any thing in the world that he wishes to learn. If he cannot read and write, he is done for, because it is not possible for him after he has left school to go to night school to learn to spell. There could be, I am sure, great economy in that matter, because if I saw such a number of boys myself, imagine the number of boys who do not like to come to a Member and admit that they are illiterate, and the numbers throughout the country must be very large.
Considerable savings could be made also in the secondary schools. We have heard a great deal about the means test. A good many of us have had to put up with the means test in the matter of Income Tax for many years. That is a searching and thorough test. Five cases have come to my notice of men who have put their sons into secondary schools although they are comparatively rich men. One of them is so well off that he was able to give his son a small runabout car. It is iniquitous that a man should get the advantage of a secondary school for his boy for 12 or 14 guineas when it cost the country between £30 and £40. There should be a means test to prevent this kind of scandal. A friend of mine has a boy in one of the great public schools to which the boy won a scholarship because of his extraordinary ability. The father said that as he was a rich man he was not going to let his boy take an advantage over other boys, and that he intended to pay the fees to the last penny and so allow a poorer boy to take his place. If these five men had been animated by the same feeling, there would be five other poor boys now enjoying the advantages of a secondary education which has been denied them.
A point to which I would draw attention is the formation of sixth forms. That means that new masters must be appointed for very small classes, at a very great expense to the country, although in such places there are technical colleges which are doing exactly the same work as those sixth forms would do, and doing it better, and having room for all who are likely to apply for admission. Probably the Minister is as well aware of these things as I am. The saving to be effected might not be enormous, but it would be considerable. There are thousands of boys in the secondary schools whose parents are in a position to pay for the education of their sons, and if we multiply the £30 to £35 that each boy in the secondary schools costs by that number there would be a saving of between £500,000 and £750,000. I condemn root and branch the formation of these sixth forms in places where there are technical colleges. It will only raise the cost of the curriculum, and will benefit no one.
Another point I wish to bring forward concerns the new schools that are being built at a time when we have not more money than we want, and not as much as we need. To my knowledge one school is being built on nine acres of land. Nine acres of land for a school ! That is a wicked waste of money and of ground. Further, it is to be a single-storey school. What reason can be given for that beyond the fact that it may be more healthy if little children have not to run up and down stairs? One man said there would be a danger of their falling out of the windows upstairs. Indeed, those who are in favour of these single-storey schools will give any preposterous reason and argument for not building two-storey schools. Then there is the point about alloting nine acres of land for a school. Even if the land had been given it would be a very great extravagance. In criticising things as I have done I would like to reiterate that I realise that my right hon. Friend the Minister and his colleague are not to be blamed now, because they are new, but if they do these things next year we shall be able to come down on them with stronger arguments and a heavier censure. I ask them to inquire into the three matters I have mentioned and see whether something cannot be done on those lines.
In rising to place before the Committee this afternoon some views upon economy in education I ask the House to extend to me that kindness which it usually shows to Members who are speaking for the first time. The Minister has pointed out to us how expenditure on education has risen in the 25 years since he first entered the House, and I am glad to hear that he is now prepared to mark time and consolidate the position before moving to his new objective in education. With a National Budget of £800,000,000, it is imperative that we should look in all directions to see where we can cut down expenditure, and I do not think that education, or any of the other Services, should be left out of the review. The enormous increase in expenditure upon education has been incurred, to a considerable extent, owing to the Burnham scale. Teachers' salaries in elementary schools have risen from £16,000,000 in 1921 to £39,000,000 to-day. I do not believe that by cutting down expenditure we should necessarily impair education. Parliament should make searching inquiry to see whether there are not some avenues along which we can effect a saving. On the Burnham Committee which set up the scales of salaries there is no representation from this House, and as we find half the money—and rather more, through the operation of the derating Act—there ought to be someone upon the Burnham Committee directly appointed from this House.
With regard to the salaries that are paid, it should not be overlooked that the teachers had notice from the local authorities that it was their intention to apply for a revision of the scale, and the 10 per cent. cut, though unfortunately it was placed upon them without notice, does not give them so much cause for complaint, I think, as many people would try to make out. The teachers in elementary schools are segregated throughout their lives. It is the cleverer children at the age of 12 who become teachers. At the cost of the State they go through the secondary schools and the technical colleges, and at the age of 20 or 21 they enter upon their life as masters or mistresses, the men at a salary of £162 per year—after the cuts have been enforced—and rising by automatic increases to £330, and the women at £146 rising to £260. I do not think that, as a profession, they have any cause to complain. One point that I would like to stress concerns the pensions of teachers. Those who are passing from their work as teachers to pensions are awarded a gratuity of 1½ years salary. In the past year that has cost the country £1,200,000. That is paid to men and women who have only contributed 5 per cent. of their salaries for the last ten years. In no other Service—neither the Army, Navy, Air Force or the Civil Service—are there pensions of any such magnitude as are paid to teachers, and in none of them is there a gratuity. One way of securing economy would be to cut out those gratuities. Even after that had been done the teachers would have very good pensions. I feel regret that the increase of salary given to teachers during the past ten years had not made some of them more ambitious to advance themselves academically. In 1921 1.3 per cent. of the teachers in the elementary schools were graduates of the university. To-day that percentage has increased to only 3.7. I think that is an unfortunate thing. The good pay they have had should have encouraged them to try to make themselves more efficient academically.
Another point to which I would direct attention is the variation of expenditure in different areas. In September I addressed a letter to the "Times" in which I pointed out that the average expenditure upon an elementary school child throughout the country was £12 15s. 0d., whereas in South Shields it was £9 10s. 6d. If the cost throughout the country could be reduced to the level of the cost in South Shields there would be a saving of over £16,000,000 a year. I appreciate the fact that that is not possible. One cannot expect that the teaching in London and some of the areas round about can be carried on for the same figure as in a provincial town, but I think it would be well worth while for the Minister to inquire whether the variations in the different districts are justified. The average cost at present is £13 2s. 6d. In London the cost is £18 12s. 0d., in East Ham £17 15s. 0d., in Bradford £15 15s. 0d. and in South Shields £9 15s. 0d. The fact that for the same type of education and the same grade of salaries we are paying £6 more in Bradford than in South Shields, and that the nation is contributing nearly £100,000 a year more for educating children in Bradford than would be paid for the same number of children in South Shields, is a justification for inquiry to ascertain why Bradford is so much more expensive.
Then there is the question of loan charges. Why should loan charges in Blackpool amount to £1 12s. 0d. and in Bath to 4s. 4d. It shows, I think, that there has been undue extravagance over the building of schools in Blackpool. In one place in the North of England a secondary school was erected at a cost of £130 a place, and in another area the cost was only £60 a place. There is room for inquiry into such matters. Then there is the question of administration and inspection, a point on which I think I shall have the support of the National Union of Teachers. Many local authorities have an inspectorate of their own, but I cannot see why the inspector of the Board of Education and the head teachers are not sufficient to manage education. What is the result of this policy? I find that the average expenditure on this item throughout the country is 11s. 9d. per child. What reason is there why Leicester should spend for this service 16s. 1d. per child and London £1. 6s. 7d. London spends more than five times as much per child as South Shields, where the cost is 5s. Authorities employ large and highly-paid administrative staffs and authorities spend heavily on an inspectorate of their own instead of relying on the Board's inspectors and putting faith in the head teachers.
Then there is the item "Other expenditure," which includes rates, books, heating, lighting and repairs. The average cost of these services is £2, but in West Ham the cost is £4, in Norwich £3, and in Middlesbrough 19s. 7d. The "special services" include nursery schools, physical training, feeding of children, medical inspection, schools for defective children, and evening play centres, and the average cost for these services is 16s. 4d. per child. On these services, West Hartlepool spends 6s. 3d. and Bradford £2 6s. What justification can there be for that large difference in the expenditure upon those services? I suggest that this variation in the cost has arisen through the system of percentage grants. If we had had a block grant system, there would not have been the same encouragement for local authorities to be extravagant. I would like to point out that there are 155,000 children under the age of five who are being educated at a cost to the State of over £2,000,000. I sug- gest that that is an item which ought to be dropped out of our Estimates in these difficult times. I do not think that it is necessary to educate children of such a tender age, and I ask what education can be given to a child at the age of three when the education that is really required by the child should be given by the mother at home.
I have pointed out some lines along which economies might be made. I have pointed out that, without affecting education, it is possible to make large savings on some items. I hope hon. Members will forgive me if I close on a somewhat parochial strain. I have mentioned South Shields, and I make no apology for the fact that the cost of education there is at a very low figure. South Shields has been forced to economise. It is a town of 114,000 inhabitants with 14,000 unemployed, and this has been its condition for several years. Its people are hard working when they have it to do. Its main industries are coal, shipping, shipbuilding, and marine engineering, and those are industries which the President of the Board of Trade has told us have shown no improvement. But we have not stood still. In 1920 we had a debt of £500,000 and now the debt of South Shields is £2,500,000; £1,000,000 of that has been spent on housing, and the other £1,000,000 has been spent on schemes to relieve unemployment. I do not think hon. Members on the Labour benches will object to that expenditure.
We have endeavoured to economise all round, and we have been successful. We have reduced the rates in South Shields from 19s. 6d. in 1920 to 10s. 6d. to-day. What does that mean to the workingman? It means a saving of 2s. 1½d. per week on a four-roomed house and 2s. 9d. on a five-roomed house. In South Shields we are now turning our attention to the slums, and we are building 1,000 houses to help to find accommodation for those who are displaced in slum areas. We are letting houses at figures which I am sure will stagger hon. Members. We are letting a three-roomed house at 5s. 5d. per week, including rates, a four-roomed house at 6s. 6d., and a five-roomed house at 7s. 6d. I suggest that in this way we have done much for the workman who is in employment, and much more for the unemployed by keeping down the cost of education and the rates and so lowering rents. Therefore, I make no excuse for economising on education in South Shields.
We have always received good reports from the Board of Education, and, if academic success is any guide, I would like to point out that in the school certificate examination our secondary scholars during the past four years have had a percentage of passes of 90 against 66 for the rest of the country. Perhaps I may be allowed to point out that the President of the Board of Trade and Lord Justice Wright obtained their early education in South Shields. For these reasons, I appeal to the President of the Board of Education to look into these variations in expenditure in different districts in order to see whether he cannot save much more than he proposes to save this year. Extravagance does not of necessity mean efficiency nor does economy of necessity mean inefficiency.
I do not pretend to have any expert knowledge upon educational matters like some hon. Members who have addressed the House. On this side we are enthusiastic about education because we know the want of it. I have done my best to give my children the chance in life which I never had myself, and I am surprised to discover that Members of this House look upon education from the point of view of how much it costs, and that no other factors seem to be considered. I have been to South Shields quite a number of times, and, if the administration there has produced such terrible consequences as those stated by the hon. and gallant Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Colonel Chapman), I am sorry to hear it. The hon. and gallant Member has boasted of the education which South Shields has provided, but I am ready to place West Ham, with all its poverty and economic experience, as regards its success in education against South Shields any time. I have always stood for free education in our elementary schools.
The hon. and gallant Member for Houghton-le-Spring has just asserted that he would like to see the nursery schools put out of our educational system, but he does not seem to know what is accomplished by those nursery schools in London. The hon. and gallant Member spoke about cheap houses, but many of the people in my constituency cannot afford to rent a house and they have to rent rooms. Many families in London have been brought up in a single room, in which the mother is the only protector of the children, because the father is out all day working at the docks, and consequently the mother becomes the guide, philosopher and friend to the children. I do not think any hon. Member would be prepared to suggest that even in those circumstances the working-class woman does not do her duty to her children. Nursery schools have become an absolute necessity under our present economic conditions, and we have always supported them as part of our education policy.
The hon. and gallant Member for Houghton-le-Spring has shown that education costs more in one place than in another, but what has that to do with the question? Education is dealt with on the basis of population. Why should hon. Members be so anxious to cot down the cost of education? The hon. and gallant Member also dealt with the housing problem, but, if you build houses for them, and do not educate the children, what will they do with the houses? They will simply make slums of them, because they will not have been trained to use a house properly. Very often slums exist because the people have not been sufficiently educated to know how to use a house properly when they get one.
In West Ham we spend a large sum of money upon feeding the children. The Government find a certain portion of the money, and in my constituency we have determined that in no circumstances shall a child go to school hungry. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) criticised the expenditure upon a public school for which nine acres of ground had been purchased, but when I was in Portsmouth, only a few weeks ago, I found barracks there on a 100-acre site which was to be used to train young men to fight for their country. In West Ham we are lucky to get one acre of ground for a school. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth does not believe in cutting down the Army and Navy expenditure, although he believes in cutting down facilities for the education of the people. Keep them ignorant and they will become soldiers quicker. Educate them, and they forget all about the honour and glory of killing their fellow-men in some other part of the world.
We on these benches realise that the only way out of these difficulties is that educational idealism should be based on a sound line in a healthy body, and that the more we can give the children of the country educational opportunities the better it will be for the nation and the future. As for myself, I realise my own lack of education and have done my best to see that my own children got a better education. As to those people who are so enthusiastic about the Empire, what kind of Empire are they going to hand on to the common people of this country if their ideals are carried into effect? Do they imagine they will always be able to keep on waving the Union Jack in front of the Union Jackasses? Do they imagine they will always be able to feed the people on their patriotic pap? Will they always be able to make them believe that the more they shout about the Empire the more prosperous they will become? We are now cutting down education, but I can never understand why those, who have had all the opportunities of education, always want to cut down the opportunities of those who have not had them. West Ham has always had a great proportion of its scholars who went in for the Oxford and Cambridge examinations at the top of the list, yet most of them were the sons and daughters of dockside labourers. If the working-class children of this country had the same opportunities other children have had, they would not be so handicapped in the struggle for life.
We do not wish children to be educated to fight against each other in the factory and the workshop, but to co-operate with each other. We want them educated, not to go up a narrow stairway, but to go together up a common broadway for the solution of their political and economic problems. The Board of Education does not give us much hope nor does the President of the Board of Education, because he has simply to repeat the Edison Bell record of "his master's voice." Hon. Members opposite always say that economy must be practised in every possible direction, and yet, though they say that there is no money in the country, every loan which is floated on good security is subscribed in less time than is allowed in the prospectus. Whoever wants money can get plenty so long as the security is good. We have no money for our own people, but we have plenty of money for people in other parts of the world, even so far away as Honolulu. We do not believe much of the tale you tell us about the Government of the country being in ruins. The Empire exists, although, if some people had their way, it would not exist much longer. We are trying to save the people and trying to make the people believe in themselves. When we cut down on education, we are cutting down the only basis on which the people of our country can realise themselves. The better educated they are the better able they are to face the problems of the future and the better capable of realising their possibilities.
When I heard all the educated people talking to-day, it made me feel sorry I ever went to school. With all the experience and chances they have had, after having been to universities and having had everything given to them that they ought not to have had, it made me feel sorry to hear them talking about education, because I have met agricultural labourers in the place where I was born who could give me better reasons for opposing education than the hon. Members have given this afternoon. They believe that they have had it all themselves and that they should keep to themselves all they have and cling on to all their privileges. We claim that education is a great national matter. It may not be perfect—nothing is in this world—but we have done the best we can and we can do no more. I support our party in rejecting the proposition that economies in education are necessary and desirable. We can support economy in other directions. Economy in protecting life is sacrificing life, while economy in the direction of preventing the sacrifice of life is something that we can support.
I protest against this policy of reducing educational facilities in order to "crib, cabin and confine" educational opportunities. Of all the great countries of Europe previous to the War we spent less on educational progress and develop- ment than our competitors. Now we are told that, although we have made a little progress, we must put the brake on and stand still. We are going to put the brake on when we should release the brake. We are told that the national interest demands efficiency and economy. I have heard that tale so often. I have been 27 years a member of a local authority, and ever since I was first elected I have been fighting the cry of "economy with efficiency." The economy is always begun on the worker. Those who advocate this always want to save money at the expense of the bottom dog and they always begin at the bottom by cutting wages down, by cutting down the salaries of teachers and increasing the size of the classes, but they never touch the man at the top, because he is sacred. Tomorrow we shall have the Super-tax and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will tell us where he has saved the money. He will follow the old policy, "When in doubt play on the worker. Phil Garlic will foot the bill." This economy in education is suicidal as far as the nation is concerned. Other nations are not acting in this way, but are developing their resources and increasing their educational facilities. Instead of going in the directon proposed by the President of the Board of Education, we ought to say that we are not going to put the brake on, but are going to open up the flood gates of opportunity for all our children and to make it God's highway from the elementary school to the university.
I would like to congratulate the President on his speech this afternoon. He has made the best of a bad job in the very difficult financial circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day. There are more extreme and fanatical views held on education than on almost any other subject. We all know the type of person who says, "What is the use of all this tomfoolery of education? Sheer waste of money!" On the other hand, there are those who think that all children should remain in the classroom until they are 18 or over. Undoubtedly, the real interests of the children lie with those who take the medium view. Education, like housing, must be considered outside party politics if it is to be effective. Some hon. Members opposite say that the present reductions in education will result in the deterioration of the Service. I do not take that view. The three-year programmes of very progressive educational development, which have been pursued by all local authorities for a number of years, make the present economies far less severe than might otherwise have been the case. Seeing what rapid developments have taken place, it may be wise to have a period of stocktaking so that full consideration can be given to the position gained.
We learn from the Estimates to-day and from what the President has told us that there is to be a reduction of over £5,400,000. It is a very considerable sum, but we have got to remember that, in spite of it, we shall be spending £82,000,000 on this one Service alone, which I find is an increase of £51,000,000 in the past 20 years. It is interesting to note that during the same period there has been a decrease in child population in the elementary schools of a little over half-a-million. It was never suggested in 1924 that our educational system was being starved and therefore it cannot be fairly stated to-day that, with an increase of £8,000,000 and with a further decrease of child population, this Service is suffering through parsimony.
There is no doubt that the President has been greatly helped in his task during the past year by the assistance he has had from local authorities. This assistance has been given freely, because it has been fully realised that the future of every child depends on the secure financial condition of the country. May I give the Committee one example of how local authorities have assisted the Government? In London, owing to the change of formula, the London County Council on the basis of last year's estimates will lose in grant from the board no less than £1,900,000 and the difficulty has been how to avoid throwing this huge extra burden on the rates. By the most stringent and careful economy and without actually injuring any part of this great service, the London County Council have been able to make a reduction in their Estimates of £1,500,000 for the coming year. No educational facility has been sacrificed, except in the small case of prizes, which are to be abandoned for one year. I am not going to try to explain the formula to the Committee as the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) suggested that I might do. If I took that course, the Committee, which is not very full, would empty still further. I will just put one point with regard to the formula. The difficulties experienced by local authorities in saving on education are accentuated by the fact that, owing to the working of this new formula, roughly only £60 out of every £100 saved goes to the local authority; the rest goes to the Board.
It is obvious from the Estimates, and from what has been said by the President of the Board of Education this afternoon, that by far the largest economy is made by the cuts in the teachers' salaries. Of course we all regret those cuts, as we regret all the other cuts and economies that have had to be made. It is a common fallacy that the teachers are a body of very much overpaid men and women, who have easy lives and long holidays. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not think that the public fully realise the amount of voluntary work that teachers do outside the regular school hours, in organising sports and games and any number of other things in the interests of their schools. Undoubtedly they do that work for love, but it is none the less of a very strenuous nature.
There is just one criticism that I should like to make with regard to the May Report. The Burnham scales were framed to produce remuneration suitable for the great profession represented by the nation's teachers, and I do not think it is fair to compare the present salaries of teachers with their pre-War scales, because, as everyone knows, before the War their pay was far too low and most inadequate. From my own knowledge of a good many teachers, I can say that they have done their very best to cooperate loyally in the economies, and have taken their cuts in the right spirit, but I think there is a certain amount of justifiable resentment in regard to pensions. I have had numerous letters from teachers, especially those nearing the end of their teaching life, for, as the Committee may know, teachers' pensions are calculated on their last five years of service; and I would ask the President, when the times permit, which I hope will be very soon, to give the position of the teachers as regards the pension difficulty, as well as the flat rate, his careful and sympathetic consideration.
Although I realise that at the present moment economy must be the order of the day, I would, like several other speakers this afternoon, ask the President to do everything that he can to see that local authorities go forward with their schemes of reorganisation. There is no doubt that, where these reorganisations, with a break at eleven plus, have been working for a certain time in the urban areas, they have been proving a great success. They ensure that an even balance of attention is kept between the children of all the varying degrees of ability. In the junior schools it is possible to concentrate on laying the foundations of primary education, and the figures show that far larger numbers are going on to the central and secondary schools. The improved classification made possible by the size of the senior departments is giving far greater scope for practical work, especially in the domestic and manual training centres.
The public at large still believe that very little technical and practical work is done, and many people say that they would not object to such a large expenditure on education if they thought that the children were learning something useful. As a matter of fact, a great deal has been done recently with regard to technical education in this country. From figures which I got from the Board the other day, I see that the number of boys and girls under 16 receiving full-time technical education has doubled in this country during the past eight or nine years. In London alone, during the last session, 1930–31, there were over 250,000 students attending various technical, vocational, and cultural schools where every type of instruction is given. To give one illustration, there is, quite near to this House, a special school for boy waiters, by which it is hoped to counteract one form of dumping at foreign hands. The evening institutes, as everyone knows, also do a great deal in the practical line, and they are now a very important part of our great educational system. Their popularity is well illustrated by the fact that at some of them it has been found that three generations of one family are attending classes of instruction together—more than we can, so far, boast of in the House of Commons.
I was extremely interested to bear what the President said with regard to foreign countries, especially with regard to Czechoslovakia. I am glad to say that we have here quite a number of enlightened firms, and also the much abused Post Office, who are arranging for their younger employés to attend continuation schools. I sincerely hope that the Board will do everything that they can to develop this particular line of education. Almost 70 per cent. of the children leaving the elementary schools in London last year went on to some further form of education, which is a real testimoney to the work that is being done in the schools, and shows that the money we spend on education is a very good long-term investment. If any further justification were needed for our large expenditure on this Service, surely it is provided by the events of last October, when the high intelligence of the people in all parts of the country rose above mere party feeling, and returned to the House of Commons a National party pledged to a great national policy.
In rising to address the Committee for the first time, I confess that I find considerable difficulty in following such an expert as the hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet), but I feel in almost greater difficulty when I find myself in agreement, with regard to underlying principles, with the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones). I am convinced that the whole basis of education in this country consists in giving to every child that is worthy of the chance an opportunity of going right through from the elementary school to the university.
The hon. Member for Silvertown asked those of us who differ from him politically what sort of Empire we proposed to hand on to the next generation? I would remind him, however, that it was not the public school education of the early part of the century, it was not the elementary education of the country, but the combined common sense which all of us, of all classes, had learned in all classes of schools, that enabled those of us who were privileged to do so, to do what we could to make the Empire safe for future generations. As I look back on those years from 1914 to 1919, and think of the friendships which I made, and which I am glad to say still continue, with people of all classes—from the public schools and from the elementary schools of the North of England—I feel that, if happiness such as that can be brought into a life such as mine, I will do all that I can as long as I am a Member of this House to see that elementary education gets a fair chance throughout the country. I should have hesitated to speak for the first time in this Chamber on such a subject, on which I do not profess to be an expert, but it is fitting after my experience, first as a candidate in 1929 and then during the last six months as Member for an industrial constituency, that I should pay my tribute to the work done by the teaching profession, particularly in the industrial constituencies.
One hon. Member spoke about nine acres being used for a secondary school, but when I go through those schools in what I might go so far as to call the slum areas of the industrial districts of the North, and compare them with the public school to which I was sent—by, if the hon. Member for Silvertown will bear with me, the sacrifices of my people, who were in a position to make sacrifices, and I say frankly that, were it not for those sacrifices, I should not be standing here to-day—when I think of the conditions that I enjoyed in one of the great public schools of England, where I learned what has been so useful to me in after life, and when I realise that exactly the same point of view is being taught to the children in these slum areas of the North of England, I take my hat off to the teachers for what they are doing at the present moment. When we are told that education will suffer from these cuts, I venture to say that it will not suffer at the moment, because of the loyalty of the teaching profession to the cause in which they believe, that of passing on education to the younger generation, and, above all, their loyalty to that which has been so useful to themselves in life.
It is my fundamental belief that education is a vital necessity to this country, and I would say again that my ideal is that every child who is worthy of it should have a chance of going right through from the elementary school to the university; but the President of the Board of Education will forgive me if I venture to say that I have some considerable doubt whether, under our present system of education in this country, that is exactly what we are attaining. Are we satisfied that we are at the present moment giving the children the best education that we can? As far as I can judge—and I speak on the authority of a Noble Prelate in the North of England who was headmaster of the public school where I was educated—the system of school certificates, which, in my opinion, are utterly unnecessary except in the case of those children who are going to the universities, is simply compelling the teachers of this country in the secondary schools to turn out, so to speak, machine-made products of education.
Think of the thousands of children of 14, 15, or 16 in all walks of life who are trying their hardest to pass the school certificate examination, knowing that their future depends upon it, and that only by passing that examination can they in some way repay what their parents have done for them. What happens in the case of children who, through no fault of their own, fail to pass that examination? Straight away there are closed to them avenues of education or professions which otherwise would have been open to them. Take the great profession of hospital nursing. I believe that in many hospitals in London it is still necessary to have the school certificate. Again, in the case of a child who has been good at games, who may have been captain of the elementary or secondary school, the same thing happens. She is told, "It is no good trying to turn you, my dear child, into a games mistress; where is your school certificate?" On the other hand, if you go to one of those great secretarial places in London, and ask whether the daughter of a man in another walk of life has got a school certificate, the answer you receive is, "My dear Sir, all that we require is a character from the head mistress."
I appeal to my right hon. Friend to consider, I will not say the abolition, but the modification of this system of school certificates throughout the country. Let them be retained in cases where they have to be made the basis of entry into a profession, or the basis of matriculation at the universities, but, if the school certificate could be modified, and if the great teaching profession had the chance of modelling the material which is placed in their hands, I venture to say that the education would be even better than it has been in the past, and many children in this country would owe a debt of gratitude to the President of the Board of Education, because they would have been enabled to face life at the very outset in a way which, by reason of these school certificates they are now unable to do.