Public Education, Scotland.

Class Iv. – in the House of Commons at on 22 June 1933.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £4,119,610, 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, 1934, for Public Education in Scotland; and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh; including sundry Grants in Aid."—[Note: £2,600,000 has been voted on account.]

9.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Collins Mr Godfrey Collins , Greenock

The total sum set aside for public education in Scotland for the present year is £7,400,000 which shows a reduction in comparison with last year of £112,000 and that at a time when the sum for the Teachers' Superannuation Fund shows an increase of £101,000. I am sure the sum set aside for the Teachers' Superannuation Fund is appreciated by the teachers, for in these days security of tenure and a pension are very valuable assets. I have mentioned that the total Estimates are reduced by £112,000 and that follows reductions of £431,000 and £382,000 in the last two years—a total of £925,000 during the last three years, which is a considerable economy in the cost of education in Scotland. During that time there has also been a reduction in the size of the administrative staff and the number of inspectors, and it is interesting to observe, when we compare the size of the staff for the administration of education under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State to-day with its size in pre-war times, that the number of officials, in comparison with pre-war days, has been reduced by 37 and the number of inspectors outside by eight.

I mention these reductions by way of preface to some remarks on the cause of education in Scotland. I have observed in a few papers certain remarks to the effect that the cause of education has deteriorated during the last year or two. I propose to apply four tests to that statement. Other tests may occur to hon. Members, and, if so, I hope they will put them to me and that we may test this statement by the reality and the facts. Turn to the attendance of scholars in Scotland. Last year the attendance showed the highest on record —90.5 per cent.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

It has been increasing every year.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Collins Mr Godfrey Collins , Greenock

I agree. Therefore, there has been no deterioration so far as the attendance of scholars in the schools of Scotland is concerned.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

They must go to school. There is nowhere else for them to go.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Collins Mr Godfrey Collins , Greenock

They could stay at home. I suggest to the Committee that this high record is a striking testimony to the way in which the children enjoy the schools and to the interest which the teachers have shown in their scholars.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

And to their mothers in sending them to school.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Collins Mr Godfrey Collins , Greenock

Yes, I quite agree. My second test would be this: How does the number of teachers in our schools as compared with the number of scholars compare with bygone days? If I compare the present year with 1924, I find that the number of teachers has increased from 25,000 to 28,000, an increase of 12 per cent., while the number of scholars in the schools has only increased by 1¾ per cent. Therefore, I suggest to hon. Members that, so far as the teaching power in the schools is concerned, they are better staffed to-day than at any time in our history. Now let me take another test—the buildings in which our children are taught. Since 1926 upwards of £6,500,000 has been spent either by erecting new schools or in improving school accommodation, and even last year, at a time of rigorous economy, upwards of £500,000 was spent or authorised to be spent in the erection or improvement of schools in Scotland. Therefore, I suggest that, so far as the housing conditions of our scholars are concerned, they are at a higher standard to-day than at any time in our history.

My fourth test is this: How do the leaving certificates of the children compare with previous years? I find that 74 per cent. of the children leaving the schools have been successful last year in getting the leaving certificates. That compares with 70 per cent. in the year before and 66 per cent in the year before that; in other words, the percentage of scholars who have been successful in getting the leaving certificate has increased during the three years from 66 per cent. to 74 per cent.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Is that 74 the percentage of those presented for leaving certificates or of the total scholars leaving the schools?

Photo of Mr Godfrey Collins Mr Godfrey Collins , Greenock

Those who went up to the examinations to secure leaving certificates.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Could the right hon. Gentleman say what percentage of the total children of 14 years of age leaving school were presented for leaving certificates?

Photo of Mr Godfrey Collins Mr Godfrey Collins , Greenock

I will give the hon. Member that information later. I have not got it in my head at the moment. I have quoted several figures to the Committee from memory, but that is not one that I asked for beforehand. An hon. Member asks: Has the standard been lowered? Let me assure him that there has been no lowering of the standard whatsoever so as to secure these leaving certificates. Therefore, if you judge the cause of public education in Scotland today and make a comparison on any one of the four tests—and there may be other tests which occur to hon. Members—I submit with confidence, without fear of contradition, that our teachers to-day, who have faced grim necessity in the unpleasant cuts which they accepted 18 months ago, have shown during that intervening period a fine spirit, so that they have maintained the interest of the scholars in their work, and they have shown the same pride and the same ability in their work that have always characterised the teachers of public education in Scotland. I am glad, from my place in the House of Commons, to bear that correct testimony to the teachers in Scotland. I suggest to hon. Members that to talk of deterioration is really a misnomer, and it is inaccurate, judged by any test that you can apply. I believe further that it does the cause of education in Scotland no good, but rather we are proud that we want to improve our present standard.

Since I have had the honour of being responsible for the cause of public education in Scotland I have made more than one reference in public, outside this House, to a remark which was contained in Lord Salvesen's report, in which he urged that there should be close contact between industry and education, and I have discussed this matter fully with my officials and inspectors. I suggest that if the workaday world, the professional world, the business world, are not satisfied with the products of our schools, let them come in and help. Let them get into touch with the advisory committees, the education committees, the school management committees. Let them meet the teachers, in and out of school, so as to understand the teachers' problem, especially in the slum areas.

The education authorities, which are to-day the product of the Local Government Act, 1929, consist not only of those who are keenly interested in the cause of education, but of business and professional men as well. We have a right, I think, to expect that the men who are administering education in Scotland to-day should not only interest themselves in the administration and finance of their committees, but should also get into direct touch with the teachers and the schools; and although I am making this appeal to the outside world, yet, conversely, let the teachers endeavour to find out what is passing through the minds of those in the everyday world and try to adjust themselves to their needs. Let them more and more interest the parents and the scholars in their work. Let them welcome sympathetic criticisms or suggestions which may come their way. Let them mix with employers and professional men, so as to secure, in the words of Lord Salvesen's Report, close contact between education and trade and industry.

So far, in my remarks, I have been dealing solely with public education in Scotland, but we cannot rest where we are. We wish to improve our standard, our outlook, so as to adapt our system to the needs of the day, and in that connection I have been reading with great interest a report recently issued by the Board of Education on the trade schools on the Continent. This report deals with the manner in which France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Holland prepare their recruits for industry. These countries, as we do, realise that education is a powerful instrument for maintaining the efficiency of industry, and it is interesting to observe that in France it has been found possible to impose a special tax on industry for the purpose of training apprentices. In Holland private initiative has developed a great proportion of the considerable provision of vocational education. Belgium, it appears, is bent upon adding to her heavy industries other forms of industry which demand greater skill on the part of those engaged in them. In Czechoslovakia I find that technical education has been developed with energy and foresight as an essential factor in national prosperity.

What I have read in this report raises in my mind the interesting question of the amount of time to be given to actual workshop practice as compared with the study of principles and the continuance of general education. These continental schools, I find, lean strongly to the former. I know that the point I am bringing before the Committee and the public education authorities in Scotland is no new question. Technical education has been the subject of much thought, and I am well aware, as I have no doubt other hon. Members are, of the splendid work which has been done and is being done by our technical colleges and in our widespread system of technical continuation classes. Yet there may be something for us to learn from these other countries, and I am accordingly considering whether it would not be advisable for me to send one or two officials to them to learn at first hand what is taking place there, so that, with such information as they can learn, they can come back to us in Scotland and tell us of the most recent development in those countries. We might be able to learn from them and adapt our present system to the future needs of the cause of education.

I do not wish on this my first opportunity of introducing the Education Estimates to let the opportunity pass of saying to the Committee, what I am sure they will also feel with me, that the cause of education in Scotland is served by a body of men who are zealous in their work. I have indeed a fortunate task, because I am supported by my officials who have given me of their best. Ministers come and Ministers go, but it is indeed fortunate that in our Civil Service there is a body of men who give of their judgment and of their best, irrespective of the views of their chiefs. It is because I believe that the cause of education in Scotland has not deteriorated one iota from the high standard which has always characterised it among the educational systems of the world, that I have pleasure in asking the Committee to grant the necessary sum.

9.20 p.m.

Mrs. SHAW:

I should like to offer congratulations to the Secretary of State for Scotland on the very lucid statement he has given us as to the condition of education in Scotland. It shows conclusively that the economy which had to be effected last year consequent upon the reduction of the grants has not reflected in any way on the system of education and that no child has suffered thereby. Unfortunately, the largest item of educational expenditure is for teachers' salaries. I am not one of those who desire to cut the salaries of teachers, because I feel that the whole of our educational system depends on good, efficient and well-contented staffs. It is a matter for some regret that for many-years past there has been annually in the minds of many teachers a great fear as to what was going to happen as regards salaries. I cannot see that that makes for contented teachers. There is a form of salary payment to which I have always been opposed. That is the responsibility payment. It is open to much abuse, and I cannot say that it is in the best interests of education or of the child. Take, for instance, the case of the teacher who is paid for having a department. It might conceivably be that that department has only one teacher, and therefore he is drawing a responsibility payment for supervising himself.

I should like to ask the Secretary of State if he has taken any regard to the Lovat Report. On page 26 the Committee suggest that the responsibility payment should be the subject of departmental investigation. If that investigation has been carried out, I shall be glad if my right hon. Friend will tell the Committee the result of it. If it has not been done, I hope that he will take steps to have it done in the near future. While on the subject of economy in education, there is another suggestion which I should like to make with regard to the staff. I think that infant mistresses should be asked to teach a class. Supervision of the infants' department is a relic of the past when pupil teachers only were employed in the department. We in Scotland pride ourselves upon our system of education and we congratulate ourselves that we are very advanced. We dislike ancient methods, and therefore I say that anything which savours of the past and adds a further burden on the pressing cost of education requires investigation. The report of the Council of Education in Scotland is exhaustive and extremely interesting. I have read it with great care and consideration. i have no intention of going into all the details in that report, but I should like to call the attention of the Committee to one or two items.

The Secretary of State has mentioned the leaving certificate. It is a matter of great satisfaction to find that there is an increased number not only of presentations but of awards of these certificates which would appear to be due to the fact that there is now a greater freedom in the choice of subjects, and more time for concentration in the final year. The fact that the range of subjects approved for examination for leaving certificates has been extended to embrace such subjects as mechanics, technical drawing and bench work would, at any rate, suggest that at last we are getting away from a system which all along has been too standardised. On a former occasion, when I had the honour to address the House on the subject of education I put forward a claim in regard to practical education and I must reiterate it to-night. I am strengthened in my purpose in doing so by the remarks of the report. I refer to pages 18 and 19 of the report which deals with practical instruction, and there we find this sentence: These figures are on the whole very satisfactory, though there are still too many pupils near the leaving age who receive no practical instruction merely because they have not qualified for advanced instruction in book subjects. On referring to the day school certificate (higher) we find that 3,846 certificates were gained, an increase of 255 since last year, but out of that number only 5 per cent. took domestic science. I. cannot agree that these figures are satisfactory when large numbers of our girls are leaving the schools with no means of learning domestic science. We have to remember that many of these girls have no facilities in their homes for learning it, and also that our schools are fully equipped with all the appliances that are necessary for such instruction. I feel that it is time we did something to encourage larger numbers of our young girls leaving school to take up these domestic subjects. I tremble to think what is going to become of the homes in this country if these girls are not encouraged to take up more the practical side of domestic work. If there is to be no improvement, I feel that we may be emulating what I have heard has happened in America. There, it is said, there are only two trades that one can enter without special training; one is matrimony and the other is grocery. I have no estimate of the failure of the former or the success of the latter, but I do not think it takes a very great stretch of imagination to forecast the time when many of the young women of this country may find themselves embarking upon the most complicated of life's experiences without adequate equipment for carrying it through. To assist in the proper placing of the school leavers, might I suggest that it would be well for the authorities to turn their minds to the consideration of instituting some form of vocation guidance along the lines of the recommendation of the Institute of Industrial Psychology.

I have one other observation to make on the report. There is a paragraph on page 22 which mentions junior instruction centres. I cannot help thinking that if we go along certain lines in the working of these centres that we have established, we may approach to what the Secretary of State has mentioned in regard to trade schools. I, too, have seen some of these schools on the Continent and in this country, and I have been watching very carefully for the past five years the method of development of the junior training centres. I have paid particular attention to one which is doing excellent work very close to my own division, and I have had time to see where the weakness of our junior employment centres comes in. I should say it is in having what we might call dual control between the Ministry of Labour and the education committee. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend if he could not make some arrangements whereby the control of these schools would be entirely left to the education authorities and the placing only left with the Ministry of Labour? I would make the suggestion —and I do it with all respect and humility—that junior Employment Exchanges should be in close proximity to these centres.

It may seem that my remarks would have been more appropriate on the Ministry of Labour Vote, but, having had experience of these centres, I feel the educational side ought to be strengthened, because at the centre of which I am speaking there are 400 pupils attending every day, 200 of whom attend in the morning and 200 in the afternoon. The point I want to make is that out of that 400 pupils, 76 per cent. are voluntary attendants and the other 24 per cent. are claimants of unemployment benefit, which shows that it is not compulsion but the very inducement of the chance of finding a job which is taking this 76 per cent. to that centre. I am pleased to inform the Committee that last year out of a total attendance of 1,600 pupils, 300 have been placed through the medium of the centre in addition to those who have been placed by the Employment Exchange. I want to suggest with all the emphasis I can that this is one of the most important problems that confront our educational system to-day—not only the educational training, but the proper placing of these young people. If something can be done along these lines to strengthen the hands of the education authorities, we shall find that the young people will gradually drift into a proper position for tackling the big things of the world in which they will find themselves after leaving our schools.

9.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Dugald Cowan Mr Dugald Cowan , Combined Scottish Universities

I have listened, as every other hon. Member has listened, with very deep interest and pleasure to the speech which has just been delivered. Personal allusions in this House are difficult and delicate, but I may perhaps be permitted to say that, in my view, not any of the many duties falling to the Secretary of State for Scotland can be more congenial to the present occupant of that office than dealing with education, because he bears a name which has been long, closely and honourably associated with education in Scotland. We have only a limited time at our disposal, and I mean to confine my remarks almost entirely to asking questions. I am not going to follow the hon. Lady who has just spoken in her very interesting remarks in regard to what might be done. After a long experience of school work I am completely in the dark with regard to the education of girls. One question raised by the hon. Lady concerns the remuneration of teachers in Scotland. The Secretary of State is only too well aware that that question bristles with difficulties, but, speaking for many of my constituents, I would take this opportunity of expressing our appreciation of the efforts of the Secretary of State and his advisers to make the sacrifices called for from the profession as equal and as equitable as possible, and at the same time I would express our recognition of the attitude of the great majority of education authorities in Scotland in regard to this matter. It has been a very difficult time for administrators, but I think the good will shown by all sides has helped to establish the contention of the Secretary of State that there has been no deterioration in the quality of the education.

Another matter which I wish to bring to the Secretary of State's attention concerns school buildings. There has been undoubtedly a slowing down of the work of replacing unsatisfactory buildings. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has for many years brought forward the case of the antediluvian school buildings in his own constituency, but I expect they are still there. We have too many of these unsatisfactory buildings, and I would ask whether all this economy over building is necessary at the present time. We have supported the efforts of the Government to achieve economies in many directions, but I think it is a misplaced economy to cease to build satisfactory schools for our children even at this time. Building costs are as low now as they have been for a long time past. I took the liberty of sending to the Secretary of State one or two questions which I propose to put to him. In the report which the hon. Lady quoted there is an incitement or inducement or suggestion that in some cases redundant staff might be cut down. No one is going to express an opinion favourable to extravagance in education, but at the same time I should be loth to support any Departmental policy which militated against a generous recognition of the Departments regulations dealing with staff. If an authority has been somewhat generous in the matter of staff it has acted to a very large extent at its own expense, and I hope there will be no cutting down of staff to the bare Departmental minimum.

The question of teachers raises another very important one to which I ask the Secretary of State to give a very definite answer. For a long time the teachers of Scotland, and many others who are interested in education, have had before them the ideal of a graduate profession. Up to now it has not been possible to attain that ideal, but within the last two years there have been sufficient graduate candidates asking admission to the training colleges to supply all the requirements of the country. That being the case one would have thought that those responsible for the training of teachers, the national executive, would have filled the training colleges with graduates and not admitted non-graduates, but the very opposite has been the case. They have kept out highly-qualified graduates in order to admit non-graduates who, in some cases, have very, small qualifications. I ask the Secretary of State on what grounds graduates are being refused admission to the training colleges while non-graduates are accepted? The hardship is very great in the case of the graduates, because they have given three years longer to their preparation. The non-graduates are about 18 years old and the graduates about 21. On what grounds are these non-graduates being admitted?

Photo of Mr Dugald Cowan Mr Dugald Cowan , Combined Scottish Universities

Last year we admitted somewhere about 160. This year, out of a total of 850, we admitted 120 of these non-graduates. I ask, first, Is it contended that there are certain departments of school life which require an inferior qualification? If so, let us be told what those departments are. I ask, second, Are those non-graduate candidates being admitted simply on the ground of cheapness? If this is the reason, then the education department or whoever are responsible are laying up future trouble for themselves and the country. They are coming in into the teaching profession inferior in status and inferior in payment, but after they have been engaged a few years in teaching they will be saying: "We are doing the same work as these graduates." I ask the Secretary of State to do what he can here and now to put an end to this invidious distinction which is being brought into the teaching profession. Everyone who takes an interest in education must welcome the mission which the Secretary of State has been carrying on in the country. It has been a great pleasure to all of us to see his efforts to encourage business men to take an active part in school administration. From my own experience I say it is a hopeful thing, because I have known business men who, after having been critical of schools for years, become the most generous supporters of the schools when they came in and saw what was being done. We wish all good luck to the Secretary of State's effort.

There is also his further plan of interesting parents in the work of the schools— I do not know whether by parents' days as they have in America and elsewhere; but it was my experience, when I was in active service, that the fathers were much more bashful on those days than the mothers. It was almost impossible to get a father to come in, and when he did he wore an apologetic air all the time. At the same time we welcome these efforts of the Secretary of State as tending towards making education what it should be, a great communal service in which everyone is interested. I am not going to refer to the raising of the school age. All the arguments are known, and we know the difficulties so long as the present financial situation prevails, but the president of the Educational Institute of Scotland suggested at the annual meeting 10 days ago that perhaps the time was now ripe for a Royal Commission to be appointed to deal with Scottish education. That might have a very wide remit as to work, a remit as to staffing and a remit as to the financial arrangements under which it could best be carried on. That suggestion by the president of the institute has received support from the leading organs of the Press. I ask the Secretary of State, while he may not be able just now to give a definite answer, not to rule out completely the possibility of a commission of that sort doing very valuable work in regard to Scottish education. In conclusion I would say, as one who has been long interested in education, that I have followed with very keen interest the work that has been done by the Secretary of State in his short term of office. If the spirit that prevailed all through his speech becomes general in the educational world, Scottish education may look forward to a brilliant future.

9.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

I do not want to continue this Debate upon education unduly, because there is a further Vote to be taken for which I have a certain measure of responsibility and interest, but I cannot allow a Vote upon Scottish Education to pass without offering a word or two on behalf of myself and those who sit upon this bench. I cannot unite in the expressions of satisfaction about the state of Scottish education that were voiced by the Secretary of State and supported by the hon. Lady the Member for Bothwell (Mrs. Shaw) and the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan). In reply to an interruption by my hon.

Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), the Secretary of State for Scotland cited four indications that the Scottish education was all right and was not deteriorating, and had not suffered any deprivations in the last year or two.

The first of those indications, if I remember rightly, was school attendance. It is true that attendance at school in Scotland has reached a higher figure than ever it has previously attained. There are many factors to account for that, and one, in particular, is the widespread distress among the people of Scotland. The harassed, worried, over-driven mother is very anxious to get the children out of the house and into the school, where, at least, they are away, for a certain period of time, from the poverty and depression that hang over the home. In addition to that, one finds, if one reads the report, that there is a tremendous increase in the number of children who are required to obtain free meals, boots and clothes at school. The meals are obtained when the children are in regular attendance at the school. I urn sorry to say that adjudications as to who are to obtain boots and clothing, and who are not, are also, to some extent, influenced by the regularity or non-regularity of the children's attendance at school. The Secretary of State is not entitled to use that figure of high percentage attendance as an indication of a state of high efficiency in Scottish education.

His next figure was that 74 per cent. of children obtained the school-leaving certificate. That, to me, was just as near a wrong use of statistics as ever I have come across. I have in my possession a summary of the report of the Chief Inspector for Scottish Education, Dr. Smith, in which he says: The obstinate fact remains that less than half of the children in the schools, even of so favoured a district as Edinburgh, complete their primary course successfully in the time allowed. I am quite sure that hon. Members who are not so closely interested in the details of educational administration got the impression, from the statistics used by the Minister, that out of the children going to Scottish schools and remaining there until the appropriate leaving age of 14, 74 per cent. obtained a certificate of high efficiency. When he presented that figure to the Committee, the Secretary of State withheld the fact that a very large proportion of those who go to the elementary schools and complete the recognised time, leave without any certificate, and that the 74 per cent. obtaining the leaving certificate was 74 per cent. of the total number presented for the certificate, which was only a fraction of the total number of children leaving school at that time.

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but, as I stated, he give the figure as evidence of the high state of efficiency of Scottish education at the present time, and naturally the ordinary Member of the Committee, leant back, sighed with satisfaction and said: "That is 74 per cent., and is reasonably good." That conclusion cannot be drawn. Speaking about the conditions of schools and school buildings, the Secretary of State for Scotland gave us a figure of six years. The challenge of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals was in respect of the last two years during which the National Government's economy policy has been operated. The Minister produced a six-year figure to prove that school buildings were being maintained at a high level of efficiency. He cited the total expenditure for the last six years, included in which were two years during which the Labour Government, in pursuance of its employment policy, were urging educational authorities to build more school buildings. Mr. J. Clark, the Chief Inspector of the Western district, which includes Glasgow, in reporting on the Western district, says: Glasgow continues to wrestle with its problem of accommodation, not only of new schools to be built to supply the needs of the new housing areas, but the other schools in the city have to be kept in repair and, as far as possible, modernised. It says much for the determination with which the problems of congestion in several schools have been attacked that the conditions are steadily becoming more satisfactory. I say that the latter part is untrue. There is as big a slum problem in schools as there is in houses. Unfortunately, it is generally the youngsters who have to live in slum houses who have to be educated in slum schools. Everyone who is interested in education knows that in recent years the conceptions of school architecture have been completely revolutionised. The idea of physical fitness calling for a maximum of light, fresh air, and so on was not operating as an educational conception, 50, 60 and 70 years ago, when a large proportion of the schools in Scotland were built. A huge proportion of the schools of Scotland are efficient structures so far as stone and lime are concerned and may stand for another 100 years, but they are completely out of date and out of keeping with every modern conception of a place where children should be educated. They are dark, dull places, dating back into the Victorian age, and partake more of the factory system and the prison system than of any educational ideas.

A large proportion of the children in the big cities are being taught in big ugly piles of masonry, and when they come out of the school to play their playground is some miserable asphalted or cemented square. In 1930 over £1,000,000 was spent in school developments and that did not meet the immediate demands, let alone producing higher standards of school accommodation, but in 1932 the amount spent in capital expenditure on building schools or modernising old schools did not reach £500,000. Apart from the fact that capital expenditure is not being incurred, in the ordinary recurring expenditure in the way of painting, cleaning and whitewashing, many of the schools in Scotland even the standards imposed by the Factory Acts in factories are not being observed. There are schools that have not had a lick of paint on them for seven years. Instead of the children who go into these places being inspired, brightened and in a mood for mental and physical development, the whole surroundings are dingy, depressing and dull, where they are not positively injurious to health.

I hope the Secretary of State will not pat himself on the back and be persuaded by anyone who presents him with statistics to show that Scottish education is going steadily upwards, because as a matter of fact it is moving downwards in a dangerous way. We have to get out of this mode of patting ourselves and saying: "We in Scotland have always been great educationists. We lead the world in education." All rot; nonsense. There was a period, a short period, when it was true that the young folk of Scotland had opportunities of acquiring knowledge of the three R's that were not available in most parts of the world, and we are living on that time yet. The men who make speeches and write books were the product of that time and they say: "It must have been a great educational system, because it made us." We are now trying to live on our past reputation. If we examine Scottish results as measured by international standards, whether in the realm of intellect, or in the physical realm, or in the realm of sport, we do not find that Scotsmen are coming out in any one of these walks as super-excellent over all the others.

My right hon. Friend proposes to send two of his officials to Czechoslovakia to find out about the trade schools there. Far be it from me to interfere with the pleasant jaunts of any members of the official staff in any branch of the public service. God knows, they have a hard and difficult life and I do not begrudge them any little brightness. I would as little think of opposing the proposed jaunt as I would of objecting to a sail by necessitous children down the Clyde. I hope the Secretary of State will not think I am approaching this question in any mean or grudging spirit. If he has the money to spend in giving the officials of the Education Department a jaunt to the Continent, just as his officials take a jaunt in the fishery cruiser to the Western Isles, well and good, let us be jolly, but do not let him imagine that they will come back and tell him anything that the teachers of Scotland do not know.

He may be more fortunate than I am, but I think my Labour colleagues will support me in this that in the next week or two when the Scottish holidays begin our time will be occupied and our resources rather strained by entertaining a stream of Scottish teachers who are proceeding to the Continent to learn what they can during their holiday recess. I would also point out that about a fortnight hence there is to be a great world educational conference in Dublin. Educationists from all over the world will assemble there to discuss the development of education throughout the world and to put them into a common pool of knowledge. To that meeting will go a very large representation of Scottish teachers who will utilise every minute of their time to get to know any new ideas that they can in the way of better educational methods.

With regard to industrialists and business men coming in to help Scottish education and to tell us how it is to be done, I hope that I have a broad and catholic outlook on the subject, but I want the Secretary of State to remember that Scottish education has been administered by the publicly-elected boards since 1872 onwards, and during all that time the business interests of Scotland have been very adequately represented on those boards. I am quite sure that any ideas they may have had were laid before the boards with great frequency and ability, and I do not think that business men of Scotland have some educational knowledge up their sleeves which they are going to produce and tell the Secretary of State.

The right hon. Gentleman's mind evidently is running along the line of developing trade schools technical courses. He is thinking in terms of training the children of Scotland to be efficient workers. Good. A lofty and noble ideal. But will he try to be sure that the trades for which he specially trains them and reorganises his educational system will still be there at the time when his educational system has been completed? Had we 10 years ago developed any technical education in the little town in Scotland where I lived, our technical education would have been directed towards teaching the children calico printing, and quite an interesting educational system could have been built up around that. There is the whole theory of colour, of designed textiles; there is all the machinery and chemistry involved in the process. A great educational system could have been built up out of calico printing, but, if our system had been directed towards that, it would have been futile to-day, because there is no calico printing there now. It has gone to another part of the country.

I suggest that in these days our education could not be linked up with purely technical considerations, and be an intelligent and intelligible thing. It should be linked up with cultural considerations, culture of the mind and culture of the body. You have to direct your school education more than ever before to the creation of a sound physique and, on the intellectual side, to the development of sound common sense God knows that it is a scarce commodity in the world to-day, not only in Scotland and not only among the pupils in the elementary schools. Scotland should direct its educational system, not to making more engineers when you cannot employ the engineers you have got, or more shipbuilders when you cannot employ the shipbuilders you have got, or more miners, joiners or house-builders when you cannot employ those you have got; not towards technical things, which are changing every minute before our eyes; but towards making the people physically fit, mentally equipped with common sense and, above all, full of the joy of life. That is a problem which the schools are not tackling—how to have children leaving school looking forward to life, glad to be alive, interested in life, probing into its unanswered problems, filled with the spirit of adventure. If you can do that, you will do something more than this pettifogging idea that you can turn the children into some particular kind of handicraftsmen to perform some operation which, by the time they have learned it, is being performed by the pressing of a button.

I apologise both for cutting this speech on education short and for taking up the time, for I have not yet said half that I intended to say on education. I wanted to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one thing, into which I cannot go in detail, although I have documents here on the matter. I have had brought before me in recent weeks copies of inspectors' reports passed upon schools and teachers; just a lot of footling nonsense. There is a slang word which describes these inspectors' reports, which is in common use in ordinary conversation, and that is "bilge." That is quite in order; it is a nautical term. When an inspector writes a report in which be talks about infants of five years of age not being soundly grounded in the fundamentals—I am not quoting textually—he is talking nonsense. [HON. MEMBERS: "Five years?"] I will read this: Infant one, though at present rather unequal"— that is a common failing of humanity in the classroom or anywhere else-— gives promise of leaving the infant division with a very satisfactory grounding in the essential subjects. Is that not a joke? This is a full-grown man, with distinguished academic career, who writes this about infants of five or six years of age. I would ask the Secre- tary of State to approach his chief educational official, the Secretary of the Education Department, at whose appointment I in this House expressed very great gratification. I had had experience of him as an inspector of schools when I was an assistant teacher. I regarded him as a man who had broken away from this silly tradition, and I do not want to see him allowing it to grow up again when he is safely seated in his office in Whitehall or Edinburgh. I want him to tell his inspectors that they would be infinitely better employed by removing some of the pressing difficulties which the policy of the present Government is imposing on Scotland, rather than in writing this sort of rubbish.

10.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Collins Mr Godfrey Collins , Greenock

The Committee has listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), as it always does when he speaks, especially on educational matters. I would like to remind him that no words passed my lips which could convey to him or any other hon. Member that I was fully satisfied with the condition of education in Scotland. Far be it from me to be satisfied with any matter within my jurisdiction. The hon. Member said that I was patting myself on the back on account of the success that I have made, but I have only had my office for nine months, and any present success in connection with education in Scotland certainly does not come from me, but from my predecessors who have administered my office in years gone by.

The hon. Member asked me if I could state the number of children who had taken leaving certificates. I have made inquiries since he asked the question, but I am sorry to say that I have not been able to get the figures. I think we were a little at cross purposes on that matter. I was referring to the leaving certificates of pupils 17 or 18 years of age, while I think what the hon. Member had in mind were certificates of the standard of education of children of the age of 14 after they had left the elementary school. I am sorry that on that point I am not able to assist him.

The hon. Member for Bothwell (Mrs. Shaw) asked about one or two points to which I should like to refer. She raised the question of the responsibility payments. This, as my hon. Friend is no doubt aware, is a part of the salary question, and must be treated as such. We are in a position of some difficulty here. English teachers have been cut by 10 per cent., and we in Scotland have reduced our minimum national scale by 10 per cent.; and this applies to the responsibility payments as to the other parts of the scale. Therefore, any question of altering the separate parts of the scale would require very careful consideration in relation to the general principle that no cut should exceed 10 per cent. The hon. Member asked me one or two other questions, which, perhaps, she will excuse my answering at this late hour, in view of the other question which is shortly to come before the Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan), who was kind enough to send me a list of the questions that he was proposing to ask, was very anxious that I should deal with one point in particular. That was on the question of non-graduate and graduate teachers. Some hon. Members think that we are reducing the number of graduate teachers on the ground of economy, but that is not accurate. I am speaking subject to information supplied to me by those responsible, because, naturally, in my short period of office, I cannot have made myself conversant with these delicate, intricate and complicated questions; but we are not of opinion that all the teachers in our schools in Scotland should be graduates of universities. Our opinion is based, not on economic, but on educational considerations. An ordinary arts degree of the kind now in vogue would, my advisers think, be an inadequate preparation for some of the work that has to be done in our schools unless it were supplemented, not by one year of training, as at present, but by at least two years. What is really desirable is not graduation for all, but longer courses for all, of which the present graduate's course would be one, but only of one kind. There would be other courses of a non-academic nature, and those courses might draw freely on the facilities offered by the universities, not only in the ordinary way of the Faculty of Arts, but in such developments as the Chair of Child Hygiene, the Department of Social Study, and—

10.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Dugald Cowan Mr Dugald Cowan , Combined Scottish Universities

It is true that all these alternatives may exist, but at the present time the proposal is to admit non-graduate candidates to the shortened course, which will turn them out inferior in status as regards scholarship, and will entitle them to a salary of £117, as against £162 for the graduates. It is quite possible that in days to come there may be alternatives to graduation, or an equivalent of graduation. That is not the proposal at present. It is the influx of a new class recognisably inferior.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Collins Mr Godfrey Collins , Greenock

Our policy in this matter is being dictated by educational interests. It is that all the teachers in schools should not be graduates but that there should be graduates and non-graduates. The percentage of graduates and non-graduates is, naturally, a matter of some difficulty, and no doubt there is great difference of opinion, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the problem is being examined not purely on grounds of economy but on educational considerations, for we realise that educational interests in the long run, with due regard to economy, must dominate our policy, and that is our policy on the question raised by the hon. Gentleman. As far back as 1885 the inspector of training colleges expressed the view that the time had not come, and probably never would come, when university trained teachers would be required in every school. That is also the opinion of the inspector of training colleges when he reported on the colleges as recently as 1931. The hon. Gentleman raised other points which he will excuse me for not dealing with, though I will follow the excellent example of the Under-Secretary and communicate with him in due course. I am especially grateful to him for his very kind remarks and I hope, with these brief replies to the few points raised, the Committee will now agree to proceed to the next Vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.