On a point of Order. I am anxious to have your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, on a question of procedure in regard to the Financial Resolution relating to this Bill As I understand it, the Financial Resolution will be binding. I want to know whether it is drawn in a way which allows elasticity to be given to expressions of opinion by hon. Members of this House, and so that the Minister will be able to carry out the ideas of the House in regard to any concessions upon financial matters.
This is an important matter. If the Financial Resolution is binding, no further change can be made and it puts us in a difficult position. I understand that it is not binding—that we cannot be bound by it as regards whatever decisions we ultimately reach.
Before I proceed with my speech upon the Bill, perhaps it will help hon. Members if I say that, as the Financial Resolution is on the Paper, there can be no doubt as to its terms. Its terms are quite explicit and are drawn generally. I do not think it would be proper for me to read them to the House at this stage, particularly as hon. Members can read the Resolution for themselves, but if hon. Members will turn to paragraphs (d) and (e) I cannot but think they will be satisfied with the terms in which the Resolution is drawn. If they are not satisfied, they have plenty of time to-day and to-morrow to say so, and also when the Financial Resolution is taken.
I now commend the Bill to the House as one which is warmly welcomed by the many active partners in the education service. It is they, as a team, who have helped to fashion it during the last two years. We have now come to Parliament and the Government look for the help of Parliament and the wisdom of hon. Members. I shall attempt to set out the main features of the Bill as clearly as I can. Hon. Members will, no doubt, understand that if I do not go into great detail it is because we have already published a covering Memorandum, and I therefore propose to-day to tackle only the more important issues. A schoolmaster friend of mine explained to me that if it was too academic, my speech would undoubtedly be set by the schools as a subject for prize essays. Therefore, I will come down to the Bill at once and be as practical as I can. Adopting the technique of school life, I propose to divide my speech into two halves and have a "half-time." I shall treat it more as a match; I hope in the first half to play with the wind and in the second half I shall probably be playing against the wind. Hon. Members will be able to see how far I have got when the time comes for "turning round."
This is the first of the Government Measures of social reform. Let us hope that our work together for the next few weeks, and more perhaps, will carry into the years of victory the thirst for service and advancement, as well as the common sharing of experience and opportunity which we have at present.
An educational system by itself, cannot fashion the whole future structure of a country, but it can make better citizens. Plato said:
The principle which our laws have in view is to make the citizens as happy and harmonious as possible.
Such is the modest aim of this Bill which provides a new framework for promoting
the natural growth and development not only of children, but of national policy itself towards education in the years to come.
This Bill completely recasts the whole of the law as it affects education, and the public elementary school goes the way of the Board school. The new duties which are imposed upon the Minister, upon the authorities and upon parents are set forth in language consonant with the range and dignity of the fresh responsibilities imposed.
Clause 1 of the Bill revises the position and influence of the Board of Education. The Acts of 1899 and 1921 are repealed and, from being charged with a mere "superintendence," the new Minister is charged with the duty
to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose, and to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area.
Clause 8 makes it clear that the central authority must continue to rely on the local education authorities far the administration of all national policy, and that the variety and scope of the provision must depend upon local initiative. We hope to continue in the new way the partnership which has existed between the central and local authorities. As Clause 8 indicates, the variety of the educational policy of the country must depend upon local initiative. The Bill has, in fact, been fashioned with the help and advice of local administrators and depends absolutely for its success on their continued zeal and devotion. The Minister must be responsible to Parliament for policy, but the Bill gives wide scope to local authorities. If hon. Members will turn to Subsection (2) of Clause 10, they will see the diversity of educational provision which is specially provided for set out in the paragraphs of that Clause. These are to be included in the development plans of authorities and then approved under Clause 11 by the local education orders of the Minister. I shall come to the details as to how the new local administration is to work out, when I deal with the first Schedule.
That is the set-up between the Minister and the local education authorities. Let me revert for a moment to Clause 1.
Under Clause 1 the Minister retains his traditional title, but loses the assistance of a Board which has never met. It is not so much a case of
a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
but, rather, of a rose grafted on to a more durable stem of a Ministry, with new and more definite powers. The change is conveniently summed up in the description that the Minister shall be "a corporation sole."
Under Clause 4 the Minister is to be advised by two councils whose establishment is an earnest of our intention that the central Ministry shall not only gird on the sword of resolution, but shall hold aloft the torch of true learning. We hope to enlist the help of representatives of different aspects of the national life, whether they be industrial, scientific or cultural, to assist us on these councils and the new Ministry will have for the first time, as well as the local education authorities, the power to encourage and promote research.
These councils replace the consultative Committee to whose work I should like to pay a tribute, for we owe them so much. The councils will be able to advise the Minister of their own motion on matters connected with educational theory and practice, but besides their special responsibility for the content of education it will be useful to be able to refer to them matters, both in England and Wales, upon which the Minister desires advice.
I would like to make a special mention of the Welsh Education Advisory Council, the establishment of which side by side with that for England, indicates the Government's recognition of the great and vigorous advance which has been made by the Principality in the matter of education, particularly in secondary education. It should help to link the national policy, as it unfolds, with the school life and work and with the cultural and linguistic history of the Welsh people. These councils will be there to supplement, but not to supplant, the fine tradition of the inspectorate who are the special apostles of widening and humanising content.
Coming to what this Bill does, we have revised the existing definition of what a child should be taught. Instead of elementary instruction in the "three R's,"
which should be so familiar to all hon. Members, or the provision, for which Wordsworth pleaded when he wrote of the State as:
Binding herself by statute to secure
For all the children whom her soil maintains
The rudiments of letters, and inform
The mind with moral and religious truth.
we substitute a new Clause 34 which says:
It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
And thus, instead of "the rudiments of letters," we offer in Clause 7 and onwards an opportunity to every child to pass through the primary and secondary stages. Thus, it may be summed up that, instead of a rudimentary education, under this Bill we hope to institute the broader training of a citizen for all. Clause 8 (1) makes clear that the secondary stage will be designed, not only to provide an academic training for a select few, but to give equivalent opportunities to all children over 11, of making the most of their natural aptitudes. The Clause runs
the schools available for an area shall not be deemed to be sufficient unless they are sufficient in number, character, and equipment to afford for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities and aptitudes.
That, I think, gives the House an indication of the wide range which is suggested and the variety of it under the machinery proposals of this Bill, and gives some slight indication of what we propose should be taught.
I would like to follow up Clauses 7 and 8 and describe the various ways in which the Bill provides for the health and happiness of children. The authorities are required under Clause 8 (2) (b) to provide nursery schools and classes for children from 2 to 5, with elasticity, if necessary, to go further after the compulsory age is reached. Here I want to make it clear that it is no part of the Government's policy in promoting this Measure to supplant the home. I should like indignantly to repudiate any suggestion that that is our policy. Family life is the healthiest cell in the body politic. It is the Government's desire that that family life shall be encouraged, and we hope to try and help children both in their physical, moral and religious develop- ment. I think it will be seen that we are trying to do our best towards this end and to fortify and buttress the influence of the family.
But, unfortunately, the experience of evacuation, which I met when I first went to the Board, and which we have all experienced in different ways, and other war experiences, have shown that many homes need helping; we have also noticed in the stirling effort made to set up nursery schools and other methods of taking in children of that age during the war—which I hope we shall improve upon even more in peace—that the country seems to have a special bent for nursery schools. These are not only social centres of training and up-bringing for the children, but have a real educational value and are often centres of adult education for the parents themselves. Therefore, I hope that we shall see, arising from this Bill, a healthy development of nursery schools, and/or classes where they are more expedient, and that we shall find that they buttress and support home life and make no attempt at supplanting it.
The primary schools very often get forgotten in a speech on education, though perhaps there is more need for reform there within the administrative sphere than in any other. It has been put to me that in this Bill we ought to have taken legislative steps to deal as an administrative question with a reduction in the size of classes. I should like to say that it is the intention of the Government to apply the same drive and energy, as circumstances allow, to a reduction in the size of classes in these schools and other schools as it is to proceed with the legislative reforms for which the Bill makes provision. We hope not only to see primary schools develop but senior modern schools develop within the secondary sphere, perhaps with rural or technical sides to their instruction, and we hope to see junior technical schools and grammar schools, of which I shall be speaking later.
I want now to ask the House to consider our proposals, which are in the form of a complete revision of the law, for dealing with the handicapped child. There have been very few changes since the Acts of 1914, 1918 and 1921. Under Clause 32 of this Bill a duty is laid upon local education authorities to ascertain all children who, because of disability of mind or body, need special attention. I propose to abolish certification under the Mental Deficiency Acts for education purposes. No child who can be dealt with within the education system shall in future be described or treated as mentally defective. Only those who cannot be educated and those likely to need care and supervision after leaving school will be reported to the mental deficiency authorities. The House will see the provisions set out, notably in Clause 32; and for the rest the various categories of handicapped and backward children for whom special provisions should be made will be defined in regulations and not in the Act. Our object is to provide the necessary flexibility, so as to enable advantage to be taken of new developments in medical education or psychological diagnosis and practice as they came along.
Clauses 8 (2) and 31 (2) contemplate that children with slight disabilities may be taught by special methods adapted to their individual needs in ordinary primary and secondary schools, but for the more seriously disabled we look for an extension of the present inadequate provision of special schools both through local authorities and voluntary endeavour, and I hope that we shall make our provision of these schools adequate for the purpose. I am taking special powers to give additional financial help to voluntary endeavour, which has played such a large part in this field. Among other proposals and changes Clause 32 (2) gives parents the right to ask for the medical examination of any child over the age of two with the object of providing special educational treatment.
This leads me on to consider a further human aspect of the Bill, which is the provision of meals and medical treatment. I am again asking the House to reform the law, which dates from nearly 40 years ago, when the foundations of the school medical service were laid in 1907. The Education (Provision of Meals) Act dates from 1906, although there were powers in the following Act. This Bill imposes a duty upon authorities to provide meals and milk, the increased provision of which has latterly been so marked. This is one of the sections of administration which, I think, appeals to me most, because you can actually see the worth of the investment in the children. They show the value of this policy not only in their growth but in their cheeks. Therefore, it is particularly gratifying to the Government that we have been able to take fresh powers to impose this duty, which we trust will cause the meals-and-milk policy steadily to expand and grow. The House will notice that the terms of Clause 47 are drawn very broadly and hon. Members may well ask why they are drawn in such broad terms. I do not think I shall be letting the House into any secret in saying that they have been drawn in those broad terms because the Government's decision on the conditions governing these services may have to be adjusted at some future date to the decisions on family allowances and the question of family allowances in cash or kind.
Clause 46 proposes that local education authorities shall be under an obligation to see that all children attending school or a young people's college maintained by them shall be able to obtain every form of free medical attention other than domiciliary treatment. Under sub-section (2) there is an innovation, of which I should notify the House, by which parents will be under an obligation to submit their children to medical inspection and every effort will be made to enable children to take advantage of modern medical and dental treatment. We are looking for development not only in the school medical service but in the school dental service. I may say, in passing, that there is no foundation for the fear which has been put to me by certain authorities that the Bill will deprive local education authorities of the responsibility for medical treatment and confine the work of the school medical officers simply to medical inspection. If hon. Members look at Clause 46 they will see that the provisions there are likely to give school medical officers and staffs a greater responsibility for the treatment of children. Here again, this policy will "cog on" to later Government policy as it comes along. With the development of the new National Health Service we trust the duties of school medical officers will be widened, and that that beneficent preventive agency the school medical service will become part of the general health services of the nation and an instrument for building up, through childhood, a sounder and fitter people.
Perhaps the biggest change in this sphere of medical education will be the bringing about of a regular and careful inspection of boys and girls who have left school and entered employment. These children over the school-leaving-age, or young people as they are more properly called, are the most susceptible to certain illnesses and to the unaccustomed strain of their new working life, and yet at present there is no continuation of the medical service to look after them. The co-operation which is so desirable between the school medical staff and the agencies for advising young people on the choice of employment and physical welfare in industry is destined by this Bill to be centred in the young people's colleges. This supervision on the medical and the employment side in young people's colleges will, I think, explain why the Government is so keen to re-enact Mr. Fisher's proposals, with considerable modifications, for continuing education.
I think it is time to say that education should be the ally and not the dreaded competitor of employment. To the question "Who will do the work if everybody is educated?" we reply that education itself will oil the wheels of industry and will bring a new efficiency, the fruit of modern knowledge, to aid the ancient skill of farm and field.
The Bill contemplates that the age range in the young people's colleges shall continue up to 18 from school-leaving age, which, at first, is to be 15 and later 16. But before I come to Clauses 39 to 45 dealing with continuing education, I should like to draw attention to Clause 33 which governs the question of the school-leaving age, and say a few words about that now. Under the Bill this is to be raised to 15 without exemptions on the introduction of Part II, and to 16 when the Minister considers that circumstances permit him to lay an Order in Council. Hon. Members will see from Clause 108 that Part II of the Bill is to come into operation on 1st April next year. This means that the main provisions of this Bill relating to the school-leaving age, the arrangement of primary and secondary schools and the medical and allied service and so forth, will operate as from that date. But we cannot forget that the war has a bearing on the recruitment of additional teachers and on the supply of building labour and materials for school purposes. It is, therefore, necessary for a responsible Government in present circumstances to envisage a situation in which the raising of the school-leaving age to 15, in a little over a year from now might be impossible. Clause 99 (3) therefore empowers the Minister, should such circumstances arise, to defer the raising of the age to a date not later than 1st April, 1947. But the other sections of Part II come into operation on 1st April, 1945. It is the Government's intention, however, to raise the age at the earliest posible date and they are simply taking this power as a precaution, in view of administrative difficulties which might arise out of the exceptional circumstances in which we are now placed. But the settling of the date of 1st April, 1945, must be an earnest of the intention of the Government to proceed with this matter.
Hon. Members will probably want to hear more on the intention of the Government about raising the age to 16. Any educationist would tell you that the arguments for raising the age to 16 are conclusive, and it is the view of the Government that children should remain at school until that age when it is practicable for them to do so, under present circumstances. Therefore, power is taken in the Bill, in the proviso to Clause 33 for the Minister to introduce an Order in Council which shall be laid before Parliament to raise the age to 16, as soon as he is satisfied that it has become practicable to do so. The only hesitation in naming a definite date, as I understand some hon. Members would have preferred, derives from the need to press ahead with certain educational reforms long overdue which I regret to say I have found waiting for me on my desk. One of the most important of these is to complete reorganisation. I think it would be wrong to oblige children to stay at school until they are 16 in unreorganised schools where there would not be the means to give them the advanced and continued education suitable for them.
Of other educational reforms which should be carried out in the sphere of the most active education administration, I specially mention the reduction in the size of classes, about which I have already given an undertaking to the House, and the provision of more teachers and suit- able buildings about which I will now say a word. I think it will be wise for me to inform authorities that they should have in mind that 16 will, eventually, be the normal leaving age. It is important for them in framing their plans for their new secondary schools to bear this in mind. The physical circumstances which influence the Government's policy towards the matter, and which are set out in the Bill, centre round the questions of teachers and of buildings, about which I propose to say a word now.
Taking teachers first, a large proportion of the present teaching staffs are beyond the normal retiring age or are married women who have come in to help us during the war. I hope many of them will go on helping us in the peace. The demands of the Forces have brought the normal recruitment of men teachers to a standstill. Apart from the raising of the leaving age there is likely to be at the end of the war a serious shortage of teachers just at the moment when we most want them. The House will want to know what measures the Government are taking in order to meet this most vital requirement of our reforms. We have, of course, taken special measures and an emergency scheme is already being prepared, which is to be financed wholly from the Exchequer. Its object is to secure that, on demobilisation, premises and training staff will be ready and available for intensive courses for intending teachers. During the last two months conferences have been held with representatives of educational administration and the teaching profession, and the Board is assured of the ready co-operation of all these in carrying out this scheme of emergency training. Thus we are ready not only to welcome back to the teaching profession those who have gone into the Forces, but to attract fresh blood to the teaching profession from those who have had the wider experience of war. I think it will be realised that we are trying to do our best to meet perhaps the most serious need in implementing the largest reform.
There is another matter, the question of buildings. I have also tried to get busy on this. We have had a special building inquiry sitting which was set up with the approval of my Noble Friend the Minister of Works. I am hoping that its report will be published in the next month or so, and I hope that this will indicate that the provision of new school buildings can be a simpler and less lengthy process than in the past and also less expensive. We have set out our ideas on paper and, as soon as circumstances permit, I hope to see them published. If the Bill as we hope is passed the Board will issue its building regulations and these are now in course of preparation.
I think it necessary to be quite frank with the House. In view of the competing claims for building materials and labour after the war and of the difficulty of gaining an absolute priority for one class of returning soldier, the House will see that our keenness—and no one is more keen than I am, to introduce the reforms with the least possible delay—must be tempered by consideration of what is possible.
But the fact that we have named these early dates for the introduction of Part II for the raising of the age to 15, and for forging ahead with the establishment of the machinery of the Bill—for without the establishment of the machinery the reforms could not be introduced—shows that we are anxious to preserve our first priority in social reform. I intend that we in education shall keep right ahead.
I will give the House an example. Coming to continued education, in Clauses 39 to 45, in the new law governing continued education, as we hope it will be passed, we show less disposition to be leisurely than did the Act of 1918, which allowed an interval of seven years before attendance was required of young people from 16 to 18. Even at Rugby—the only place in the country where the provisions of continued education have been carried out—compulsory attendance ceases at 16. Clause 42 (1) leaves it to the Minister to initiate this portion of the scheme by Order. The Authorities and the House may take it that a scheme for continuing education should be planned, first, on the basis of a leaving age of 15, to rise later to 16. But I should like to make it quite clear that the introduction of such a scheme of continuing education—to which the Government attach first-class importance—should not be regarded as an alternative to the ultimate raising of the school-leaving age.
There are other marked differences between the proposals of these Clauses and the Act of 1918. For one thing, we propose a single appointed day for the whole country, to avoid the chaos resulting from different appointed days for different areas, which perhaps helped to stop the introduction of reforms on the last occasion. We propose that there shall be no exemptions. We propose to take grammar and technical school leavers as much as modern school leavers, and all will be under an obligation to attend.
Generally speaking, young people will be obliged, under Clause 42, to attend for one whole day or for two half-days a week—we hope that normally it will be one whole day—for 44 weeks in the year. I propose to say a word about the special needs of the rural areas shortly. No fees will be payable. There must be no sense of a return to school, and we must have teachers with a new and broad outlook.
The House may be impressed by the shortness of the period of release. To anybody with a knowledge of education the time must seem miserably small, but we desire to get the thing going this time, and we are compelled to be modest in our initial demands. We are ambitious in our aims, but we have to be modest at this stage. But given this stimulus of continued education in the daytime, I hope there will be a greater incentive to young people to take part in voluntary leisure-time activities outside, from which they may derive the benefit which they do now. Clauses 51 and 93 give power to both the Authorities and the Board to assist the provision of facilities for out-of-school and after-college activities. We are already familiar with many of the services which are known as "the service of youth," and voluntary agencies which are rather apprehensive on these occasions should realise that we desire to have their full co-operation under the, new scheme. There are many agencies, such as the Cadets, Scouts and others, which have done excellent work during the war, and we desire that they shall continue their work in the future and help to provide that variety which this Bill is designed to preserve and encourage.
The Bill expressly provides that these young people's colleges should be under the control of Authorities, but attendance can be made at a school set up by a firm so long as it conforms to satisfactory standards, which we shall inspect and lay down, and thus can the liability to continued education be discharged. I should like here to thank those firms and commercial houses which have shown a forward feeling on this occasion and have instituted training schemes of their own. It is most important that we should have at this time the co-operation of industry if this scheme is to work. I hope also that there will be an opportunity, through these colleges, for boys and girls to continue with their technical courses, for instance, courses of engineering. I hope that their cultural needs and physical fitness will be regarded as of very great importance in the education offered.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the evening institutes, which have done such excellent work in London, will be encouraged, because the fact that these schemes are not mentioned has made an unfortunate impression?
I cannot bring in everybody, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I appreciate the work that is being done in that respect, and I hope it will be continued. I was going to say that the Government look forward to collaboration between those at work and those engaged in the schools, and we look upon these proposals as some of the most important parts of the Measure now before the House. Technical education apart from the young people's colleges will be achieved largely outside these colleges.
The needs of the rural areas will require special attention, and it may be that residential colleges will be established. Provision is made in Clause 59 for the local education authority to pay board and lodging where it is necessary to enable a pupil to attend a boarding establishment.
I would now like to say a word about adult and technical education and agricultural education. Technical education and adult education tend to be lumped together. There is nothing derogatory to either in that. We desire that both should be covered as much as possible, but adult education must centre itself round the existing focal points, and Clause 40 makes provision for this and for consultation between the Local Education Authorities, the universities and the existing educational associations. The best way I can bring home to the House the scope of technical education is by saying that we have provided for building loan charges to cover a programme of capital expenditure amounting in the seventh year to at least £22,000,000, rising eventually to £32,000,000, and we make provision for at least £2,000,000 of capital expenditure in the first year. The House will desire, I am sure, to bring our provision for technical training into line with the modern industrial requirements of our country. As to adult education I think it would be a great pity to decide on the ultimate content of that education until we see the result of all those experiments which are being carried out.
Coming to agricultural education, I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and I see eye-to-eye on the matter. We agree that the technical agricultural education for the young, excluding higher education at University Departments of Agriculture and Agricultural Colleges, shall properly be regarded as falling within the sphere of the general education service. It has been decided that this should be the responsibility of the Local Education Authorities, as in the case of technical education for other industries. My right hon. Friend will be making a fuller statement on the subject after Questions on the next Sitting Day. The House will see that I have plenty of material to deal with without going into that. My right hon. Friend will also deal with the future of the advisory service for farmers, which we both feel must be closely associated with the Farm Institutes scheme. Our two Departments will thus indulge in the modern technique of combined operations. I feel sure that this decision to bring agricultural education within the framework of the general educational system of the country will be welcomed not only by educationists but by general public opinion as a means of furthering the mutual interests of the towns and the countryside, and I look confidently to local education authorities to foster and encourage an understanding of the country way of life in all the young people with whose education they are concerned.
I think it is desirable for me to turn now and play the other way. The House will realise that I do not want to keep them too long, and I will deal with some of the issues not in detail, but in rather more general terms. Before I leave the subject of continuing education, I want the House to realise that I have been speaking all the time of the education of girls as well as of boys. We hope that boys and girls together will profit by all those facilities which have been set forth in the early part of my speech. When you consider this great array of opportunities which will be offered in the Clauses to which I have been referring, one realises the new hopes that children will have before them when they are growing up
I want now to consider those who are destined to profit by continuing their full-time education at a secondary school. In the new attitude to secondary education we have two main objectives. The first is that, as far as possible, provision of various types of education should be accessible to all, whatever their social or financial circumstances; and secondly, that traditions and standards which have been a feature of our British education should, so far as possible, be preserved. There is no desire to "level down"; there is only a desire to bring everybody, ever upward. I must state that, to avoid confusion, unless I definitely use the words "grammar school," I allude to secondary education in the new sense given to it by the Bill.
Taking the first question, the accessibility of all to various forms of secondary education. Since 1918 fees in elementary schools have been prohibited. Clause 59 now extends that prohibition to all county and auxiliary schools, whether primary or secondary, and I say that because there have been misunderstandings on this point. This will secure that access to these schools is not impeded by lack of means. There must also be a sufficiency of places in secondary schools of various types to meet the needs of all qualified pupils, and it is in the Development Plans and Education Orders set out in the early part of the Bill that authorities will make provision for these.
The House will want to know about the direct grant grammar schools, particularly those which provide a problem because their places constitute a large part of the local provisions. Do we intend to retain this basis of grant to schools and if so, do we intend to abolish fees?
My answer is that we do intend to preserve tradition and variety and for that purpose to keep in existence a direct grant list. At the same time, these schools, as others in the Secondary sphere, must be accessible to all, whatever their financial circumstances. Further, it is essential that the local education authority, in planning the education for its area should be able to count on places in these schools to the extent required to supplement the provision in the maintained schools. This is particularly the case where the direct grant school forms the greater part of the provision.
Provided these principles are observed, the Government see no reason why a clean sweep should be made of fees in this limited class of school. Indeed a heavy-handed insistence on the prohibition of fees might make some governors decide to leave the State system altogether, because we could not stop them refusing to take our grant, and if they did that they might well decide to raise their fees and so dispense with the Board's grant. This would produce the diametrically opposite effect to what the opponents of fees desire, since it would accentuate social distinctions and widen existing gaps. However, it is impossible here to go into full detail since we do not know what the final composition of the direct grant list will be.
It is clear that the present list will need revision. It is probable, for example, that the offer we are making to aided schools in this Bill—under which these schools will have the whole of their running costs, including the teachers' salaries, paid for by the authority and a substantial Exchequer grant towards capital expenditure—will cause some existing direct grant schools to leave the list and become aided, and thus come within the general system. Some may wish indeed to become controlled. On the other hand it may be that a few well-endowed grammar schools who are at present aided by the authorities on a deficiency basis will desire to be included in the direct grant list. I should make it clear that in deciding on the future composition of this list, the Minister will give full weight to the views of the local education authority as well as those in charge and the governors of the schools.
Now to complete the secondary school picture I must refer to the public boarding schools. As the House is aware, the question of associating these more closely with the national system is under consideration by the Fleming Committee and therefore we must await their final report. This report I understand will also have some- thing to say about direct grant schools and may be expected in a few months.
We mean in our policy to link up all secondary schools so that children may pass to whichever one is most suitable for them, and we shall assist this linking-up process by the provisions of Part III—whose contents I have not time to go through in detail—where for the first time we provide for the registration and inspection of independent schools. This carries out and implements the policy recommended by the Private Schools Committee in 1932, an inquiry which was presided over by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary—and which is not his only contribution to the great reforms which are before us to-day. This is a small Bill on its own, with its own Schedule 6, governing the method of setting up independent schools tribunals and it will be brought into operation at a later date under the provisions of Clause 108 when we have had time to enlarge and fortify our Inspectorate. As hon. Members can imagine, there is a great deal to be done before we can carry out the whole of this plan.
No doubt we shall have plenty of discussions about our second objective of preserving tradition. If hon. Members will look at Clause 16 they will find elaborate provisions for instruments and articles of government. The last words of that Clause enjoin the Minister to
have regard to the manner in which the school has been conducted heretofore.
Thus there is to be no breaking with tradition but, on the other hand, I trust there will be innovations such as characterised the passing of the 1902 Act.
I am confident that we have provided machinery for establishing relations between the governors and local authorities which, I believe, will be adequate if there is good will, and I am ready to undertake that the Board's good offices will be available to assist both sides in coming to conclusions on these matters.
I now come to another large compartment of this Measure, and that is the dual system and the giving of religious instruction. There is one problem common to this question and the one I have just been considering, and that I found summed up in the charter of a grammar school I was looking at, which reads as follows:
God, of His abundant grace, hath sent copious plenty of children, but not plenty of money to maintain them.
I find in my problems at the Board that this is probably the reason why we all get into so much trouble.
We have been asked why the dual system cannot be done away with and all schools placed under a uniform control with the expenses found from public funds. I will explain the difficulty in which one is placed in attempting to reform the dual system by saying that this proposition is advanced by two sets of people who propound exactly the opposite ways of giving effect to it. To some, it would be an essential part of such an arrangement that doctrinal teaching should be available in all schools according to the wishes of the parents. Others, on the other hand, consider that religious education is the responsibility of the churches and not of the schools, and on that account favour the secular solution. These are two diametrically opposite points-of-view with which I am faced and their irreconcilability would make is difficult for the Government to introduce an Act of Uniformity with any hope of a long life.
How then have we approached the matter? In endeavouring to "discharge our duties in this weighty affair"—to use the words of the Preface to the Authorised Prayer Book—we have been fortified by the fact that we are a National Government and are making an all-party approach to this issue. Continuing with the language of the Preface, we have attempted
to approve our sincerity therein (so far as lay in us) to the consciences of all men; although we know it impossible (in such variety of apprehensions, humours and interests as are in the world) to please all.
Before I come to give a dispassionate account—and I will try to make my account as dispassionate as I can and remember the serious character of the problem we have to consider—I must say a word about past history, for without some knowledge of the past it is not possible to appreciate why a change in the present arrangement is essential and what the changes embodied in the Bill amount to.
Throughout the history of the church schools,—and when I mention "church schools" I am using a general term and not referring to schools of any particular denomination—two interweaving strands are discernible, namely, an ever-changing adjustment of the measure of public assistance to enable them to meet the ever-growing costs of education, accompanied by a steadily increasing measure of public control.
The first fundamental change was the arrangement made in 1902 by which the responsibility for the running costs was transferred from the managers to the local education authorities, the managers remaining responsible for the provision of the school premises, their repair and necessary alterations and improvements. But it became evident, with the altering conception of elementary education, that many managers were unable without further assistance to bear even this reduced share of the burden. In particular, Hadow reorganisation was beyond their capacity.
Let me not be misunderstood. The history of the last 40 years is rich in instances of devoted efforts on the part of managers and diocesan authorities to raise funds, not only to keep their schools going, but even to build new ones. In many cases it has meant house-to-house visiting by the parish priest and much anxiety. But there is no disputing that the years from 1902 onwards have shown a progressive inability on the part of voluntary school managers to discharge their statutory liabilities. It was in recognition of this fact that the 1936 Act empowered authorities to make grants, for a strictly limited time, of between 50 and 75 per cent. of the cost of the provision of school accommodation for senior children.
Why, it may be asked, is it necessary to make a further readjustment of these burdens as between public and private funds; and cannot we leave this thing alone and avoid all this controversy? The answer is to be found in the magnitude of the reforms now proposed and in the standards which are demanded in the interests of all children alike, whether they be in county or existing church schools. The extent to which the dual system complicates the administration of secular education was fully set out in Part IV of the White Paper issued last July, and I need say no more at present than that that system is incompatible with the effective organisation of the schools of the country and with the wise and economical use of teaching power, the effective utilisation of which is more important now than it was ever before. This problem would not be a serious one if the number of church schools were small, but I would remind the House that more than half of the schools at present called elementary in the country are church schools, although they deal only with a minority of the children, because many of them are small schools.
The object of the Government in making the proposals in the Bill has been to bring the church schools along with us in as close a degree of partnership as possible, and to eliminate as much of the friction involved in the operation of the dual system as we can. We have had to take account of many different views. We have continued, however—and this is the consecutive part of what I want to put before the House—the same strands of policy towards the church schools that have characterised British history up to now and we have given to managers the dual choice, either to become a controlled school or an aided school.
Taking the controlled school first—this is the development in policy—the State accepts full financial responsibility not only for the running costs, but for the necessary capital outlay—repairs, alterations and improvements. In return, the school becomes "controlled," as its name suggests. In the view of the Government the nation can, without prejudice to long-cherished principle, accept the full financial responsibility in this case, because the offer is accompanied by public control of the management and the appointment of teachers; and, under this system, there is no doubt the difficulties of the dual system are materially eased. Moreover, the religious instruction, except for two periods a week for the children of parents desiring doctrinal teaching, is based on agreement reached on a syllabus in the manner described in the Seventh Schedule.
The other alternative is the aided school for the benefit of those who wish to appoint teachers of their own faith and to be unfettered in respect of denominational religious teaching. Here, since there is no substantial increase in control, the tendencies of national policy continue and the nation can only accept a partial financial responsibility. But we offer half the cost of bringing the school up to standard, that is, 50 per cent. of the capital outlay I have just mentioned. I must impress upon hon. Members who sometimes say that these terms are not generous that the running costs of the aided schools, whether primary or secondary, are to be paid, with the sole exception under Clause 14 (3), of half the cost of the outer repairs to the building. I do not think, therefore, that the House can regard the offer as being conceived in other than a generous spirit.
The proposals which I have outlined have received a wide measure of support in the course of full and frank discussions with bodies and persons holding widely divergent views, and I suggest that these proposals ought not to be lightly dismissed. To those who think that there are preferable alternatives—and we are now here to consider them together in solemn discussion in Parliament—I would only say that any solution which does not take account of our traditional policy that any further increased public aid must be accompanied by increased public control would, I am convinced, imperil its general acceptance, and might bring about a reaction as detrimental to the churches as to the cause of education itself. Besides the offer of the aided and controlled status, there will also be available the resuscitation of the 1936 Act and the corresponding Liverpool Act—enabling managers to receive grants from the authorities up to 75 per cent. of the cost of the work involved or equivalent assistance and thereafter the 50 per cent. Exchequer grant I have just mentioned. In addition, the provisions of Clause 15, read with Clause 96, make it possible, where the movement of a denominational school is necessitated either by town and country planning or because the existing premises cannot be brought up to standards, to make an equitable contribution to the cost of the new replacing school. This should help managers in the period after the war, when building activities will be largely directed to devastated and replanned areas. Where a denomination wishes to build a completely new school, it will be able to do so subject to the procedure laid down in Clause 12 and such a school will thereafter be maintained by the authority.
Under Clause 14 (2) managers can take their choice of these alternatives and they will be given ample time and particulars of the cost involved in bringing their schools up to the requisite standard. I hope that we shall examine these provisions of the Bill carefully, so as to see that they are perfectly fair to those who have to make the choice.
It is really impossible for me at this stage to give a final assessment of the cost to managers, since, in the case of the Anglican schools, this depends on the choice made as between the controlled and aided status. Moreover, an exact estimate can only be made when the authorities' Development plans have been submitted and the Education Orders made. But certain estimates of costs affecting the Roman Catholic schools are under consideration. It is easier to make a rough estimate for these schools, since their senior children are largely covered by the re-opening of the 1936 Act and their primary schools may be expected to become aided. When these matters are considered in Committee, I will help hon. Members with all the facts I can and give the House any information in a manner as fair to the denominations as possible and I shall keep contact with leaders of the denominations throughout.
We wish these new terms, which we regard as generous, to be fully examined and discussed but in return I would ask those who feel deeply to dismiss from their minds the wholly unwarrantable view that the Government desire either to tear away church schools from unwilling managers or to force them inhumanely out of business. The best way I can reassure them is by quoting a verse of the hymn:
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take.
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Before I come to the concluding portion of my speech on the subject of finance, I want to say a word about the religious instruction provided for in the Bill. The contents of Clause 24, providing that in all county and auxiliary schools the school day shall begin with a collective act of worship and that religious instruction shall be given in every such school, have been widely welcomed as indicating the spirit in which this part of the Bill has been drawn. This provision is accompanied by the usual conscience Clause, for the rights of conscience must remain inviolate. Is it too much to hope that our discussions will help remove the historic grievances
dating from the Act of 1902? It is indeed a happy augury to note the coming together of those between whom a gulf has been fixed for so long.
We must consider in that spirit in the Bill such provisions as those in Clause 27 and elsewhere which are designed to ease the single-school area problem. Let us hope that our children—to use words found in one agreed syllabus—
may gain knowledge of the common Christian faith held by their fathers for nearly 2,000 years; may seek for themselves in Christianity principles which give a purpose to life and a guide to all its problems.
In so vital, personal and individual a matter as the teaching of religion, the State cannot claim to possess absolute authority, or to speak the final and decisive word. The churches should never forget their own responsibility for the out-of-school period. The responsibilities—and the burdens—must be shared.
Coming to the burdens I want to say a word about finance and a word about local administration. It has been part of the feature of this Bill that the whole burden should not be borne by the State but should be borne by other agencies—the local authorities, managers or voluntary agencies, as is done in the sphere of the youth. They should all help to find a share. On this basis I have been able to provide for an improvement in the grant to be made from central funds to local authorities, which will rise to an over-all 55 per cent., leaving an over-all 45 per cent. to be found by the authorities. I emphasise the word "over-all" because the principle underlying the present grant in respect of elementary education—that the rate of grant should vary in inverse ratio to the wealth or poverty of an area—is to be imported into the whole field of educational expenditure.
As a result, some will receive more and others less than 55 per cent. In addition to this proper discrimination between the rich and the poor—I do not know whether it appeals to hon. Members opposite—nearly £1,000,000 will be available for distribution among the poorest authorities.
There are those who say that the charges under the Bill are so great that the only equitable system would be to relieve the ratepayer of the severe burden of helping to finance the upbringing of the nation's children. Some say that the whole finance of local government should be revised but these questions have been by no means threshed out yet, and if I were to await such a radical change in our method of financing local and central endeavour, I should have to hold up these reforms indefinitely. It is not part of my job to reform local government or to reform local government finance. I take things as I find them, and, as I find them, I am making an improvement in what is not inaptly described in official language as a transitional grant formula.
If Members will look at page 4 of the Financial Memorandum they will see in the 4th and 6th columns of Table II that the proportion of the total expenditure to be met from taxes is very much in advance of the total of the proportion of expenditure to be met from rates, the figures being £115.1 millions and £88.1 millions respectively. To show how much more of the burden is to be met centrally than locally, I will ask hon. Members to look at the 5th and 7th columns, which will show that a total increase of £51.2 millions—increase over pre-reform expenditure—will be borne by taxes, whereas only £28.6 millions will be the extent of the increase which is to be expected from the rates. The grants for elementary and higher education are now merged as befits the new definition of the stages within the national system.
These new definitions similarly demand a revision of the local government units. I think this is a matter on which we should go into detail on the Committee stage. The details of the new local administration are set out, I hope clearly, in the first Schedules of the Bill which I think we should discuss in detail. These paragraphs are vital to many of the best friends of education—those who have served on Part III and also on Part II authorities in the past—and it will suffice now if I say that we have revised the original White Paper proposals in order to maintain an essential local interest, while preserving the need for units able to carry out the vast range of educational provision which is provided for in the Bill. We, look to local endeavour—whether in the local authorities or in the new divisional executives—to serve the cause of education with the same zeal and foresight that they have shown before. I believe that in the proposals, particularly the new ones included since publication of the White Paper, those who have taken part in the work in the past should find a greater opportunity in both the primary or secondary spheres—whether they serve authorities or in "excepted districts" or in the divisional executives created by agreement with the counties—for serving education, and the Minister will have an opportunity of considering the views of both authorities and of divisional executives and of trying to resolve points of difference.
I think the House by now will have heard sufficient from me to realise the wide scope of the Bill. Yet there are many aspects of it which I have not been able to describe in detail and which we shall have to consider in the Committee and further stages. Some are anxious as to procedure. Some are anxious as to the burden which the Bill may impose. But few have not commented favourably on its wide range and substance, and few, including those who are likely under the Bill to make the most sacrifices, wish to lose the advance it suggests. We to-day have the responsibility for laying the foundation for the nation's future and we dare not fail.
Perhaps the Bill owes its welcome to an appreciation of the synthesis it tries to create between order and liberty, between local initiative and national direction, between the voluntary agencies and the State, between the private life of a school and the public life of the districts which it serves, between manual and intellectual skill and between those better and less well endowed.
Hammered on the anvil of this war, our nation has been shaped to a new unity of pride and purpose. We must preserve this after victory is won, if the fruits of victory are to be fully garnered, and that unity will, by this Bill, be founded where it should be founded in the education and training of youth. But, more than that, as the reforms are made effective—and made effective they must be—we shall develop our most abiding assets and richest resources—the character and competence of a great people and I believe in passing this Measure we shall do this in a manner not unworthy of our people's greatness.
We on this side of the House welcome the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend and particularly welcome the very full and admirable speech in which he has explained his proposals. I can say, speaking for the Labour Party, that we will back the Minister in all his efforts to get the Bill through the House and we will assist him in any struggle he may have against vested interests in the House, which may try to alter it or spoil it while passing into law. We will assist him in any fight he may have against forces of snobbery or class-consciousness which may try to limit these proposals on the ground that education should be restricted to the needs of the privileged few. We shall also assist him in any struggle he may have in fighting against local government pressure from those who put a desire to maintain small education authorities before the need to create efficient administrative units. We will help him against the violence of enthusiastic Sectarian Protagonists.
We welcome the intention to make secondary education available to the whole people and we think it right and proper that a Bill which will give secondary education to the whole people should be brought in by an all party National Government. We are particularly pleased to see the Tories accepting progressive ideas and I welcome the fact that the two main parties are collaborating in trying to pass this Bill as law. In all our big educational advances there has been a sharing of ideas. May I remind Members of the Act of 1902 and point out that at that stage of our history our educational affairs had got rather into a mess. Our hon. Friends opposite who then formed the Government where not particularly bright in ideas as to how to deal with that particular mess and to help them Mr. Sidney Webb wrote a Fabian pamphlet and sent it to Mr. Balfour, who was then Prime Minister, and said, "Here is a policy which you might adopt in order to deal with the present situation," and Mr. Balfour, being a wise man turned that Fabian pamphlet into an Act of Parliament. I do not think very many of the hon. Members opposite of that day who voted for the Bill knew where it came from, and perhaps they would not have voted for it had they known. I feel sure that the Communist Party of Great Britain has never succeeded in all its history in getting such a piece of "per- meation" carried through as was done by the Fabians on that occasion.
We do not however feel that the Bill goes far enough. We take the view that we should have a National all inclusive system of education and we very much regret the fact that the position of independent or so called "public" schools is left on one side for a further report from the Fleming Committee. We believe that unless the position of these schools is dealt with in this Bill it will not be dealt with for many years to come. Whatever the recommendations of the Fleming Committee on this point they will be controversial and to bring in a separate Bill after this one to deal with that point will obviously not be practical politics. Our Friends opposite are very fond of disinterring Disraeli. It was about 100 years ago that he commented on the fact that in this country we had two nations—the rich and the poor. Although that was 100 years ago, my right hon. Friend and his supporters have not yet managed to remove that blemish on our country.
This Bill will still keep a particular form of education available to a section of the people because of their ability to find the money to pay for it. That is what we object to, and so long as we have a position in which specially favoured schools are only available because parents can find the money to pay for their children's education we shall not have got rid of this position of the two nations in this country. Access to all schools should be on the grounds of merit and not because of ability of parents to pay.
Educationally, to-day, this country is a country of three nations. If you take the adult population, only 2 per cent. have been to the so-called "public" school. What proportion of this present House of Commons have had the privilege of that type of education? Fifty-six per cent. have had the privilege of going to these independent so-called "public" schools. Looking at the other members of our education system, men and women educated at State-aided secondary schools form 5 per cent. of the population, but in this House 21½ per cent. have been to that type of school. If you take people who have only been to elementary schools, they form 92 per cent. of our people, and in this House 22 per cent. Can you say, from these figures that we have an educational system at the present time which is a proper national system trying to make the best of the talents of the whole nation? Quite obviously, you cannot claim that the privileged 2 per cent. of the nation is so highly talented as to justify a 56 per cent. representation in this House of Commons. We take the view that we must have a national, all-embracing educational system for two reasons. First to find out and train the most talented to fill the most responsible posts. Secondly because if you are to have a democratic system working properly, the whole people must have a high standard of education—a standard of education which will enable them to form judgments on the issues coming before them and the knowledge on which to base those judgments.
We do not pretend that education alone can achieve what we want. We take the view that there must be a greater equality of income if you are to give children a really equal chance in life. For however good your educational machinery the child of a very rich man will have big advantages over those of a poor man. The machinery is however of great importance and we think it essential to include the "public" schools in the national system. In an educational Bill of this type, and at this particular time, an attempt should have been made to bring all sections of our educational life into one all-inclusive national system. While I am on that point may I mention the experience of a friend of mine who was, for many years, sixth form master at Coopers School in the East of London? He told me that he had had many able boys passing through his hands and that he was fortunate in getting quite a number through scholarships to universities. But he said that not one of his really able boys ever got as far as being able to go in for a scholarship to a uniersity because, owing to home circumstances, they had to leave school at 16 and were not able to sit for such a scholarship. The ones that went to the universities were not the ablest boys that went through his hands. They were usually the sons of school teachers or small tradesmen who had the means of being able to keep their children while they sat for scholarships and while they pursued their university careers. I think that that experience is shared by many people who are in a position of trying to help children in the different schools in the country to take advantage of the very narrow educational ladder that exists at present.
Now I want to come to an important point about which my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House feel strongly. We are still not quite certain what the Government mean when they talk about fees being abolished in State-aided schools. We did feel, on reading the original White Paper, that the Government intended to abolish fees in all secondary schools, apart from the direct grant schools. In Clause 59 (1) of the Bill it states:
No fees shall be charged in respect of admission to any school maintained by a local education authority, …
We would like to ask whether that also includes schools assisted by local education authorities, "assisted" as defined in Clause 103 (2, b). We would like that point cleared up. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, during our last Debate on education, stated that "schools that are aided and maintained by the local education authority—to use the present nomenclature—are both to be free." We would like to be quite certain that that means all schools maintained or assisted by local education authorities. We would like to be certain that in all these schools fees will be abolished.
There is another point we would like cleared up. The Minister, in his speech, suggested that a certain number of schools being assisted at the present time by local education authorities might be able to escape from the public education system in one way or other. Suppose the governors of a school decided in future that they wanted their school to become independent. Supposing they had a snob outlook. It would be possible for them to decide to take no further assistance from the local education authority and that they would raise their fees and get moneys they wanted by other means. If there was a sufficient population of a "snob" character in their area they might be able to do that. We would like to know whether that is likely to happen because we feel that a school which is at the moment inside the public education system should remain inside and that there should not be loopholes of that kind. Also, there is the possibility of that kind of thing happening to schools on the direct grant list and we would like to be certain that that loophole also will not be opened.
On the question of direct grants we much regret the fact that the Government have not decided to adopt the Report of the Fleming Committee on this matter. In our last educational Debate the Government said that they could not give any views about the abolition of fees in direct grant schools until the Fleming Report had been published. Since then an interim Report, specially rushed forward to be ready for this Bill, has been published and has recommended in favour of the abolition of fees. That recommendation has been signed by such people as the head of Charterhouse and the headmistress of Rodean, schools which come very high in our social scale according to our present standards. I think it a great pity that that majority report, signed by a majority of II to 7, is not being carried out by the Government. We would like to see all direct grant schools brought into the field where no fees would be charged.
Eleven to 7. I would like now to come to the question of the school-leaving age. We feel that the provisions of the Bill on that subject are nothing like definite enough. We would like to see it laid down that 16 is to be the school-leaving age and we would like to see a date fixed by which that will come into operation. We would also like to see an interim date fixed by which the age is raised to 15. We quite appreciate the wartime difficulties in being able to carry out a programme of that kind but we feel that it would be helpful to have those dates in the Bill. It would enable local authorities to feel that the Government really meant business in suggesting that 16 was to be the school-leaving age and would encourage them to make their plans if they had a date to work on. If 1945 is to be, say, the date at which the school-leaving age is to be raised to 15 then perhaps 1948 might be the year at which the age is raised to 16.
We admit that the dates may have to be postponed but if these suggested dates were laid down it would enable local authorities to work towards them. The Minister dealt with two important difficult- ties in raising the school-leaving age. As regards buildings, all of us appreciate fully the difficulties in that connection. But the Government, we understand, are planning a 10 years' housing programme after the war and we would say to them, "Your school programme must be part and parcel of that housing programme." Anyone who has had any experience of housing estates knows that unless you plan your schools and start building them at the same time as you plan your houses your school accommodation will not be ready in time to deal with the children when they arrive on the scene. Therefore, I repeat that in any housing programme a school programme should be worked into it.
Many of us are not too keen on the idea of pre-fabricated buildings but if it is a question of not having the school-leaving age raised if we do not have such buildings then we would rather have them than not have the age raised. May I give an instance from my own experience? To the east of London in the Becontree district newly-married couples came in and rapidly the school population arrived. Buildings had to be provided to deal with that school population. A few years later further new housing estates were created farther out and the same thing happened again. The Essex County Council then developed a policy of putting up school buildings partly in pre-fabricated form so that they could be moved on when the peak period had passed in a particular district. So, part of our future pre-fabricated buildings, if we are to have them, might be shiftable in that way. I do not think most of us object to having pre-fabricated buildings of that kind if it means hastening forward the school-leaving age. Many of us feel that the machinery in the Bill for drawing up schemes of agreement for future school construction between local authorities and churches is too slow. We think it might be hastened up, which would enable us to hurry forward the actual raising of the school-leaving age.
Another important point is that question of sites for schools. The Board should encourage local authorities to get on with the job of obtaining the necessary sites for schools as quickly as possible even although it might mean that some of the sites originally bought and reserved for themselves might subsequently have to be handed over to a particular church for a church school. Local authorities should buy sites now, should include them in their new planning schemes and get on with the job. Here I may point out that local authority finance has been eased by the big reduction in loan debt during the war. We are to raise all existing senior schools to the status of secondary schools. That means that they should have a bigger acreage for school buildings, playgrounds and so on so that obtaining the actual sites is a very important matter if the schools are to have the facilities we want them to have.
Another difficulty raised by the Minister was the question of the shortage of teachers. We fully agree that there is a great shortage owing to the war and the need for smaller classes. The raising of the school-leaving age will greatly increase the need for further teachers. The Minister did not say very much about long term methods of recruitment of teachers—and I do not think we ought to consider that now—but with regard to short term recruitment I welcome the fact that the Board are working out schemes of an emergency character to get more teachers.
I myself take the view that you can get from the Services men and women of very diverse outlook and experience into the teaching profession. There is an opportunity that will not recur for recruiting people of varied types and that opportunity should be taken to the full at the present time. Many of these men and women are older than the normal student who is going into training college. Many have matured beyond their normal years because of the experiences they have undergone and they will not want to come back and go to the ordinary training college and put up with the petty restrictions of such colleges. They will want their own private lives; they will not want to be institutionalised or regimented any more.
A possible way of dealing with this difficulty would be to put many of these men and women, who might have some preliminary training in the Forces, into schools straight away. They could learn their job there and also take courses outside on theoretical subjects. They could be paid as certificated teachers although, of course, they would have subsequently to qualify in a reasonable time. Many people of the type I have mentioned could go into schools and thus learn their job on the job. They would give useful service to the community and meet a great demand. There must be many technicians in the Forces who could teach in the expanded technical institutes and modem schools. Many of these might be specially recruited. But in dealing with the problem of getting teachers straight away I hope that what the Minister said about the marriage bar after the war will be a permanent feature of the Board's policy. I also suggest that facilities for part-time work for married women with children might be allowed to meet the emergency for a year or two. In the different ways I have mentioned I think one could meet the shortage of teachers much more easily than the Minister has suggested so that we could get on with the raising of the school-leaving age and lessen the size of classes.
I would like to refer to the question of family allowances. The Minister mentioned them but there is no mention in the Bill of maintenance allowances and we, on this side of the House, note this. We should like to know that the Government scheme with regard to family allowances is coming into operation before the Bill comes into operation. Our party has stood for maintenance allowances when the school leaving age is raised and, if family allowances are not to be introduced before the Bill comes into operation, we shall have to press in Committee for the introduction of maintenance allowances to meet the extra cost on parents of keeping their children at school. This raising of the school-leaving age, even with the kind of family allowances that the Government have in view, is going to mean a very real sacrifice for the great majority of working class parents because at these years of 14 and 15 youngsters need quite as much to eat as adults, and there is great wear and tear on their clothes. If you are not going to have family allowances accompanying it you will destroy the good will that exists for the raising of the school-leaving age.
We all welcome what was said about school meals. Many of us feel that the provision of canteens in all schools should be carried out as soon as possible. At many schools in my constituency the children have to go to the nearest British restaurant. It may be wet and the children may not have proper clothing. The provision of canteens on the spot, and a special staff to look after the canteen side, should be an essential feature of a proper school meal system and I hope that the provisions of the Bill will be tightened up on that point We all also welcome the Minister's statement with regard to school medical services but again many of us would like to see the provisions as to the regularity of inspection tightened up. Every child should be inspected at least once a year and we hope the practice will soon be once a term. Many local authorities have a yearly inspection but many others have far less frequent inspections than that. Many things can go wrong physically in the life of a child in a period of two or three years and, if the school service is to be worth anything, there must be regular inspection.
I should like to say a word or two about young people's colleges. We welcome their creation but, if you are going to have competition between the building of young people's colleges and the building of schools so as to get the age raised we would rather that priority went to school building rather than to the young people's colleges. The most important thing should be to get the school buildings ready for the raising of the age, the young people's colleges following on. If you build young people's colleges on the assumption that 15 is the school leaving age and not 16, local authorities will have a wrong bias in these matters. Young people's colleges should be developed as rapidly as possible on the assumption that the school-leaving age has been raised. If the two things go forward side by side priority should go to school building. When the school-leaving age has been raised and the young people's colleges are opened many of us feel that we should aim at a three days a week course in them. We welcome the one whole day suggested at present, but ultimately we should work towards three days. There is quite an important problem there which needs looking into. The Government intend that the one day, or two half-days, on which the young person attends the college should be at the expense of the employer and in the employer's time, but if we are later to have an extension to a longer period, who is going to pay for the longer period which may grow to three whole days? Employers will not be so willing to pay if it means that they have to get two youngsters in to do the job that one had done before, and that raises the problem of some kind of maintenance allowance for the extra education. If we are going to have that extension of young people's colleges to a longer period that will have to be faced up to. I should like to make a plea that the 18 year olds should be included in this scheme of further education. As I understand it, it is to cover the 16 and 17 year olds only. In the so-called "public" schools to-day, and in some of the more favoured of the State secondary schools, the boys at the top are the 18 year olds. They are the 6th form boys of the schools. They are the people who largely run the schools, and in their last year they learn more than in any other year. That is when responsibility develops and added knowledge especially begins to blossom forth. I feel certain that year should be included in the syllabus of the young people's colleges and the great mass of boys and girls would benefit from that year being included.
With regard to the employment of young persons, I think most would agree that, following the passing of the Bill, the present law will need tightening up. I understand that the Ministry of Labour is the responsible Ministry for supervising the employment of young persons. Perhaps we can have it made clear whether the Government intend later to bring in a special Bill for overhauling the employment of young persons or whether it is possible to amend this Bill in any way so as to tighten up the existing law. We certainly think something ought to be done. Most of us agree that the Government have made a very good attempt to compromise between conflicting interests in trying to get the best possible type of machinery for operating the national educational system, but many of us hold the view that not quite enough power has been left to the counties to plan and co-ordinate educational services over a wide area. We should like the whole question of machinery to be gone into in Committee in more detail. We fully agree that as much decentralisation should take place as possible and as much authority as possible given to active progressive local authorities. Initiative should be placed in their hands as far as possible but they should not go ahead without any relation to what is happening in the areas around them and their schemes should be worked into plans for a wider area.
Most of us are agreed that after the war the three great Powers, ourselves, Russia and America, will be the dominating Powers of the world. We shall collectively have our opportunity to give a lead to the whole world. We are very much the smallest of these three Powers. If we are to play our part to the full in this job of reconstruction we can only do it if we make the best use of our man and woman power. Let us combine to see that we make this Bill the foundation for building up an educational system which will enable us to use our man and woman power to the full.
As this is the first, occasion on which I have had the privilege of addressing the House I hope that hon. Members will be patient with me during the very few moments that I propose to speak. As has been pointed out bath by the Minister and by the last speaker, perhaps the great merit of the Education Bill is that if no one section obtains 100 per cent. of its desires for improvement, a very real attempt has been made to meet the wishes of all parties. The ultimate success of the Bill, it seems to me, must depend on obtaining a sufficient number not only of teachers but of candidates who are suitable for the positions which they will have to hold, and until the teachers can be found, no really substantial improvements can be made. The point that I have in mind at the moment is a reduction in the size of classes. Much as we all look forward to and will welcome the day when the school-leaving age can be raised, first to 15 and later to 16, unless this is accompanied by a reduction in the size of the classes no real progress will be made.
During the last 18 months I have had the opportunity of being connected with the Sea Cadet Corps and I should like to mention one point which has been, and still is, a matter of great concern to those who have the interests of this movement at heart. That is the number of boys who are intelligent and extremely keen and apparently have no great difficulty in learning the technical side of their training but who find it difficult to write a tolerable essay and, further than that, those who cannot spell or write legibly. That is a great disadvantage to those who wish to join a technical branch and it often leads to disappointment for boys who in every other way are suitable. Two reasons have been suggested. The first is the size of classes, owing to which the teacher has not the opportunity of coaching any particular pupil in a subject in which he happens to be weak. In the case of boys who have left school and joined the Cadet Corps, it is suggested that, not having particularly retentive memories, they have forgotten a great deal that they have learned. In my opinion it is more important than raising the school age that facilities should be provided at the earliest opportunity for part-time education in order that there should be no gap between the day when a boy leaves school and the time when he gets the opportunity to enter some profession which he wishes to take up for life. May I urge that the Minister and the Ministry should give this point their attention now and in the future in the preparations which they are making?
I am fortunate in following the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Gretton) and being in a position to congratulate him, as I am sure the House would wish me to, on having overcome what is probably the most terrible ordeal in the whole of one's life. He must be very relieved, particularly as he has acquitted himself so well and shown such a wide knowledge of the problems that we shall be discussing for months ahead. We welcome him here not only for himself but as the son of his father who was so long a prominent figure in this House. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) that it would be a tragedy if this Bill were lost on account of sectarian disputes. I should like to start by congratulating the President of the Board of Education on the extremely skilful and diplomatic way in which he has carried out his negotiations and framed this comprehensive Measure, which gathers up the dreams of all educational reformists and is the first Bill which I remember that deals with the whole of the educable life of the child from the nursing stage to the primary stage to the secondary stage and the continuation stage, then to the university and to adult education. This is the most comprehensive Bill I remember and it is one of the very best that has ever been presented to the House.
I said that it gathers up all the dreams of the reformists, and some were in the Fisher Act. In dealing with a vast subject like this one must be selective, for one could talk for hours on many points in the Bill. I propose to concentrate on one or two main topics and to deal briefly with the rural position, then with the teachers, then with young persons colleges, then refer to the religious question, and then sit down.
With regard to the rural problem, in essence it does not differ from the urban problem. The same principle applies except that the difficulties are enhanced by two or three obvious facts. The first is the scattered nature of the child population and the fact that the authority dealing with it has so often such tenuous resources with which it improves their education. Reorganisation has always been very slow in the rural districts. Although I have been a Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education I was surprised in reading the White Paper to find that, in spite of the financial aid promised in 1936, whereas in the larger urban areas 80 per cent. of reorganisation had been carried out, in the rural districts only about 30 per cent. had been carried out. I very much doubt whether the financial provision in the Bill of a supplementary grant of £900,000 to help the poorer counties will go a very long way. I will not develop the point, but I doubt whether the system of assessment on rateable value is right. I hope that the Minister will put on his statutory advisory councils two or three experts with a wide knowledge of the rural problem. If he does he will get some very good advice.
I want to come to what I consider is the crux of the whole Bill. That is the question of the recruitment and training of teachers. It is at the heart of the whole educational problem, for the rate of recruitment of teachers will govern the rate of advance of these reforms. What is the position? I think it is very disturbing. We shall not know precisely the details until the McNair Committee has reported, as we are led to believe it will do in the spring. There were before the war 200,000 teachers and about 20,000 have gone on active service. The wastage is as high as 6 per cent.; 12,000 a year fall out of the profession, and yet the intake is only something between 6,000 and 7,000 a year. In other words, without undertaking any more reforms we have to double the intake of teachers in order to keep abreast of the pre-war problem. I consider the position is almost desperate. This Bill, I am told, will need 70,000 fresh teachers. It is a gigantic problem and I have no hesitation in saying that the whole Bill may be jeopardised because the teachers are not forthcoming at the right time in the right numbers and with the right qualities to enable these reforms to be carried out. Nothing that I say must be taken as criticising in any way the great majority of the teachers. When I was at the Board and had the duty of inspecting schools, going round many times a week, I was always amazed at their capacity, their enthusiasm and their tireless devotion to duty in spite of little public recognition and little encouragement. I do not believe that, until we change certain things, we shall make good the deficiency of teachers or that, until we improve the remuneration of teachers and raise their status, we shall get the calibre or quality we want. Let the House appreciate that after perhaps 40 years' service 75 per cent. of the teachers can rise to only £350 a year. I doubt whether they have the prospects in front of them that are as good as those of a clerical officer in the Civil Service.
How can we get the calibre of teacher we want in these circumstances? I press the President of the Board to ask the Burnham Committee to reconsider the whole question of remuneration scales and the status; otherwise he will not get the teachers. A great deal of smoothing out of unnecessary differentiation between one teacher and another is required. Why should not teachers with the same qualifications get similar remuneration, whether in secondary or primary schools? I understand that this Bill does away with that distinction. My hon. Friend the Member for Burton put his finger on the crux of the matter. I believe that it is much more important to reduce the size of classes than it is to raise the school leaving age to 15. It is intolerable that year after year we have allowed teachers to be in charge of utterly unmanageable classes. The present practice lays down that in secondary schools the classes should not be more than 30, in senior schools not more than 40, and in junior schools not more than 48. What chance is there of equality of education with 48 children in a class? Therefore, I say without fear of being challenged that far and away the most important thing is to have a reduction in the classes. Teaching is the most tiring profession on earth and I do not believe there is a greater nerve strain in the world. Fascinating as children are, they are extremely tiring. I hope that the Board will lay down a maximum and see that it is rigidly adhered to. Until these questions of remuneration and conditions of service are remedied there is no chance of getting the teachers we want.
How are we to deal with the present shortage? I wish to make two suggestions. The first is to remove the ban on married women. If that is done we shall get 2,000 more teachers a year and reduce the wastage from 6 per cent. to 5 per cent. I am delighted that 10,000 people are to be taken from both Services, the men's Service and the women's Service. What fine leaders they will make. What grand experience they will bring. What an infusion of new blood they will bring into the schools. The weakness of the present system is that the teacher passes from the elementary school to the secondary school and in the training college lives with persons from secondary schools, and then goes back to the same schools. They thus have only a limited and secluded education and experience. That is why teachers are almost a preserve within the community instead of being a part of the whole system. It is vitally important to broaden the field of recruitment. Why should teachers come from the 500,000 children in the secondary schools? What about the 5,000,000 children in the elementary schools? What grand material will there be, particularly in the modern senior schools on which we all put so much trust.
I also suggest that there must be a drastic overhaul of the whole system of the training of teachers. That is vital. We must first raise the status of teachers in training colleges. The Parliamentary Secretary, who I am sure has given so much straightforward advice to the President and is responsible for so much that is good in this Bill will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the teachers in training colleges are on the Burnham secondary scale instead of being on the assistant headmasters' scale or even the headmasters' scale. It is vital that the teachers who are teaching the teachers should be of the highest calibre. The course should be lengthened from two to three years. The training is far too narrow. I know a college where the roll call is made five times a day and the teachers are treated like children. Owing to the shortage of teachers I know training colleges that take entrants without even vetting them. You write a letter and say you want to become a teacher, and the next thing you know is that you are in a training college. You may be utterly unsuitable but you have been accepted. The House may not credit what I am saying but I could prove it. I hope that the scandal of taking in anybody without suitable qualifications will be stopped. I should like to see the training colleges associated with universities and perhaps the third year might be at a university. It would raise the whole status of the training colleges. Finally, I should like to see a sabbatical year applied to the whole teaching profession so that for one year, a teacher could have a refresher course, perhaps in a new job in a different category, perhaps by travelling abroad or in an interchange of teachers with the Dominions. The Dominions' teachers would come into schools in Great Britain. What an infusion of strength that would be. The question of the teachers is at the very heart of the Bill, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us more about this aspect of the matter.
I want now to say a word about the young persons who will be coming into the colleges. I am extremely interested in this matter. I have given a great deal of study to it. It is one of the finest things in the Bill, but I do not think that education authorities understand the practical implications of it. Only a few industries in association with local education authorities have worked it, and they have a very limited experience. You cannot set up something unless you know the purpose of it. There has been no authoritative pronouncement. I suggest that an authoritative pronouncement should be made by the President of the Board of Education so that when these colleges are set up in three or four years' time they will be on the right lines and this great experiment will have a chance of success. I suggest also a Departmental committee of those who are experienced in this problem might be set up. A fine committee could be appointed of people with knowledge from all over the country.
I suggest that there are six purposes. The first is that education does not stop at a certain age. The purpose of the colleges must be to carry over the knowledge required, and to preserve and continue it. Adolescence is a time of awakening life. I tremble to think what would have happened to any of us if we had stopped our education at 14. The position which has been achieved by many hon. Members on the Labour Benches must be the result of very hard work done after a day's hard work but that should not be tolerated in the future.
My first point, the carrying over of knowledge, will involve a lot of hard, straight teaching. What kind of teaching is it to be? General or vocational? Not too much vocational, I hope. Let that be laid down. Technical education is better done in the factory when a boy is an apprentice. Let this day a week be given to general education. Secondly, the colleges would break the fall of the adolescent into industrial life. The life will be hard, exhausting and intensely monotonous, and it is apt to be a continuing monotony. Let him have at least one day a week when he will be able to retain his contact with the things he knows.
Thirdly, the colleges enable the State to maintain contact with the adolescent. The tragedy of youth is having to leave school and be thrown into the world—unless he happens to be caught up in one of the youth services—with nobody to look after him or care what happens to him. That is how juvenile crime begins. People often criticise public schools but the virtue of them is that until the student is 17 or 18, someone is looking after him and there is control of his health and of what is happening to his welfare. These colleges will do exactly the same far these boys and girls; they will maintain vital contacts at a vital time.
Fourthly, I suggest that these colleges will be a focus for all the tastes and the hobbies, for the cultural background of these young persons. May I give a personal experience? I had an unfortunate education. For two years I read Homer and Thucydides. The result was that I went out into the world without any practical experience. I knew nothing about gardening or craftsmanship. I could not carpenter; I could not mend a fuse. I was a useless member in my own household. Last week, for three days I enjoyed myself more than I have ever done before. With my small boy, I made a hut in the garden out of substitute materials. You cannot to-day break through the controls; you cannot get anything. But I broke down branches in the forest and built a hut and thatched it. I could not get a book on thatching, so we worked it out. Thatching is a lost art. I tried in Brighton to purchase a book on thatching but the shops had never been asked for one before. We did it. I made a drain pipe with linoleum. I discovered in myself an amazing gift of craftsmanship—at least I was amazed at it. Craftsmanship is one of the greatest things in life. I discovered on an allotment that I could grow tomatoes within sight of Big Ben. These colleges will enable an adolescent to find, to preserve and to maintain and improve this joy in craftsmanship or the following of a hobby, or cultural pursuits, such as drama, music or graphic art.
Finally, the colleges would give the State a chance of developing good citizens. One of the weaknesses in the educational system has always been that the child is not in touch with current affairs. He does not know anything about local government or about the problems of today such as the position of Britain in the world and a tremendous position it is that she holds as partner in a great Empire. Whenever I visited a school I used to ask the senior scholars who their member of Parliament was. I remember visiting the constituency of the Foreign Secretary, down in Warwickshire. He had been doing particularly well and his name was emblazoned at Geneva. I said to a row of senior children: "Who is your Member of Parliament?" They looked blankly at me. They had never heard of him and of what he had done. But when I asked them "Who won the fight last night?" they all held up their hands and said, "Max Baer."
Yes, I know he is. I was merely giving one illustration of the political ignorance of children. I suggest that one of the best ways of stimulating interest in public affairs and in local events is to take a newspaper for half an hour a day with the senior children and to discuss the events of the day in an unbiased way. I rather fancy that when I went round for the Board of Education I left a trail of more intelligent citizens. These colleges will give the State a chance to see that the adolescent citizen is trained in citizenship. The success of the colleges will depend upon the teachers, upon the kind of teachers, on the association with them of the youth services and on the capital equipment of the colleges themselves. The colleges should be spacious and generously conceived. They should be something, about which everyone who attends them will say: "I am proud to belong to that college." The college should be the centre of the young person's life and not only on the day on which he compulsorily attends it. Properly run, it would be the centre of his life in his leisure hours for all the other days of the week.
Let me now pass to the question of the dual system of education. I should like to congratulate the President upon having picked his way skilfully through the minefield of religious controversy. He is like a sapper. He has waved his wand of good will and compromise very skilfully, exploding a mine only here and there. Let him persist to the end. I have seen more than one President of the Board of Education blow himself up on the mines of religious controversy. I realise to the full the part played by the churches in this dual system. We have to accept it. If we were starting again I would much prefer a national system, but we have to accept it and recognise it. Secondly, we must aim at reconciling the dual system with the primary aim, which must be the establishment of a national system. The present system bristles with indefendable things and inconsistencies with entrenchments of privilege and the expenditure of public money in ways that could not possibly be justified. Nevertheless, the President has achieved a very delicate balance in the Bill. I might even utter a warning that if this balance were upset I for one, as a Free Churchman, would oppose the Bill. The President was so right in laying down the principle which actuated the Government that I did not think it even necessary to issue that warning. I have forgotten exactly what he said, but after referring to the fact that the Government must take account of the traditional aspect of education he went on to add that any further financial aid would have to be accompanied by public control. It may be possible to amend the Bill in other ways, but on that rock I stand.
My father—if the House will allow me to refer to this matter—was in this religious controversy. If he had been alive to-day I think he might have taken a slightly different view of the matter. I am a Free Churchman and I am proud of it. I am the son of the first Moderator of the Free Churches in Britain. I believe that the President of the Board of Education had a great-uncle, George Adam Smith, who was Moderator of the Presbyterian Church. Perhaps I may talk to him therefore, as like to like, for a moment. I am going to make a suggestion which does not conflict with the fundamental principle which he has laid down that more financial aid must be accompanied with public control. I rejoice that the President has been so generous in dealing with Church schools. I rejoice that there are at least six major concessions for the Roman Catholic Church. We cannot take a narrow sectarian view. I rejoice that they have been helped so much, but I appeal to the President, in respect of the grievance that remains in regard to the Free Churches which I consider mars the whole course of educational advance and which is an absolute, standing national disgrace. I am going to put the matter quite frankly but I am not going to raise any controversy.
I accept the fact that children of Free Church parents have to attend 10,000 Church schools up and down the country. I know that teachers of these church schools have to pass a denominational test, and I also know that they cannot be promoted. I accept that. History can- not be rewritten, and we must be reasonable, but I do suggest that, apart from these 10,000 church schools, some further concession should be made to parents in a single school area. If I were a parent in a single school area I should be forced by law, with penalties of imprisonment, to send my child to school, and I am bound to send a child to a school the management of which is not in accordance with my Christian faith. I know of cases where the management is hostile, and if the Archbishop of Canterbury begs the Anglican Church schools to be kind to the Non-Conformists it shows the system is a pretty grim business, otherwise it would not be necessary to ask it. In these schools, where I am forced to send my child, there is a denominational test. I know there is a concession about the agreed syllabus in these schools. But it is very unfair to ask children to brand themselves as different in their faith. Even parents are reluctant to do so. I suggest to the President that where there is a single school area there should either be a school provided by the local education authority or, if it is wished to preserve the church system, those schools should be controlled schools under alternative A. Before we have reached the Report Stage I hope that this matter will be given serious consideration. There need be no major controversy on that; it is sheer elementary justice.
I have seen these Education Bills before with their glittering reforms set out on the Statute Book. I have also seen them rusting in the Board of Education, and, good as this Bill is, and brilliantly as my right hon. Friend has conceived it, its virtue will lie in the administrative drive behind it and not in its excellent quality. I am extremely apprehensive about the teaching position. I think it may hold up the whole Bill, and I am also extremely apprehensive about the inequalities of local education authorities. The local education authority system is the finest system of government in the world when the authority is good, but when the authority is bad it is the very worst form of bad government the world has ever conceived. I claim that during my five years' experience at the Ministry of Health and the Board of Education I have visited the great bulk of local authorities both housing and education. I claim that Presidents of the Board of Education and the whole Board
itself have been rather too easy on the laggard and the slacker and those who were obstructive. There has been too much of
meandering with a mazy motion.
I am delighted that the President of the Board of Education has placed on local authorities the duty to do that and to do this. This Bill is full of duties for local authorities, and I beg of the President to see that these duties are carried out.
One of my friends who is inspecting the girls in the W.A.A.F. has been asking them what they want in education. What do hon. Members think the reply was? A great number of them replied—and it shocked me when I heard it—"We want to be educated beyond II years of age." She asked them what they meant, and they said, "When we reached the age of 11 our education stopped; when we were 12 we re-learned what we had learned at 11, and when we were 13 we again re-learned what we had already learned, if we were not asked to act as assistant teachers at the age of 12 or 13." It is going to be a very impatient world after this war—this brave New World—and I am delighted that the President is there with all his experience and drive, and I think if he uses that drive, and if the House will back him up, he will, in fact, in this reform make a real effort to achieve that equality of opportunity in education which we all so much desire.
The hon. baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) has every reason to be proud of his illustrious father and the work that he performed. What he has said brings back to me my callow youth, when I took my first interest in education, and the first fight I had over the feeding of school children. When I was able to join what was a representative authority in my own native town and served my apprenticeship in education administration, I was glad I had been permitted to fight against the Board of Education on the question that necessitous children should not be fed by the board of guardians. In this Bill nursery schools are mentioned, and, again, I am proud that my authority was the first to institute nursery schools in this country. We rebelled against the Board of Education when we abolished fees in our secondary schools, and to-day it is a tragedy that if a child lives in one part of the West Riding he has only got a 9 per cent. chance of going to a secondary school, whereas in my own home town 23 per cent. of the children go to a secondary school. I want to impress upon the House that our primary duty and responsibility are to the primary schools.
When those of us who are the products of what were called the board schools, which we had to leave at the age of 10, revisit these primary schools we see the harassed teacher with 50 or more scholars. In my own constituency the other day one teacher had 150 scholars—I agree that influenza was one of the causes. The first priority which I suggest to the Board of Education is the recruitment of teachers for our primary schools. A teacher cannot really teach a little mob of 50 or more children. The children in private preparatory schools have the advantage of being taught in groups of 12 or 15 at the most in a class. The teacher is thus able to know the mentality and also the personality of every boy and every girl. If it is wished to prevent juvenile delinquency that can be done to a large extent by the teachers in primary schools giving pupils individual attention in classes of 30 at the most. That is why I shall continue to emphasise that the needs of the primary schools should come first and foremost. I have been connected with the education policy of the Army Council since its inception and have seen it grow and how young officers and non-commissioned officers have approached the teaching through the handbook of current affairs. In the Army we have discovered thousands of officers, men and, to a smaller degree, women, who can really teach. Teachers in primary schools, even when they hold the diploma of education, cannot always teach. I hope we shall have dilution, and I hope the National Union of Teachers will agree to dilution in—and again I emphasise it—the primary schools.
When the children in the West Riding were permitted to go to the higher grade schools it was said that we were creating a generation of young snobs. You may have snobbery when you have only a microscopic proportion of boys and girls attending secondary schools, but when such attendance is general that feeling of snobbery is abolished. That applies also, in the same degree, to the universities. The idea of sending a boy to Cambridge in my young days was almost unthought of. I believe that the proportion of elementary school children now at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford amounts to 37 per cent., but I am not sure of my figures. They come naturally into the stream of university life because they are such a conspicuous part of it. Their only disadvantage comes of being jammed by various examination hurdles. Often they come to the university mentally jaded and cannot do themselves justice for some considerable while. I am glad that the authority in the constituency which I have the honour to represent has decided that the mere obtaining of so many credits in what is called the higherschool certificate examination shall not be the sole criterion of whether a boy or a girl shall be awarded a major scholarship. They are going to do that and I hope the Board of Education will support them.
During my travels I have visited schools which were built by the Ministry of Health, I believe through the National Camps Corporation, Limited. In passing I trust that the President of the Board of Education will insist upon having these schools under his sole supervision. At the present time there is a divided responsibility. At one school there is a headmaster, a born housemaster I would say, who has built up a splendid tradition. I spent a day, a lovely day, at his school. It is run by the L.C.C., who can be justly proud of the school there in the country, and of the headmaster and his staff. But the Ministry of Health have put in on the other side a sergeant-major. Sergeant-majors are the finest institution in this country, under proper supervision, but I trust again that my right hon. Friend, whom I so warmly congratulate upon his lucid speech, will see to it that the War Cabinet take away from the Ministry of Health the control of these camp schools. I should like in passing to congratulate the West Ham Corporation. The L.C.C. had 150 boys at the outbreak of war from nearly 150 schools, and they were brought into communion harmoniously, welded into an educational home. West Ham have not been quite so successful, because the parents see how useful at home their boys are when they come home during the holidays, and 53 per cent. of the boys have not been in continuous occupation during the whole of their educational life from 10 to 14 years but have gone back home and attended some other school.
The only reason I mention the residential school in this regard is that I want my hon. Friends to realise what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education told us, that when there was a symposium of the views of the Women's Institutes of this country, by a 15 to 1 majority the women decided in favour of their children going to a residential school for a time. There are great advantages. I do not like using the words "my class," but the only residential schools my class can attend are Borstal and a special school. That is why I emphasise that we should take advantage of such schools as have been provided by National Camps Corporation, Limited, and that we should also see to it that when some of our camps are evacuated in time of peace proper use may be made of those buildings, and that we do not allow them to become derelict, especially in the country districts.
Single-school areas have been mentioned. There are 4,000 schools in what are called single-school areas. If these children are to receive a proper, wholehearted education we shall require more secondary schools than we have at the present time. As it is, some pupils go eight or nine miles by cycle or coach, winter and summer, to the market town where there is a local grammar school. They come back with "prep" to do in a cottage home which may be lighted by a lamp, certainly in many cases not by electricity, and with the wireless going. How can they study under those conditions? I hope that the Board of Education will try to convert the people of the countryside to sending their children, at any rate for a time, to where they can come into the full community life of a residential school. In my own constituency what is called Hymers College had to be evacuated. They had to go out into the country. The headmaster was compelled to admit the benefit—how those boys had developed, because they had, willy-nilly, owing to the blitz, to go to a residential school. I was talking to the headmaster of Leeds Grammar School the other day. There they had to have two hostels right away in North Yorkshire for their school also because they feared the blitz. There was no blitz. The boys have come back. I said to the headmaster, "I hope you will keep those two hostels, guest houses, in operation so that the boys shall be able at least for a term during their school life to take advantage of that community life which is so abundantly given when boys dwell together in community."
With regard to the different types of schools which are to be created, again I must mention my own rebel authority, because it has always been a rebel authority there in the West Riding. When we were able to institute what is called secondary education, the abolition of school fees and so on, we said to the local grammar school, which had a great tradition and at one time a very small attendance, "Are you going to come in or are you going to be by-passed?" They said, "We are coming in." Manchester did the same—25 per cent. of free places. It was a step in advance from nothing or a mere handful of boys being permitted as a privilege to attend such a school. Both those schools, Manchester and Bradford, have become great grammar schools, and we shall of necessity have to make more use of these schools.
I do not wish to indulge in any controversy in regard to the direct-grant schools, of which I believe there are something like 230. If they wish to come into the scheme of things they will have, to quote what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education said, that phrase of the hymn—I would like him to get up and sing it to us; that would not be beyond his powers. I ask him not to be afraid of these direct-grant schools even if the fees are abolished. When I read the Fleming Interim Report, the considered opinion of that great head-master of Charterhouse, and when I read that the Executive Committee of the Headmasters' Conference had met, I said "I will bet the headmaster of Charter-house has been carpeted by some of his brethren." I hope he will have the courage of his convictions and go forward in the way of real education reform and trying to bring into a unified whole the education system of this country of ours.
I am glad that we are to have religious education continued. Those of us who have been responsible for approved schools do not apologise for our religious syllabus. If the figures of juvenile delinquency are considered relatively and in proportion, we are not going to allow our religious syllabus to be sneered at, because it can stand up for itself through the great experience we have had in the past. I am glad that we are to have it continued. I am old fashioned. I still believe we have to build the fundamentals of our lives on the Ten Commandments. I remember the headmaster, now passed on, of a great preparatory school at Oxford who said: "Boys, honour your parents, that their days may be prolonged." I thought that was a very good paraphrase of the old Commandment, the number of which I cannot tell the House at the moment.
I want to make my confession of faith after visiting a school like Christ's Hospital. The populace of London have every reason to be proud of that great foundation, the Bluecoat School. They have the privilege of nominating 30 per cent. of the boys who go to that school. One of their finest scholars—I was privileged to pay the school a visit not so long ago—was the son of an East End dock labourer. He was one of God's own children. The reason why the Lord loves the poor is because there are so many of us. When I saw the farm there, when I saw the boys not afraid to dirty their hands, when I saw the workshops, I did not envy them but I wished that we could have similar workshops and boys working on the land, so that boys would not be ashamed of work. That is to the credit of what we call our public schools. They are attended, as the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) reminded us, by only two per cent. of the population. He also remarked that 56 per cent. of my hon. Friends here present came from these public schools. That is not to the discredit of the public schools. I want to be absolutely honest.
What I want to say to the House is that the public schools have made a contribution this last 200 or 300 or more years and there must be some good in them. I know very little about them and only that by visiting a dozen of them and talking off the record. It would not be fair to repeat the confidences of the senior boys who gave me the privilege of their confidences. But those boys, when the ballot is taken on whether they have to go in the mines or not, will not wail about it. The headmaster of a great public school called the mothers together the other day and said, "I shall have no trouble at all when Mr. Bevin applies the ballot so far as my boys are concerned. Whether they are to go into the Army or the Air Force, and perhaps be killed, or go and work in the mines, they will accept it. It is you mothers I am afraid of. You are going to grouse and grumble." Another headmaster of another great public school which produced the Deputy Prime Minister, and was responsible at any rate for part of the development of his personality, of which we are not ashamed, said, "I want my boys to think about mining just as they think about going into the Church or becoming a barrister or entering other learned professions. Can you send a miner down to my school to talk to these boys?" I am very pleased to say that a miner is going down to speak to those boys.
I am ready to cheer it as well. It is very naughty, I know; but I do not want any war at all if it can be avoided. This Bill is a great step forward. I trust that the non-provided schools will be able to come into the scheme of things, and that we shall not ask them to make bricks without straw. It is for the Board of Education to see that the edifice shall not be destroyed, and that it may even be improved. While I may be old-fashioned, I see in this Bill the promise not of mere cramming but of the development of the personality of the children of this country and the building up of character—because there is one thing that we cannot afford, and that is simply to rear a sophisticated generation of young clever devils.
I would like to say at once how cordially I agree with my hon. Friend in his wholesome admonition that there should be no class war after the present
struggle. May I also say how much we appreciated his pilgrimage to the public schools of this country, as a result of which he made a valuable contribution to our whole conception of education throughout the realm? I am glad to think that my hon. Friend is also interested in inducing my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education to find the straw to make the bricks, which means the continuance of what are known as the non-provided schools. Having said that, may I congratulate the President of the Board of Education on the admirable work he has done in the production of this Bill? Believe me, the whole Catholic community of this land, with which I am in modesty identified, appreciates this work as much as any other community. The patience, the skill, the persistence, the diplomatic niceties with which the President of the Board of Education met every interest, the exchange of views, so gentle, so kindly, so touching, will always be in the mind of every one of us as a pleasant recollection of the highest standards of statesmanship in the history of the Board of Education. When the White Paper was produced the "Economist" made some austere criticism of my right hon. Friend's proposals. It may be useful to remind the House of the concluding paragraph of that criticism in a publication whose main function is to safeguard the public finances of this country:
If Mr. Butler can, first, repair the omissions in his White Paper and, then, pilot through Parliament a Bill which unambiguously commits him and his successors, he will be, beyond question, the most effective President the Board has ever had. Until then, a certain scepticism will be in order.
I cordially accept the full significance of that text. Until we see precisely how far my right hon. Friend will go in meeting the High Court of Parliament on the Committee stage and finding ways and means of conciliating interests profoundly affected by this Bill, we can reasonably entertain a little of the scepticism referred to by the "Economist."
I would like to say how much I regret that proposals for the recruitment of teachers on a broader and more concerted scale are absent from this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) said that the teachers can play the very greatest part in giving effect to the proposals of this Measure. The teachers have rendered magnificent service to the community, and one cannot deal with a Measure of this kind without paying the highest tribute to the loyalty and devotion of the teachers of this country. But I do not see what my right hon. Friend proposes to do in the next few years to fill the immense gap which must be filled before our local authorities can give administrative effect to this Measure.
Has my right hon. Friend seen a statement prepared by the education authority of the City of Birmingham? I think he will admit that the Birmingham education authority is one of the best in the country—I will not say the best, because I wish to be modest. The late chairman of the education authority of the City of Birmingham rendered conspicuous service to education in this country, as I think my right hon. Friend will agree, and his successor, Alderman Martineau, is also doing valuable work in helping to solve the problems which face us particularly in education and industry. Under Clause 10 of the Bill, the President of the Board of Education demands from local education authorities the preparation of schemes. Those schemes will be carefully examined by him, and they will be modified, rearranged, shortened, or whatever is necessary. Under Clause 11, if the scheme sent down by the Board of Education is not accepted by the education authority the authority has no right of appeal. I think the President should consider whether there ought not to be some right of appeal by the local education authority from the decision of the Board. We often say in this House that if we had continuity, with the same person at the head of a Department, we should be quite happy, but Ministers change. I hope that my right hon. Friend will enable me to tell my friends from the Birmingham education authority that this matter will have his consideration.
My right hon. Friend referred to the financial situation. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) present. When questions of finance arise I always turn to him, because he is the last word in financial respectability. I would ask the House to consider what really is meant by the financial proposals of this Bill. I think the whole position will be pretty safe in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I believe the time is not very far ahead when the financial burden of all our post-war schemes of reconstruction will be so great, that it will be difficult to see from where the money is to come. In industrial centres, where the tax-paying community is being driven as hard as it can be driven, the financial aspects of the Bill are regarded as pretty serious. A valuable contribution has been made, in a statement from a number of leading industrialists, one of whom is my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall. In it there is a clear assurance that the industrial community of this country will support the Bill. As the productive effort of the country must find practically the whole of our taxation in future——
Yes, it is productive industry that pays the piper all the time. I am glad that this undertaking has been given, because no better investment can be made than expenditure on education. But the burden on the country will be a matter of serious moment after the war. I am not sure that the special grant that is being paid to poor authorities is not a bit stingy. We come to the question of the continuity of the dual system in education. I would like to read an extract from a letter written by a distinguished predecessor of my right hon. Friend. Lord Eustace Percy, writing to "The Times" on 18th November, on the Government White Paper on Educational Reconstruction, said:
My appeal is for a limitation of the present discussion to the narrow ground indicated in more than one recent pronouncement by members of the Catholic hierarchy; the mere ground of the financial methods necessary, under the difficult conditions which must succeed the war, in order to carry out efficiently an accepted programme of school reconstruction. On that ground agreement is, I believe, possible; but let us all clearly recognise that, after nearly 19 years of circulars and negotiations, we have reached a stage when eleventh-hour attempts to heighten or broaden the issues can only spell disaster to all parties and all policies.
I am sure my right hon. Friend has had that statement before him, and that he will give due consideration to all its implications. Why do we in the Catholic community feel so strongly about the provisions of the Bill in relation to the continuity of the dual system? I would like to call my right hon. Friend's attention to an article in
the "Quarterly Review" for January, written by the Dean of Winchester, embodying suggestions and criticisms relating to public education in this country which, I think, must substantially affect the mind of my right hon. Friend. He contends—and with this the whole Catholic community of this country cordially agrees—that education is a spiritual activity depending far more on personal than on administrative factors. That is where we contend that the denominational school is such an effective instrument in the framing of character. What we must not forget in this country at any time is that we must have a spiritual background for every objective of our national life. If the whole Christian principle for which we have fought in the tempestuous story of the past is to be disregarded, I say "God help the future of this country, both from the social and economic point of view." Here is what the Dean of Winchester conceives to be the position of the school in his article:
In a Christian country, for example, the purpose and end of education cannot be conceived as anything less than such a development of the child's whole personality as will inspire him with the desire to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.
That is the conception of education which the Dean of Winchester and, I hope, the whole Christian body of the country entertains in regard to the personality of the child. There is one great danger in this country, and that is the tendency, in every phase of our public policy, to throw all the responsibility on the State and remove it from the parents. The worst feature of this Bill is that it detaches the child from the duty and responsibility of parenthood and if, according to the implications of this Bill, we place a barrier between the influence of the parent and the directive power of the school, we shall be robbing the spiritual life of the nation of something which is of great value. I would suggest to the President that in this Bill he is not taking the best way in the direction in which he himself desires to travel. There is a remarkable letter in "The Times" of 10th July, 1942, signed by a number of distinguished educationalists and it seems to me that the idea implied in this letter has got into the minds of many politically-minded people interested in education. This letter says:
The first essential is the establishment of the principle that the welfare of every boy
and girl up to the age of 18, whether receiving full-time schooling or not, is the responsibility of the Board of Education.
I wonder if the President accepts that? Nothing which has appeared in "The Times" during my lifetime has struck a more severe blow at the relations of the parent and the school, than that remark, embodied in that vicious letter.
Then we come to the question of finance. The President is familiar with all the difficulties in that respect. The schools of this country provided by the Catholic community have been founded mainly upon the contributions of the very poor. Going through some of our congested cities, one is often amazed to find a school—no doubt frowsy and much the worse for wear—which owes its existence and continuity to the pennies, threepences, and sixpences derived from the poor people of that community. As an Irishman, I am proud to say that an immense contribution has been made in this way by the poor Irish of this country, who live and work here, often in the worst possible conditions, having a mere existence, yet making these sacrifices on behalf of the Catholic community.
In the denominational schools, a contact is maintained between the teacher and the child and continued through the parents at home which provides the true Christian sense of education.
I am not saying an unkind word about the council schools. Of course, in many instances they have done magnificent work but no one can convince me that scattered references to the Scriptures in a council school two or three times a week will lay the foundations of solid Christian progress.
I only made that reference because my hon. Friend interrupted me. According to figures that have been compiled, if this Bill becomes an Act in its present form, the Catholic body of this country will have a burden placed upon it of roughly £10,000,000 a year, extending over the next eight, nine or ten years.
If my hon. Friend is going to give figures, I think he has very much exaggerated in saying that over this small period, the vast capital sum he mentioned will have to be found. He ought to give the amount likely to fall upon the Catholic managers in loan charges, as well as in capital expenditure.
At all events, I think this figure cannot be challenged—that since the 1902 Act was passed there has been spent upon schools in this country by the Catholic body something like £3,500,000. All that money has been raised by people who were at the same time paying taxes and contributing to revenue. We are living at a time when the State must play a great part in the adjustment of the future world. I suppose no question will be more discussed when representatives of Governments come to the Peace Conference table, than the question of the security of minorities. I can recall vividly the difficulties in Paris, when the Peace Treaties were under consideration after the last war. The question of dealing with minorities all over Europe was one of the abiding miseries of those responsible for finding a solution to the post-war problems then. Do hon. Members think that when nations come together at a future Peace Conference to consider the situation of minorities and the various interests involved throughout Europe, it will be helpful if we have to remember what has been done in this way with our own minority, the Catholic community in England? That is an argument against injustice which ought to make some appeal, and I think it is well to give it to the House, because these things pass out of people's memories. In his broadcast on 21st March last the Prime Minister never contemplated that one section of the community should be treated differently from the other. This is what he said:
There is another element which should never be banished from our system of education. Here we have freedom of thought as well as freedom of conscience. Here we have been the pioneers of religious toleration. But side by side with all this there has been the fact that religion has been the rock in the life and character of the British people upon which they have built their hope and cast their cares. This fundamental element must never be taken from our schools.
Does anybody suggest that when the Prime Minister gave that over the air he had not at the back of his mind the idea
of complete equality of freedom for every section of the community? I put it to the House of Commons and to the High Court of Parliament that they can attach no other interpretation to the Prime Minister's statement. The other day Mr. Roosevelt made a statement to Congress in which he said that freedom of conscience and religion as the background of vital national effort in every direction must be a primary consideration of statesmanship. I make the same appeal to my right hon. Friend and I am proud to think that in this House there are non-Catholic sections who see the justice of the cause which I am pleading. Sections of my hon. Friends have come to me and said: "We can see the nature of your complaint, we understand how bitterly you must feel about it, and we recognise the contribution made by your educational system to the welfare of the country." All of us must have had communications from fighting friends and from every ship on the Seven Seas among whom it is rumoured that the Catholic schools of this country are to receive different treatment and so to be placed on a lower level of educational work than the other schools with which they are working side by side in our national life. If it is good enough to send men out to fight for the security and liberty of this country, it is good enough for my right hon. Friend to see that those Catholics who fight behind guns and in ships shall be considered worthy of equal treatment as regards the schools of this country in an educational system for which he is responsible. I apologise to the House for being a little heated about this business because it is very near and dear to me and to millions of people in this country. The effect of our action in this matter and of the final determination of national policy in this respect will extend far outside the bounds of this country. In Australia, New Zealand and all over the British Empire there is a feeling, a deep sense, that wrong is being done by His Majesty's Government.
May I ask my hon. Friend whether those countries to which he refers enjoy exactly that for which he is asking? I would like him to realise that the same offer has been made to all denominations and there is no discrimination whatever.
It is true that, in many of our Dominions, education is at a dis- advantage. It is for this country to give a lead and to show how the thing ought to be done. My right hon. Friend ought not to be a party to devising a reform of the existing system which would do anything other than promote the spirit of leadership and fair play. While we are most grateful to my right hon. Friend for the work he has done in the reconstruction of educational work in this country, in which every section and every class and creed will have to take part, it remains to be seen, in view of what he has said in the House to-day, how far he will be able to go in making this Bill a better Bill. We will do everything we can and I hope that the House will do everything possible to support him. I hope that when this Bill passes the Second Reading on the next Sitting Day, Catholics will support it as loyally as any other Members of the House, and that when we reach the Committee stage, there will be that spirit of give and take which has animated previous conferences. This House of Commons, known throughout the world for its sense of justice and fair play, and above all for its sense of helping minorities, will I hope make it clear that this tradition is established on a firmer foundation than ever before.
I seek to detain the House only for a few minutes on two points which are of concern to the great local educational authorities, but I would like to say how warmly I join in the appreciation of the great step forward that this Bill marks and of the clarity and the charm of the right hon. Gentleman's introduction of it. Local education authorities are much disturbed that the system of direct grants should be continued in the Bill. According to the Fleming Report there were some 230 schools on the direct grant list. These schools charge relatively high fees although the Board requires them to provide a number of free places. Although the tuition fees of these schools may be as high as £45 a year, many of the free places are filled by pupils whose fees are paid by the local authorities from the public purse and still they are unable to do without further aid. In 1926 schools had to choose whether they would receive their grant direct on a capitated basis or from the local authorities. In the case of those who chose to take it from the local authorities, the sum the local authority paid, ranked for grant from the Exchequer chequer to the local authority, Where their schools elected to receive the grant direct from the Board of Education and, as in a number of cases, the local authority continued to give assistance to these schools which are part of the educational framework within their area, the entire cost of the extra aid must come from the local rates.
It is felt by many that the time has come when all public aid to schools should go the one channel, the local education authority, all publicly aided schools would be on an equal basis, and, when the Bill becomes law, they would all be subject to the rule—that there should be no fees payable in schools which received public aid. All such aid would be in relation to the costs of maintenance and not in part by way of fees paid by local authorities It is upon the local education authority that Clause 10 lays the duty of making an educational development plan. It is to provide for the future education of the citizens within its area. In some areas the proportion of direct grant taking schools is high. I believe that one such case is the County of Bedfordshire where of some eight schools on the grant list, five are direct grant schools. In making a plan for the future education of Bedfordshire four in the town of Bedford the local education authority is confronted with the difficulty, that any one or all of these schools can within its legal rights refuse co-operation in any comprehensive plan which the local education authority may wish to put forward. This imposes a very great limitation upon the scope of the local education authority plan if important centres are occupied by schools upon whom it cannot count for co-operation. It is very strongly felt by local education authorities confronted by this problem that the President of the Board of Education would be very wise to consider whether it would not be much better in the long run to require all the payments out of public funds to schools to go through the local education authority.
There is one other point. It is felt by very many that a very great mistake has been made in not taking under the wing of the Board of Education and therefore under the local education authorities, the responsibility for technical education for agriculture——
I am afraid I may have misunderstood the full scope of the announcement. If it does in fact, mean that the responsibility throughout is the responsibility of the Board of Education for agricultural as for other technical education, then my point has been met. I much appreciate it. It is very important and a long overdue development of technical education among our agricultural population. I am sure that all concerned with agriculture will agree that the future of agriculture in this country depends as much upon the establishment and the improvement and broadening of our technical education as upon any other thing. It is even more urgent in the country than in the town. The fact that it is now going to be part of the responsibility of the local education authority to be worked into the general plan of education is a most encouraging sign. I trust that the President will see to it that it is carried through.
I hope that the point raised by the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. Wilmot) about the payment of grants to direct-grant schools will be taken up and answered by other hon. Members. As he knows, it is a contentious and important one, which this House ought to discuss. If I devote the greater part of my limited time to what I think is the supremely important subject of religious education, that does not mean that I withdraw one word of the praise that I gave to the general principles of the Government's proposals in the July Debate, nor diminish by one word the congratulations which I then offered to the President of the Board of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary, both of whose reputations will, I am sure, rise as a result of the speeches they make in this Debate.
The ordinary parents in houses down the streets in my constituency—and other Members may feel the same in this respect —are not greatly concerned with the niceties of education law, and still less with that strange English dialect, education jargon: what they want is that their children should have good teaching, and real opportunities. I profoundly agreed with the closing words of the speech made by the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker). Some of the views he expressed earlier I cannot accept, but we all feel, surely, that the real importance of this Bill is the effect it is going to have on the quality of the future population of this Island. He made a valid point when he said that our population was but small among the hundreds of millions of the world; it is one of the first duties of this Parliament to raise the quality of that population to the highest. I was glad that the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Gretton) in his excellent maiden speech, picked out the importance of the young people's colleges. That strikes me as the greatest novelty of educational administration in this Bill. I believe it is going to make good what has been our most serious deficiency so far—the way in which we have switched boys and girls, in a twinkling, from the world of full-time education to the world of full-time employment, with far too little guidance in choice of careers and far too little to show that the one world has any connection with the other.
The results of this Bill, in whatever form we pass it, will depend primarily upon the quality of the teachers of this country. The teachers hold our future in their hands. Several hon. Members have referred to the matter of large classes. Many people, when they meet boys and girls who appear to have forgotten all they ever learned in school, are inclined always to blame the teacher. They fail to ask under what conditions that teaching had been done. In the financial statement that prefaces this Bill, the Minister has made out his calculations of the cost of the reforms, but has never, so far as I know, given us the basic figures of the size of classes on which those calculations are based, and that is an important point for this House to watch. The MacNair Committee and the Board of Education together, if this Bill is not going to result in a most execrable waste of public money, have got to work out proper plans to attract teachers, to train teachers, to pay teachers more adequately, and to secure for them the right degree of freedom and independence, and also that status in the community which the importance of their profession demands.
I speak as a member of the Church of England. We must all be thankful that religious education controversies are no longer the current coin of party politics. The time has far gone now when that story was told of the voter who asked a candidate, "Do you believe in religious education?" and the candidate, who was an unusually honest man, said, "No, as a matter of fact I do not," to which the voter replied, "Well, I do, so you can go to hell." Two years ago the Church of England made arrangements for the drawing up of a Report on its religious education in relation to the circumstances of the time. That Report, a very important document which I have here and will, hand to any hon. Member interested, was presented to the Church Assembly at its meeting in November, 1942.
It reaffirmed two great principles: that a full and equal opportunity of education is the right of every child, and that a Christian foundation is the only and essential basis of real education. I ought to point out that this Report was prepared at a time when no Government grants were available for the maintenance and repair of school buildings at all. It was prepared at a time when it was known, as it is known to-day, that large numbers of people, both in the teaching profession and in the educational services, would like to see the dual system swept away completely.
The Report made the bold recommendation that where the managers are able to shoulder a substantial part of the burden of the cost of maintenance and repairs, the remainder should be made up by an Exchequer grant. I ask the House to note the words "a substantial part." The figure of 50 per cent. is not in this Report. It is a Government figure There have been some misunderstandings about that. When the Report came before the Church Assembly, an Amendment was moved. It was not an Amendment asking that Church schools should receive 100 per cent. of the cost of everything, while the Churches retained full control, because nobody believed that to be a practicable proposal. It was an Amendment worded in favour of seeking a solution on the Scottish system. That Amendment was considered and was rejected by 169 votes to 94. Subsequently, the main Report, which in essence is very like the proposals contained in this Bill, was approved at two Sessions of the Church Assembly without a division, but with an important Resolution accompanying it. The Resolution stated that these financial proposals were put forward, not as a statement of the ideal method of arranging for religious education in this country, but as an outline of the terms which the Church would be wise to accept if the Government were found ready to offer them. Several months later the Government published its White Paper, in which it made this 50 per cent. offer. The majority opinion in the Church of England, I believe, accepts this offer with thankfulness. At the same time, there is no one in the Church who would not beg the Government to see if by any further means the still very hard position of Church schools can be eased.
I have given this historical sketch because it seems to me to be right that it should be on the records in the course of this Debate. May I now give my own personal opinion? It is that, wherever there is a sufficient body of parents who desire that their children should receive religious teaching of a certain kind—education of their children being in this country compulsory—the State should provide that form of teaching. That way, I believe, lies abstract justice. The only test for teachers should be that the teacher will be prepared and qualified to teach what the parent wants. But this course has been illegal in this country for the past 73 years, because of the existence of the Cowper-Temple Clause, which forbids the teaching of any catechism or formulary distinctive of any particular religious denomination. That Clause, to my mind, interferes with the real rights of parents. But here in Parliament and in our constituencies we must face the fact that the Cowper-Temple Clause has bitten deeply into the thinking of all those who have had any part to play in the education system of this country all these years, and the majority of people are not prepared to see it altered. The real difference between conditions in this country and in Scotland is that historical difference—that Scotland has never known a Cowper-Temple Clause, whereas all of us have been working under it since 1870. I hope I shall live to see the Cowper-Temple Clause laid aside, as having served its purpose and become obsolete. Then we may see, in years to come, the Scottish solution applied to the schools in this country. But politics is the art of the possible, and I would rather see this Bill go through in much its present form, with the hope of new opinion forming in the course of years, than attempt to force at the pistol point from the Government 100 per cent. payment for everything, with the certainty of the legacy of bitterness which this would leave in the education system, and which, I believe, would doom the future of religious education.
I think everybody will agree that the Church of England representatives who negotiated with the Minister never concealed anything, never withheld anything, have never gone behind his back or sought to influence him or the public by any dishonourable means. I do not know whether I was included in the Minister's plea to "Ye fearful saints." I do not know whether he realises that "fearful" is possibly an ambiguous adjective. All of us who care for non-provided schools are deeply grateful to him and the Government, and we agree with him that this Bill is conceived in a generous spirit. Perhaps he was giving us more encouragement than he thought when he quoted the verse of that hymn, because if I remember rightly, in the very next verse, one finds the words:
Behind a frowning Providence he hides a smiling face.
We do ask the Minister and Parliament to consider carefully whether, if, indeed, 50 per cent. is the final figure—and it may be the final figure unless there is some arrangement in another direction about control—something cannot be done as regards new schools. We are grateful for the Clause introduced into the Bill about substitute schools. That is a real help. It would sweeten the atmosphere for us, and I believe it would be in the true interests of the education of the children of this country, if something could be done where new schools are wanted, either by making the 50 per cent. grant available for building, or by extending the principle of the 1936 Act to bring them in. The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked that this should be considered, and I ask for it in this House. There is one further proposal I would like to put forward. I wonder whether it would be possible for arrangements to be made,
without any additional cost falling either on national or on local funds, for the managers of Church schools to be enabled to borrow money for carrying out their duties under this Bill on the same favourable terms as are available to local authorities, the security being that if there was any default on the service of the loan, the aided school would automatically be transformed to the status of a controlled school. In no possible way could any additional expense thereby fall either on local rates or national taxes.
We are not making these proposals, and I am not making this speech, in the belief that all existing Church schools in this country could or should be retained as aided schools. Those which cannot be brought up to modern standards ought to go; there is universal agreement about it. But we believe equally that in good Church schools there is a quality of atmosphere which contributes something vital to English education. A very great educational administrator, Sir Graham Balfour, who was also my uncle, said to me that, though he knew many Church schools which were by no means what they ought to be, some Church schools possessed an excellence above the best council schools. In education and in everything else I submit that our policy in this country ought to be to try to emulate the very best, rather than be content with uniformity at a lower level.
Much of the religious teaching in council schools nowadays is very good indeed. My Free Church friends say to me, "Why are you not content with agreed syllabus instruction?" It is a very proper question. If they could guarantee that all instruction in council schools was given by teachers who were spiritually-minded people, I should be much more content than I am. But the Free Churches know as well as we know that a materialist outlook is widespread nowadays, and that there are many in the teaching profession, as elsewhere, who look to science as the new religion, to science as that which has the right answer to all questions. I cannot accept that. I welcome the purposes behind the statutory daily act of corporate worship, and I also welcome immensely the fact that religious instruction is henceforth to be universal in all our schools. But we must face facts. We must know that it will be an empty shell in those schools where teachers, especially if they are head teachers, have no real use for religion; and there are such in the schools. True religious education is much more than mere historical teaching, much more than simple Bible instruction, much more even than the inculcation of the natural virtues which the whole country ought to admire and encourage. True religious education is something that springs from faith, and is communicated by faith. That is the only religious education worthy of the name.
I do not think the hon. Member has understood me. I am speaking of the ideal, and what nearly all of us in this House wish to ensure is that parents who desire their children to receive religious education should not be at the risk of that instruction being given by teachers who have no faith whatever.
The hon. Member made a charge or suggestion that materialist-minded teachers and headmasters of council schools are teaching children materialism as a gospel. Is that a fair charge or suggestion?
I chose my words very carefully indeed and I made no such charge or suggestion. There are very few teachers in this country who are not doing their job honourably and to the very best of their ability. But we have all been educated ourselves—at least I hope so—and most of us could tell when we were receiving religious instruction from someone who deeply believed in it himself. It is that form of true religious education which I think all who wish to see England as a Christian land ought to join in preserving.
I have made this speech to-day because I think that the best Church schools hold the secret of it. The mass of the people in this country just now are not particularly interested in the Churches as organisations, whether they claim to belong to those Churches themselves or not. But they are perfectly well aware that the totalitarian State, which has been in fashion lately, leaves something vital out, and there is a dim but almost universal understanding that the world will slither down again unless we all find a light to guide us by, a light that can be trusted. Throughout the whole of our schools and colleges a light of that kind ought to be made to shine.
I would like to begin by stating the general principles which guide me in approaching this question and by which I test this Bill. The first principle is that the real assets of any nation are its men and women. There is a statement to that effect in the White Paper which was issued last year. It said that the greatest national asset of any nation lies in its youth. That was followed by another statement that the bulwarks of a city are its men. I would say that without its men it ceases to be a city and becomes a derelict ruin. Approaching the matter in that way, one sees that the better equipped men and women are, mentally, physically and spiritually, the greater the benefit to the nation as a whole and the greater its wealth. Education is a national matter; it is not a parochial, regional or denominational matter. A nation cannot afford to neglect the education of one person, otherwise there is a double loss. There is the loss primarily to the person who is neglected but there is the further, and possibly greater, loss to the nation as a whole. For that reason, education means giving to an individual the opportunity to use to the full the talents with which he or she has been endowed. That opportunity ought not to be in any way checked by lack of means.
It ought not to be necessary for anyone to purchase education. Using the word "purchasable" in a certain form, it ought not to be purchasable. If it is worth giving and the individual is likely to benefit from it, it ought to be given by the nation, because it would benefit the nation:
Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.
That is my approach to the Bill. It falls far short of that ideal but the time is not far distant when this House will make that ideal a practical policy in this country. Having said that, I admit at once that the Bill is a great step forward. I am old enough to remember the controversies of 1902, in which I took part. We cannot expect an Education Bill such as this to be put forward in this House oftener than every second or third genera-
tion. So the House must realise that it is legislating to-day for a considerable time ahead. I do most sincerely congratulate the Minister for his presentation of his case to-day in such a lucid and cogent manner.
One of the greatest things in the Bill is the alteration in the character of his Ministry and its attitude towards education in general. It is to be no longer mere supervision; there is to be more contact with the actual giving of education. I would also like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon what he has done with regard to the physical well-being of the child: first medical inspection and treatment, and now feeding. How much have we struggled to get better feeding in our schools and how much has this country lost by its neglect of those provisions which are now in the Bill? The raising of the school-leaving age, continued education up to 18, the opportunities for adult education and entering universities, are all to the good, but I wish the right hon. Gentleman had grasped this problem a great deal more firmly. I myself would have put an end to the dual system. I feel that all building amenities and costs of education should fall upon the State, which should provide them. I agree that teaching will depend not upon organisation and payments but upon the teachers. I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) on his speech. I cannot too strongly emphasise the need for better and longer training for the teacher, better payment and also better recognition of the debt we owe to all our teachers. Their social position should be higher than it is in our concept.
I would like to make one passing reference to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) and to pay tribute to his sincerity. He made reference to the sacrifices that his co-religionists had made. Might I also remind the House that great sacrifices have been made by the Free Churches, and they are asked now to continue to make sacrifices? This is not an agreed Measure.
There are 4,000 school areas and there is not one of them which does not contain quite a number of parents who belong to the Free Churches who will have no other opportunity but to submit to sending their children to a Church school. For the moment it is a sacrifice that the Free Churches are prepared to accept but had they had their own way they would have put an end to the dual system. We continue this dual system, as far as I can see, for two reasons only. One is, to my mind, an undue respect for tradition, the other is that we are not prepared to tackle this problem fundamentally and properly, and we are now re-establishing and re-inforcing the education of the country partly on a national and partly on a parochial basis. When the full scheme is carried out the total cost is going to be £190,000,000, of which £110,000,000 will be met out of the Exchequer, and that will be the only reference that will be brought to this House, because the House will be asked merely to vote the taxation that falls upon the National Exchequer. But £80,000,000 will fall upon local bodies, subject, of course, to any grant that is made. As to the £110,000,000, they say that is a national matter and that will be the national contribution, and as to the £80,000,000, let that fall upon the rates, which are outside the province of this House. What is going to be the effect? There will be again, as in the past, privileges enjoyed by certain children which are denied to others, though both are receiving their education out of public funds. It is high time this absurd and antiquated system was put an end to. I need not point out the absurdities of the rating system, which put a premium on neglect. If you improve your property your rates go up. If you let it run into a slum your rates go down. Apart from that, look at the effect it is going to have upon the education of the children of the future.
It is very much better, instead of making general statements, to get down to particular instances. As a general rule the people who take the most prominent part in education discussions, if they have had experience at all of local administration, have had it largely confined to wealthy counties and wealthy administrations. There are few who have had experience of poorer authorities. In Wales there are 13 counties, including Monmouth, and four county boroughs, Cardiff, Swansea, Merthyr and Newport. The total rateable value is £11,000,000. The rateable value of the City of Westminster alone is £11,000,000. A penny rate for the whole of Wales produces £45,000 and a penny rate for Westminster £45,000. A penny rate for the county of Surrey, excluding that portion of it which comes into the county of London, produces £54,000. Very rightly the Board of Education is now going to fix a standard. I only wish they had done it years ago. I only wish that these powers, which are now being taken by the Board, had been exercised years ago. There are schools which ought to have been pulled down years ago. They are a danger. In one instance, which I shall never forget, they are accused of causing actual blindness to the children, yet if the parents withheld their children from the school they were liable to a penalty, and possibly imprisonment. The Board took little interest in the matter, but now a standard is going to be made and all these authorities are going to be asked to come up to that standard. In the case of the wealthy authorities it will not be difficult. Their buildings are already better and newer. But there is going to be a double handicap on the poorer population. Their buildings are rotten and badly situated and they have been bad throughout the years. They ought to be pulled down and new ones built, but the penny rate is so small.
My county is about the same size as Surrey. The penny rate of Surrey is £5,400 a year, and of Montgomery, £630 a year, and the population is going down for that very reason. It is because of the penny rate, and the way it has loomed so large in the mind of the local authorities, that the young people have left the place and are leaving it. Our population was steadily going down before the war by 500 a year. The schools were more than half empty before the war, bad as they were. There are 103 schools, of which 68 are over 50 years old. Same were built in the twenties and some in the thirties. The vast majority were built between the forties and seventies of last century. They were built in impossible places, as if we had no land to spare. In my own village the school was built in the churchyard and playgrounds could not be provided. The children came straight out from school on to the main road. I protested about that school. Fortunately, in 1939, the roof fell in. It has saved the children. Then we pestered the Board of Education and we now have the only school authorised and actually completed during the war, and it is a joy to go to it. Both right hon. Gentlemen have visited it. It has 4 acres of land and beautiful surroundings. It has central heating, for the first time, and a place where the children can take off their wet and dirty boots. Some of them walk 4½ miles to school and 4½ back. All they could do before was to sit on the churchyard wall and eat a sandwich. It is a joy to go there now and see them sitting down to a mid-day meal. Why should that privilege be given to the children in my village and denied to the children all round? In surrounding villages there are 11 other schools the youngest of which was built in 1867, and they are ill-ventilated and unheated. Is it to be wondered that I say there is only one remedy for all this, to throw all the expense straight on to the Exchequer? The House has agreed with me that our real asset is our men and women. We want to give every possible assistance to our children and to give them an equal opportunity. That is not being done to-day.
I have told the House what the product of my penny rate is. I can afford little, as the rate for education is 8s. 6d. in the pound. The one county in Wales where the population has been increasing—and for that reason the rateable value has been rising—is the delightful little county of Flint. They are able to give amenities to their children which I cannot possibly do. They have just opened new schools and they have been giving scholarships to the University of Wales, not merely paying the fees but providing maintenance The penny rate of Flint is such that education costs them exactly half the cost in my county—4s. 3d. as against my 8s. 6d. Why should the children of Flint be given privileges that I cannot possibly give? The right hon. Gentleman has said he will come to their assistance. He is going to provide an extra £1,000,000. If the hon. Member's figures were right with regard to what it is going to cost merely to put even the Roman Catholic schools right, what will it cost to bring these schools into the state in which we should like to see them? There is only one purse that can afford it, that of the State as such. It is nonsense to ask these local authorities to do it. They have been held back because of this penny rate. It has been said that if the cost is borne by the State it will encourage absurd expenditure, but surely we can trust the people better than that.
May I give one instance of what has been happening? Prior to the war the one county in Wales that was really feeding its children well was the county of Glamorgan. That was due to the intense poverty and unemployment there, and they rightly said that they would at any rate feed the children. In spite of the long period of unemployment I shall never forget contrasting the children of Glamorgan with the children of some of the country districts where they were not being fed. There is another county, that of Cardigan, where, thanks to the medical officer of health, they are doing well. There was introduced during the war a new grant of 100 per cent. in order to meet the cost of milk and food. Far and away the best to-day is the county of Anglesey. Another county which has done extraordinarily well is Radnor. The industrial counties are not making as good a show. They have realised in the country districts the necessity of looking after the children, but the penny rate has loomed so large in the minds of the small shopkeepers and farmers that it has been allowed to influence them in what they would do for the children. I end by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague upon this Bill, but I warn the House that it is not enough and that the day will come when we will tackle these problems in a radical and liberal way.
In substance the Bill now before the House follows closely upon the White Paper and my right hon. Friend must be highly gratified that his proposals have been so widely acclaimed by the Press and people. There was one discordant note early this month when a Bedford delegate at a teachers' conference condemned the Bill as a fraud. That ignorant outburst only strengthens the opinion held by many of us that some of the existing teachers, like some of the existing schools, will have to be altered if they are to conform to the prescribed standards. I agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare), who said that no educational reforms, however excellent, can be carried into effect without the right personnel. Certainly they cannot be carried out effectively, and a large increase in the number of highly qualified teachers is obviously necessary. Equally necessary is an improvement in the qualifications of teachers in view of the greatly increased demands which will be made upon them. The teaching service must, therefore, be made far more attractive to both men and women in regard to salaries, conditions of service and status. Their job is to teach, not to be caterers, whether in the eating or the amusement line. The status of the teaching profession should be equal to that of the parallel professions, such as medicine, law and the Church. There should be great unity in the profession. It should be generally recognised that the work of the nursery or infant school teacher is as important to the community as that of the university lecturer.
It is obvious that a higher professional status demands higher qualifications. The fact that a teacher can still be trained in two years after leaving school, while a doctor's training takes five years, is an illustration of the low standing of education in this country. Teachers must have a longer, not a shorter, and a more thorough training. Not all teachers can or should be educated at universities, for the simple reason that universities cannot provide the necessary education in the more practical subjects of aesthetic and cultural value such as arts and crafts, music, physical education and so on. We certainly need such excellent training colleges as that, for example, at Lincoln. All the existing training colleges should be enlarged and broadened. They should be able to accept students training for other careers than teaching, such as social work of various kinds, and wherever possible they should become constituent colleges of the neighbouring university. Lincoln, for instance, could be affiliated to Nottingham. The teacher's course should be extended to a minimum of three years. There should be more opportunities for a deferred additional year of training, and teachers of the right type should at regular intervals be allowed a term or a year away from school on full salary to take further courses of training. During this year they should be encouraged to study education in other countries. Students in training colleges should similarly have opportunities of short periods of residence abroad and while there should mix with the students of other countries. I think that it will be possible when the world has recovered from its present day madness to arrange for exchanges of students for a short period during their training.
I would impress one thing upon the President, as several other speakers have done. That is that the recruitment of teachers from a wider field than the secondary schools should undoubtedly be encouraged, but such a campaign will not be successful unless the profession is made more attractive and the general public is encouraged to place a higher value on the teacher's work than it does at present. Here, of course, we are in a kind of vicious circle. In many instances no doubt the teachers are themselves to blame for the present low public estimate of the value of their work. The school is no place for political propaganda, but most counties have one or two such bright spots where it is practised. There are also odd cases, to be found in every locality, of men and women who are obviously unfitted to be teachers, and we should remember that because a boy has a good memory and can win scholarships it does not follow that he will make a good teacher. The abolition of the scholarship or free place examination will mean a great increase in freedom for the junior school and will enable teachers to develop the education of the junior child on broader and more practical lines. It will also make possible more experimental work.
It is of the utmost importance that all the new secondary schools should be regarded as of equal status, socially and educationally, and that there should not be discrimination. Public opinion should be mobilised to help the parents to appreciate the need for children to receive that type of education which fits them individually. The benefits of the so-called public school education should be extended as widely as possible and not merely, or even chiefly, by drawing a selected few from the secondary schools. Local authorities should be encouraged to experiment in providing boarding schools for their children, at any rate for the older children. The use of camps and large country houses would make this provision relatively easy, and with efficient management they could be run cheaply. At such schools children should be taught house-craft, cooking, laundry work, gardening and other things in a practical way, and most of the work could be done in the open air.
While there is abundant and growing evidence that the nation is eager for educational advance, one hears on all sides the question, "How are you going to afford to do all these things?" Can we afford not to have these improvements? The expenditure should be regarded as an investment which will bring ample return in increased contributions to the well-being of the State and to greater efficiency in industry. One can easily reckon in figures the cost of education for the country, but no one has so far estimated the annual loss through items such as loss of working days and consequent loss of output through ill-health due to under-nourishment in childhood and to the fact that many children are put out to work long before they are physically fit In many cases no doubt children have suffered in the past through the ignorance of their parents, but more often than not they have had to go to work, fit or unfit, in order to augment the family income.
In many cases the absence of a sound home influence—and we were all glad to hear the President of the Board of Education emphasise the importance of home life—is largely responsible for juvenile delinquency, the gang spirit and the manners of the modern child, which are often appalling. Now, with the provision of nursery schools and meals at school, some parents will see their offspring only when those parents return from the pictures in the evening. What the Board of Education can do about this I do not know, but I am satisfied that the home should play a part at least equal to, and preferably greater than, that played by the school.
This brings me to the so-called agreed religious syllabus. Settlement by compromise never completely satisfied anyone, but I had hoped that, as each side had made substantial gains, it would be possible for them to accept this admirable Bill, which "The Times" described as a masterpiece of compromise and an inspiring embodiment of educational advance. Aware as I am of my own unfitness, I hesitate to take part in a religious controversy, but I have a suggestion to make which I trust my right hon. Friend, who does really merit the good will and support of everybody, will carefully consider. First of all, may I say that I am not a member of the Roman Catholic Church? I am a Protestant and like most of us here, I suppose, believe in religious tolerance. With another Protestant, the hon. Member for West Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Nunn), who spoke so well in the Debate on the White Paper, I think that the Church of England and the Nonconformists would be satisfied with the form of worship at present suggested. Indeed, I think that all must agree that the provision for religious education in the schools marks a great improvement on the existing methods: but Roman Catholics devoutly believe, as several Members of the faith have said, perhaps not in those words but in other words probably much better than I can choose, that Catholicism is not a mere subject of instruction but a way of life which must permeate the whole curriculum of the school. History and biology, for example, must be taught from the Catholic angle and Catholic example must shine out of the lives of the teachers. They also believe that the present proposal is a travesty of justice, in that parents who care nothing about religion are to be favoured by the State with palatial modern schools free of charge, while those who have the future welfare of the nation at heart and who are anxious to preserve the Christian religion in this country are to be penalised and saddled with an intolerable financial burden.
Like most hon. Members, I have read many of the pamphlets that have been sent me on this subject by one side or the other. It seems to me that the whole thing boils down, as do so many things in this life, to the question of finance. Indeed, the Joint Pastoral letter of the Hierarchy of England and Wales contained the following:
Let us say quite frankly that our objections to the White Paper are mainly on financial grounds, and that if we are given the means to make the Bill workable, so far as our Catholic schools are concerned, we shall co-operate wholeheartedly.
Notwithstanding all that has been said in this House and outside, I understand that they still consider this Bill would be an intolerable financial injustice and that they also say that, not by choice but perforce, they stand alone as a religious minority.
I ask the President whether, at long last, we cannot settle this thing to the satisfaction of all concerned. After all is said and done, whether we are Nonconformist, Church of England, or Roman Catholic, we are all aiming at the same thing, to lead men and women to God, and if we cannot carry on and agree to differ, however diverse may be our forms of worship, it is a bad job. I join forces with the hon. Member for West Newcastle-upon-Tyne in asking that, in an area where there are sufficient Roman Catholic children to fill a complete school, the school shall be built by public funds in the ordinary way. In regard to the reconstructing of their present schools—and this is the suggestion to which I referred earlier and hope so much that the President will consider—I suggest that the cost should be financed by way of a loan, to be repaid during an agreed period of years, free of interest. I repeat that the value of education can never be measured exactly in pounds, shillings and pence, but even by this standard it is possible that the country will gain rather than lose by this expenditure. It should be remembered, too, that many parents, particularly in the middle class, will be relieved to a considerable extent of much of the cost of education for their children. Partly, therefore, the new proposals mean a spreading of the costs over the whole population, the unmarried and childless as well as parents. To some extent it is not so much an increase as a redistribution of costs.
I believe the Bill to be a notable advance towards a more adequate system of education, and I trust that steps will be taken to accelerate the raising of the school-leaving age to 15 and, within a limited time, to 16, and that provision will be made for the education service to have some priority in buildings, labour and material. The long-overdue reduction of classes and the definite fixing of the date for raising the school-leaving age to 15 may be impossible if an adequate supply of teachers and of buildings does not exist. At the moment, no one can absolutely guarantee either. We can, however, have every confidence in the ability, pep and drive of the brilliant administrator now at the head of the Board of Education, and also in his able lieutenant the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). It is because I am sure that we all wish them well and want this Bill to receive the greatest measure of approval that I beg the President to consider my suggestion that, where necessary, the money required for the remodelling or rebuilding of existing schools, whether Roman Catholic or Church of England, shall be advanced to them by the Government by means of a loan to be repaid during an agreed number of years, free of interest. I believe this would be acceptable to and appreciated by the Catholics and the Church of England, and that all talk of injustice would cease for all time.
I do not propose to spend much time in congratulating the President and his lieutenant on their achievement. I do congratulate them, but everybody has spent so much time in the process that I propose to "cut the cackle." I want particularly to congratulate the President on the ingenuity of mind which he has exercised in drafting his Financial Resolution. As I understand it, it enables us to discuss this matter very widely in Committee and to make proposals of a very substantial nature in regard to finance. That being the case, and I have been asked to state the case for the Catholics, it is not our intention to divide the House on the Second Reading. We do propose to put down Amendments for the Committee Stage and to fight for what we believe to be our corner in this matter and if necessary divide. I am up to state that particular case, but I want first of all to say one or two words upon other matters.
The first of these was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies), who suggested that however much we desired this Bill to go through and to be implemented in the country, it was more than likely that in some of the poorer districts difficulty would arise in the way of finance. I go further than that and say that, even when the money is available in the localities difficulties are going to be at the periphery rather than at the centre. I believe there is no sense whatever in getting unanimity for pushing the Bill forward—everybody wants what it ultimately aims to achieve—if there are going to be bitter fights on local councils which will prevent the fulfilment of what everybody desires at heart. The wish of the people has been clearly expressed here to- day, and no doubt it will be to-morrow and in Committee, but the President of the Board of Education ought seriously to consider putting up a Government grant of 75 per cent. instead of 55 per cent., as contemplated in the Memorandum. That would make a tremendous difference in making the Bill speedily effective in the country.
The second point is that I do not understand dearly the powers which are being granted to the managers of aided schools to acquire new sites. Am I right in thinking that Clause 83 means that whatever sites, or when sites, are wanted by managers for new schools or for the movement of schools, local education authorities will acquire them at their expense? I take it that that is so. I want to ask the President how is he going to safeguard himself against the toll which is always levied upon progress by the landlord? This is not the day to develop that case, but I would point out that, in the short period 1934–37, of 105 sites acquired by the Board of Education amounting to 298 acres, no less than £218,477 was paid, or about £700 an acre, for land which had been standing idle without any buildings of any kind or making any contribution to the rates. I suggest that the Minister should seek powers to remove this obstruction once and for all time.
Thirdly, I want to support the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) and the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) on the question of loans. What are we doing about loans for education? We are in fact increasing the potential wealth of the country by this Bill. There is no risk of any kind. It does seem to me that the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Lincoln that interest-free loans should be granted for education is a sound one. May I quote an example? Suppose the cost of organising State-aided schools means an expenditure of £10,000,000 over 25 years, and suppose that the aided schools are only able to collect something of the order of £3,000,000 and have to borrow £7,000,000. On the average they will have to borrow about £4,000,000 over the whole period and they may get that at 3 per cent. interest. Probably they will not get it any cheaper. In 25 years, 75 per cent. of the total raised or £3,000,000 is going to be paid in in- terest! In fact the whole of the money they collect will be sunk in paying interest to the moneylenders for something which the moneylenders have not got. I do not wish to develop the theme but it is a good example of what we could do if we were to control our own monetary system. I support the claim of the hon. Member for Lincoln in that matter.
Now I come to what is called the Catholic case. Some people say that I cannot state anything with moderation, but I do want on this occasion to try to state with the greatest moderation, without exaggeration or heated feeling, the Catholic position in this matter. As far as we are concerned there is no religious controversy in this at all. When my right hon. Friend the President interrupted the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) and said that all the denominational schools had been given the same alternatives he really was not stating the case quite fairly. It is impossible for Catholics to accept any but one of the two alternatives. It is quite impossible for them to accept an agreed syllabus unless they chuck conscience to the wind. It is not fair to say that the same alternatives are offered to Catholics as to members of the Church of England.
We welcome the Bill, particularly the raising of the school leaving age, as all sensible people must, and above all we welcome the fact that religious instruction as a corporate act of worship is embodied in the curriculum. I am reminded that we really had got to a pretty low ebb for a Christian country when I recollect that "The Times" in a leading article in February, 1940, said that of 31 evacuated children, of the average age of 12 who were asked who was born on the first Christmas day, 19 did not know. What a disgrace.
What I want to put to the House is this. Really as the hon. Member for Lincoln said what is offered in the Bill is not enough for the Catholics. We want religion to permeate the whole school life. It is interesting to know that in fact that is emphasised in the Norwood Report. If you turn to page 87 you will read:
It is obvious that these intangible spiritual values come not so much from what teachers say and teach, from curricula and examinations, but from what they are, and what they are seen to be, inside and outside the classroom.
That is exactly what we claim—a Catholic atmosphere permeating the whole school life. You cannot teach religion, certainly you cannot teach the Catholic faith, unless the teachers are Catholics and act as Catholics in and out of the classroom and interpret whatever they are teaching from the Catholic point of view. The President said that it is the rule in this country that when public money is to be expended there should be public control. On that, sitting where I do, I cannot but agree with him but I think he will be the first to admit that the Catholic community have done their best to meet him. We were asked to give the President power to close small or redundant schools, power to reorganise and re-arrange schools in order to bring more children together, and power to appoint and dismiss teachers. On the first two points we agreed, subject to the children being placed in other Catholic schools. On the appointment of teachers we agreed that they should be appointed by the local authority, but that they must be Catholics. That is perfectly reasonable. The schools are our schools.
Yes, but I believe with the proviso that where Catholic teachers are not available the places could be filled by non-Catholics for teaching other than religious or essential subjects such as history.
I want to put this particularly to hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. I want to put the point of view of the ordinary Catholic working man. What is it that he asks? It is merely this. Where we can fill our schools with Catholic children, why should we not have Catholic schools provided by the State and administered by Catholic teachers? The proper answer is that certainly we ought to have them. What is the Catholic working man asked to do? In effect he is asked to pay twice. First, he has to pay through the rates and taxes for the provision of schools to which as a matter of conscience he cannot send his children, and then he has to pay to help provide Catholic schools. That is not fair.
Let us be clear on this matter. We are not asking for Catholic schools in areas where there are very few Catholic children. The single school area is not our problem. I think it only affects 13 areas and in nine of them they are estate schools. We have probably the poorest classes in our community. They all have large families and the State says it wants children.
It has nothing to do with the Pope. The noble Lady has the Pope on her brain. I would say the same thing about Jews. They ought if they can fill a school to be provided with a school and Jewish teachers paid by the State. The only proviso I would make is that it must be a reasonable economic venture. You cannot have a school dumped down for half a dozen children. There must be a substantial community of the same faith wishing to have its children educated along certain religious lines.
This is very interesting, after the Question that was asked about Baptists. Would my hon. Friend also apply this principle where there is a good big Communist interest and they want a school?
I did not understand that Communism was a religion. If it is a religion and people who wanted a Communist school could show that the demand was reasonable I should not object. I am not here, however, to speak for the Communists because as I understand it they do not believe in Christ as I do. What I want to say in conclusion on this point is that in effect the Catholics are willing to give up the dual system. We do not want the dual system, we want to be part of the whole system. All we stipulate is that we should have Catholic teachers in our schools. It is the President who is perpetuating the dual system.
I do not want to go into that now, but I would like to answer one or two objections to our claim. It is said that it would be a terrible thing for the State to provide denominational schools. I do not understand that in this year of enlightenment 1944. The State does it now in lots of cases. What does the Colonial Office do? It provides Catholic schools for natives of certain colonies. The Foreign Office is always insisting on the rights of religious minorities. The War Office does not demand that soldiers shall pay for chaplains. They give them Catholic chaplains. Even the much criticised Eire Government treats Protestants the same as Catholics. I cannot see for the life of me why we are not allowed to have a form of education provided for us which a substantial minority of the people want. That, I consider, deals with that point.
The President stated in his speech that since 1902 the school managers had been more and more unable to discharge their responsibilities. That was, I understand, due to lack of money. I would like to ask the President whether I am not right in saying that that was not so of Catholic schools? They have grown in number, not diminished.
That is so, but I am afraid that not in all cases have they been able to keep up the requisite standard. They have made a noble effort in increasing their schools in recent years.
That is the point I am coming to, but whether they can or cannot get hold of enough money the schools have not in fact diminished in number as in the case of other denominations but have increased by 20 or 30 per cent. That is why every Catholic diocese in England is burdened with debt. The Minister himself admits in the White Paper that the 1936 Act broke down simply for lack of funds. I admit that we are getting a lot out of the Bill. I do not deny that at all.
The hon. Member said that the 1936 Act broke down through lack of funds. Was it not the case that the reason why that Act was not implemented was because of the outbreak of war?
I really have not looked at it as carefully as that, but there is a passsage which says:
Owing to the inability of many of the managers to meet the cost. …
I think that is why the scheme broke down but I am willing to withdraw if I have made an error. I think I am right, however, in saying that is in the White Paper. I want to get on to this point as to the generosity of the Measure. I agree that denominational schools are getting a lot out of the Bill. The President, with the skill of the Front Bench Minister—I am not accusing him of any chicanery, they all do the same—makes the mistake of confusing percentages and averages with facts and so confuses the House. We have had glorious stories about tanks, etc., and production from Ministers on other occasions, but 50 per cent. of nought is still nought. Fifty per cent. of a 100 is 50. It really depends how much a school place costs. In 1902 a school place cost £10. Just before the war the cost was taken to be £25. If we are to accept the declaration of the late Sir Kingsley Wood that prices are not going to drop then so far as I understand it the price of a school place after the war will be of the order of £70. If you divide that by half the denominational schools are left to find £35 whereas before the war they had to find less than £25. I agree that the gift is greater too, but what are you to do if the schools cannot find the money? That is our difficulty. The President has said that in Committee he will tell us more figures which have been submitted either to or from the Catholic hierarchy and which are now being studied. But I am told, based on a certain calculation of which the President is familiar, under the Bill the burden on the Catholic schools will be of the order of £10,000,000 within the next 25 years. We have succeeded in the last 25 years in collecting £3,500,000. What right has he to suggest that we shall collect £10,000,000 in a like period after the war, especially as we shall be paying £3,000,000 in interest at three per cent.
over the period? The President has no right to suggest that we shall be able to do that. For the life in me I cannot see why he should logically expect that we shall succeed. I was however delighted to hear him say that it is not the intention of the Government so to reduce us to penury that they will have to take the schools away from us. I feel some measure of comfort in that because there is no specific provision of that kind in the Bill.
In fact the Catholics have done the British taxpayer a good turn over a period of many years and are quite willing to let the Government have the capital value of our schools in return for greater blessings to come. Why should not our children have the same advantages as others? We are citizens of this country and we are a substantial minority.
I want to leave that point and ask the President, or the Parliamentary Secretary, when he winds up, to say why such a big advantage is given to the controlled schools over the aided schools. The controlled school has 100 per cent. found, the head teacher is appointed by the local authority though the managers have to be consulted, and there are certain definite reservations regarding teachers for the schools. After all the money spent on them the schools remain the property of the denomination. We do not want as much as that. We would like to have the same provision and let the Government have the schools.
My hon. Friend is leaving out one important thing. The proportion of local authority and foundation managers is reversed in the case of the controlled school and the control of the school effectively passes from the denomination in all matters except that part of the teaching which is reserved. There will be four local authority managers and only two foundation managers in the controlled school.
I know that. But the great argument is that we should not have any denominational teaching in Government provided schools. Really and truly this Bill is calling it by another name. Apart from the question of the proportion of managers, after all that money is being spent on the improvement of these schools they are not the property of the State but the property of the denomination. It seems to me that you say that you cannot have a religious test for teachers but that is exactly what you have in these schools in certain cases. I do not object at all but why you should differentiate as you do between these two kinds of schools beats me. I do not see any justice at all in that. It no doubt is done to get over the difficulty of the single school area, but that does not really affect the main issue of denominational teaching and I do not see why the Catholics should not have the same provision. Under this scheme the Cowper-Temple Clause is as dead as the Dodo. I know that the President and the Parliamentary Secretary do not agree with me on that. For my part I think it is a good thing there should be a test. I join the hon. Member and those others who feel as I do in wishing to see the day when the Clause is removed.
I wish to summarise the school position. What has happened in the past 60 or 70 years is really noteworthy. Up to 1870, for instance, my friends the Nonconformists ran a large number of schools. It was not necessary for them to do so after 1870 when the State provided in the main schools which suited them and so Nonconformist schools have dwindled to a handful. I am submitting the same would probably happen with the Catholics. Why should they not have Catholic provided schools? We do not want the control of them any more, so long as you promise to give us Catholic teachers. It is not an unreasonable request. While it is true that Church of England and other denominational schools have decreased in number Catholic schools have steadily mounted in number. There is no reason why they should not continue to do so. In 1902 we had 1,047 schools with an attendance of 253,000 children. To-day there are 1,240 schools with an attendance of 377,000 children, an increase of over 20 per cent. Given the same lapse of time there is no reason why they should not mount by a further 20 per cent. and then go on increasing.
I wish to end by summarising what we want. It has always been taught to me that the one aim in education, of all education, should be man's life in the hereafter. Pius XI said:
There is no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end.
The same words have been used previously by many people. This is what the Anglican National Society say:
Education should be left in the hands of those who would be prompted to approach and handle it from a care of the immortal souls of the children.
That is exactly what Catholics want. Catholics want the same advantages for their children as others get, and having paid for it they consider they are entitled to it. They want the continued right of parents to send children to a school of their own choosing. They consider that when the State makes a law that parents must send their children to school the State should provide a school to which parents can conscientiously send their children. That seems reasonable if it can be fulfilled reasonably as indeed we say it can. To all of us, as indeed I suppose to every Christian person, life is perfectly meaningless without religion. Catholics have fought and striven for their schools. They want all the advantages now offered to children of other denominations for their own children and we look sincerely to this House to support us in our endeavour to obtain it.
Never did I desire to speak more collectedly and seriously than I do now. Because I am a Methodist of the fourth generation I look at this problem in a certain way. Within the last few minutes I was told by a friendly colleague of mine of long standing that he could not understand my way of thinking regarding this Bill. First of all I must congratulate the Minister and his colleagues on presenting this Bill to the House and to the country. I imagine that as they have been listening to this Debate what has been ringing in their ears has been:
Woe to you when all men speak well of you.
Every one has done that, however he may disagree in certain particulars with the Bill. I was very glad when I heard the Minister say that his object was to make better citizens and that there should be a happy and harmonious community as much as possible. We are all agreed that that is the background of the Bill.
What is education? Is it not the development of that mysterious something which, for want of a better term, we call personality; that indubitable, indefinable stamp of our Creator upon each individual soul, which differentiates each one of us from our fellows and marks us out as something special? When God created each one of us he broke the mould, and there are no repeats. We may mechanise and standardise things, but our Creator never repeats his creation. That is what makes life so difficult and interesting, because men are not automatons. All our salvation depends upon our own self-will. He could have made us automatons, but He decided to risk it and make us human beings, each determining his own destiny, so that if I go to Hell or rise to Heaven it will be by my own self-will and consent, because I am a party to my destiny. There must be religion in our schools if they are to be adequate to teach our boys and girls, because those boys and girls are living souls.
Who is to say what kind of religion shall be taught? Everybody is agreed that there must be religion. In my long experience of 38 years as a preacher I have never met the man who did not want his boy to be a better man than he, and I have never met the mother who did not desire the best for her children. No one but the parents can say how and by whom their children shall be educated and what religious principles they shall adopt. If you say that that is a curious thing for a Methodist to say, I reply that I am of the fourth generation as a Methodist. If I had been born a Jew, I should probably be a Jew now. My parents never consulted me about it, and I was brought into Methodism without any knowledge of mine. Some hon. Members may have determined whether they would be Presbyterians or Baptists or any other religion, but I was born into a Methodist home. That was my good fortune, and I am not taking any credit for it. I shall never forget that woman who, when she was to be martyred within an hour or two, said, "Is it any fault of mine that I drank in my religion with my mother's milk?" The parent is the referee, and no one else can use the decisive power. The parent must say how the child must be taught in matters of religion. I agree that there must be true and real religion in the training of our children: we have agreed, as a nation, on that principle.
At times I have come to London to meet committees on this matter, and I have talked over these things for hours. I met one last night in the precincts of this House. I said that it was no use talking about Rome or any other Church being on the rates. We have agreed to that principle, and it has worked since 1918 in what might have been regarded as the last place in the world, in the land of the Covenanters, in Scotland. It is no use saying that you can allow 50 per cent. of capital expenditure, and that it is immoral if you allow any more. I suggest deliberately that you cannot write off this responsibility: whatever your belief is, you have to face it. It is a question not of principle but of monetary convenience or expediency. Being a practical man, I have worked it out in what I think is a scientific way. I have passed my calculations on to the Minister, with my compliments. I do not know whether he is pleased about it or otherwise. It may be all wrong, but I am going to make this suggestion. Anyone can check it in a minute or two or, if I do not make myself quite clear, after reading Hansard tomorrow. Denominational schools, like all other schools, are used five days a week as school premises. Let us assume that, including the time for refreshments and rest each day, the school premises are used for eight hours. I have made inquiries, and I find that one hour of each day is taken up by definite doctrinal teaching. I know all about the atmosphere of the school. There is an atmosphere in any school and it depends on the master and the teachers there. I went to a school where the atmosphere was completely changed for me in my fourth class, when I was 10 or 11—a decisive period of my life—by one man, who was my teacher.
No, it was not quite so good a school as that; but it was a good school. One hour only is spent each day in definite religious teaching. That is to say, 35 hours a week are used for what, for want of a better term, I would call secular teaching. Seven hours are used on Sunday by the Church—it may be the Church of England, the Methodist Church or the Baptist Church. In addition, religious education is given on one hour a day for five days of the week, and for three hours on Saturday night—for on that day they must leave the school for it to be scoured and allowed to dry. So there are 35 hours in the week for definite secular education, and 15 hours for the teaching of the Church, whichever Church it is. That makes 50 hours in which the school premises are used during the week. Therefore, the proportion to be paid by the State for the 35 hours of the week when secular education is given would work out at exactly 70 per cent., and the proportion to be paid by the Church, which uses the premises for purposes of its own during 15 hours of the week, would work out at 30 per cent. I am not asking for generous treatment: why should anyone get generous treatment? I am not asking for anything but fair treatment. My Catholic friends will have to believe that I am sincere when I say that I do not expect to get something for nothing. They are using these premises for purposes of their own one hour a day, three hours on Saturday nights, and seven hours on Sunday for Church or Sunday school purposes, and they should pay their share of the money that is required. They should also pay for the use of the school for any other purposes, such as election meetings. It is not beyond the wit of man, with good will, such as I am sure the President of the Board of Education and his colleagues possess, to find a solution on some such lines as I have suggested.
I am coming now to the main reason why I am speaking on this matter. I cannot give a silent vote, however unpopular I may become with my Methodist friends. I am one of the two laymen voted on to the Methodist Conference. You may think that I am honoured by being a Member of Parliament, but I feel still more honoured by the fact that my colleagues in the Methodist Church think me the second best layman in Methodism. Therefore, I speak with seriousness on this matter. What I say may be unpopular, but everybody who has known me here during the last 12 years knows that I do not care about unpopularity. The only one that I will answer to is my conscience. If I can read the signs of the times, there is looming before us a fight in the spiritual world. It may not be in my time, but it will certainly be in the next 20 years. That is why I fight for the observance of the Lord's Day, because I see the pulling out of the plug which will let loose the water of infidelity. That is my opinion. Within the next few years there will be a fight, and we shall not want to ask Christians whether they are Methodists or Baptists or Church of England; we shall get together and fight it out against the Satanic forces which want to down us as a free Christian nation. And I do ask every one of my colleagues here to believe that I am sincere. The only thing I am sorry about is that I am not twice a better man, that I am not really good enough to talk to hon. Members like this. But I can see what is looming before us and, by the grace of God, we must prevent it. Keeping in mind this background, so vivid to me, of the satanic forces that would have us down and out, I ask that those who want religious education, should not be denied it.
We have just heard a remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) which shows how far we have travelled since the days of 1902. If that progress goes on, as I trust it will, then a real solution of the question of religious education may become possible in a short time, a solution which is not practicable at present. In the present circumstances, any solution must undoubtedly be a compromise, and I would like that to be the main burden of the brief remarks I wish to make to the House to-day. First of all, however, there are one or two other subjects on which I would like to touch. We have been told, with truth, that this is a major educational Measure, comparable with the Bills of 1870, 1902, and 1918 and it must obviously be a very long time before we can expect another comparable Measure. It is, therefore, with great regret, that I have noticed several omissions from the Bill which are of the utmost importance. I do not propose to dwell upon them but quite obviously we cannot expect any major Bill in the near future to deal with them, although committees are sitting on these subjects.
There is, first, the social question presented by the two educational streams that exist in this country. I should like to see some proposal for dealing with that question. I hope the President will take note of the suggestion that the public boarding schools should be used for a larger number for a shorter period. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) about the great educational advantages of these schools for those few who are fortunate enough to get there. Their benefits cannot be given to all youths in the country for so long a period as four or five years and I suggest that they could best be used for those secondary school boys who are able to profit by full-time education from the age of 16 to 18. In that way we should have extended the great benefits of these schools to the whole community. I have one bee in my own bonnet upon which I would like to comment. The great foundations of Eton and Winchester should be taken out of the old school system and converted into university colleges, but I have no doubt that it will be at least 25 years before that idea is accepted. Among its other omissions, the Bill has no proposal for increasing the status and remuneration of teachers, a subject which is of almost greater importance than anything else in the educational field to-day. Nor does it contain proposals for increasing their numbers.
I turn now to what is in the Bill as opposed to what is omitted from it. The first thing that the Bill proposes to do is that the President of the Board of Education shall in future be called the President of the Board of Education. That is as unexceptional as it is tautologous; but if the President imagines that it is going to solve his difficulties with the local authorities, I would suggest that he should look up the history of the Ministry of Health. I do not think that this part of the Bill really has the fundamental importance that has been assigned to it in some quarters. Then the Bill proposes to raise the school-leaving age to 15 within a given date and to 16 without any date being specified. That is very laudable, and I am glad the President has been frank enough to point out what has escaped the notice of many people, that there is an escape Clause and that it is, in fact, extremely unlikely that the school-leaving age will be raised to 15 by April 1st of next year. I recall that this House gave permission for the raising of the school-leaving age to 15 as far back as 1918, and it reminds me very much of Saint Augustine's famous prayer, "Lord, give me chastity, but not yet." The Board of Education has for long past desired a higher school-leaving age, "but not yet," and I shall reserve my own congratulations on this subject until I see the higher school-leaving age in operation.
The Bill proposes certain changes in educational areas. The President has an overwhelming case against the present system, which is undoubtedly hopelessly out-of-date and inefficient, and cannot be defended. My complaint against his proposals is that, in place of the old anomalies which he is removing, he is introducing a new set. More opportunity will come on the Committee stage to discuss this subject, but in limiting local education committees to the councils of counties and county boroughs he is, in fact, creating many anomalies. Counties range from Rutland to the West Riding and Lancashire, and are very different in their size and financial resources. One of the reasons given for the change is the growth of such districts as Harrow, but be it observed that under these proposals it is not intended to give Harrow educational powers. There will be considerable discussion of these proposals on the Committee stage. My own Division happens to be a very good example of the anomalies that would be created. With a population of about 57,000, Keighley would lose the education powers which it has administered very well, whereas the neighbouring town of Dewsbury with a smaller population, would not only retain its present powers but get additional ones. Proposals will, I have no doubt, be submitted in Committee to remove this kind of anomaly which the President has introduced.
The other major change suggested in the Bill deals with the dual system and this will be the last subject upon which I shall touch. The hon. Member who has just spoken said that he was one of the fourth generation of Methodists but very often the process works the other way round and children react against their parents. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), who spoke first from these benches, was brought up in the principles of the Church of England and has now become a strong advocate of the secular solution; I happen to have been brought up in schools where there was no religious instruction of any kind and am a strong opponent of the secular solution. So we cannot always be certain, even if we have our children brought up in the schools we like, that they will become the kind of people we wish them to be. If, however, they have learned tolerance—to think for themselves, and exercise tolerance towards other people—that will be a sufficient result. In the present state of our religious divisions—and I cannot help reflecting that to-day is the beginning of a week set apart in Christendom for prayer for Christian unity—any solution must be a compromise.
My complaint against the proposals of the President is that his compromise is the wrong one. It introduces great administrative complexities and inflicts unnecessary hardship on minorities. It may be asked, What is the hardship inflicted on minorities? It is that, in effect, the President says to those of us who want our children brought up in a definite religious faith, "You can bring up your children in schools where they will be taught in the manner you desire, but at a cost we know you cannot pay, or you can send them to schools where there will be religious instruction, but religious instruction that we know is repugnant to you." That is the position in which Roman Catholics and a large number of adherents of the Church of England find themselves. It is a cruel dilemma and one in which it is unnecessary to place them.
It may be further asked, What is the objection to the religious instruction which is to be given in the State schools? What is the objection to syllabus religion? In passing, I may point out that what is happening under these Clauses is the establishment and endowment of syllabus religion. The objection is that syllabus religion is the highest common denomination of various religious faiths, and in the nature of things it is more acceptable to some than to others. The objection is not to what is taught in the syllabus—that is generally excellent. No one can have his ears attuned to the solemn cadences of the authorised version, for however short a period each week, without being made very much better and nobler thereby. All that takes place in syllabus religion is very good, but the difficulty is that what is central in the belief of many people, including myself, cannot be taught in the schools of the State system. Inevitably, the children who are taught there will come to feel that the things about which their parents feel most keenly are unimportant, and a breach will be created between the child and the parent. If the House will forgive me for an illustration, I would say that the elements of belief which are most central to those who feel like myself are that the Word became flesh, and that the Incarnation is continued in the Church and more especially in the Blessed Sacrament. That is a belief which is absolutely central to our lives. It means more than anything else in life to us, but it is something which may not be taught in the State schools. Indeed, the prohibition goes much farther. The President enlivened us to-day with some quotations from the Book of Common Prayer, but that great book, along with the magnificent catechism that it contains, is banned from our State schools, and that is indeed a great loss.
It is all unnecessary. There is really a very simple and just solution to all this. Let us abolish the dual system. I would like to make it clear that those of us who want definite religious teaching for our children are not in the least interested in the dual system as such and would very willingly see it go. I agree entirely with the criticisms of it made on administrative grounds; but it is unnecessary. We are willing that it should be abolished and that all schools should be controlled by the community at large. But its abolition should be accompanied by a guarantee that all children whose parents so desire shall be brought up in the faith of their parents. How can that be done? In largish towns it is easy. Denominational schools should be built wherever there is a sufficient number of children to justify them. In other districts the solution would be on the lines with which many of us are familiar in the Army: when the time for religious instruction or worship comes round the children shall be grouped according as they belong to the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church or Other Denominations. In addition there would continue to be the right of withdrawal which has existed since 1870.
It would be likely that in remote country villages this solution would not be possible. But let us remember that in one of the excellent features of this Bill we are promised boarding schools, and if there are any children who cannot fit into this scheme it may very well be that the solution for them will lie in boarding schools, which, I hope, we shall see in very much increased numbers. I do not wish to dwell on the subject of boarding schools, but I spent three years as a day boy and three years as a boarder in the same school, and therefore feel an authority on this subject; and there is no more whole-hearted advocate of the boarding principle than I. It is rather curious that the boarding school principle should have been supported in the past mainly by the wealthy and opposed by the poor, because boarding schools have far more to give to the poor than they have to the children of the rich; but that is by the way. I hope that boarding schools may offer a partial solution of this problem. The solution I suggest is one which puts all religious faiths on exactly the same footing. Nobody is going to suggest, in this year of grace, that there should be any privilege in this matter. It would apply to Jews, equally with Christians.
I imagine that county schools as proposed would be acceptable to the Other Denominations. I see no reason why Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists and similar denominations should not be satisfied with the county schools envisaged in the Bill.
I have no authority to speak for anybody except myself on this occasion, but I am not unfamiliar with what is felt by these bodies, and we know that what I have called syllabus religion is in general acceptable to the bodies I have mentioned; there is no reason why it should not be acceptable to them. I cannot fill in the details now but these are the general lines on which I wish it had been possible to tackle this problem. What is the objection to tackling it along these lines? We always come back to one objection—that it is against tradition in England to have specific religious teaching in State schools. It was the reason given in the White Paper and it was the reason given by the President this morning. How old, Sir, is this venerable tradition which dominates our educational system to-day? It is precisely 74 years
old. In fact, it is not quite 74 years old as there are a few months still to run. It dates from the Clause which Mr. Cowper-Temple succeeded in getting the Government to put into the Elementary Education Act of 1870. I have been refreshing my mind on this subject, and I find, from the irrefutable evidence of Hansard, that Mr. W. E. Forster felt bound to admit that the original principle was the sound one, but he put the Clause in because he thought he had a better chance of getting the Bill through—a reason which will be familiar to all Presidents of the Board. Mr. Gladstone, when speaking a little later in this memorable Debate, used words which I should like to quote. He said:
The change which the Government have made in deference to the state of circumstances in which we find ourselves, produced by the manifestation of feeling in the country, is undoubtedly a change in abridgement and not one in extension of liberty. And that abridgement is, I admit, not so much on the side of secular as of religious teaching."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1870; cols. 1254–1255, Vol. 202.]
I am not surprised that Disraeli following him said:
The Committee will observe that the right hon. Gentleman, though he opposed the Amendment of my right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) has not spoken in opposition to it."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1870; col. 1259, Vol. 202.)
It is absolutely clear that that Government was acting against its better judgment in putting the Cowper-Temple Clause into its Bill, and I submit that it has continued to dog our lives until this day. Incidentally, that which was foretold by the prophet Benjamin on this occasion has come to pass, for Disraeli added:
You will have formularies, but they will be different formularies in different places. You will have the formularies of Bradford, the articles of Manchester; you will have the creed of Leeds or of Liverpool."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1870; cols. 1260–61, Vol. 202.)
We have, indeed, the syllabus of Cambridge and the syllabus of the West Riding and the syllabus of Canon Cockin—to mention the three I have studied. I submit that there will be no real progress in this matter until the House is prepared to repeal the Cowper-Temple Clause. That is the real line of advance. It may not be possible now to amend the Bill in that direction, but we must take a long view of
this matter, and in view of the different relations now existing between the Churches in this country—a difference which, I hope, will be consummated by reunion within measurable time—in view of all these facts, I hope we shall look forward to tackling this problem in a much more fundamental manner.
For many years I have often heard the hypothetical question put not only in this House but outside as to what did Gladstone say in 1870? I am very glad indeed to learn from my hon. Friend who preceded me what he did in fact say about this most controversial matter. There are many things in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Thomas) with which I find myself in complete agreement. He did, however, suggest in his opening remarks that the question of an agreed syllabus was one for compromise. It may well be amongst the Anglican section, the Church of England, but I think this is a matter on which there has been so much misunderstanding in the Debate so far. On the question of the agreed syllabus there could be no compromise at all so far as the Catholic Church is concerned. It is clear from everything said in the Debate by the representatives of the Government ever since the White Paper was introduced into the House in July, in the Press and on the radio, that the fundamental difficulty so far as the Catholic Church is concerned is as alive to-day as when the matter was first mooted.
It has been suggested amongst other things that it is the Catholics who are anxious to perpetuate the old dual system. Speaking for my own part, I do not share that view. They did not wish to perpetuate the old system, In common with my hon. Friend who preceded me I have refreshed my memory and have been looking up the Debate in 1902. There is not the slightest doubt from the speeches which were made on that occasion that that compromise was forced upon them. Catholics to-day, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), in his most eloquent and persuasive speech, pointed out, Catholics are as anxious to be part of the national system of education in this country as any other non-Catholic subjects of His Majesty. They are anxious to enjoy the same facilities that other children receive; to see their
children as well educated and equipped for life as the non-Catholic child. They oppose the financial Clauses of this Bill, but they do not do so on educational grounds. They do not do so on political grounds but purely on moral and religious grounds. It is impossible for them to accept these proposals without doing violence to their conscience. In fact this has been recognised—unfortunately it has not been met—by the President of the Board. In the Debate on the White Paper which took place in this House in July last he used these words:
I have not been able to concede the full demands of those who desire complete liberty of conscience." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1943; col. 1836, Vol. 391.]
The fact unfortunately remains and that is the basis, the fundamental basis of our difference with my right hon. Friend.
There is an element which should never be banished from our system of education. Here in Great Britain we have freedom of thought as well as freedom of conscience. Here we have been the pioneers of religious toleration. But side by side with all this has been the fact that religion has been the rock in the life and character of the British people upon which they have built their faith and cast their care. This fundamental element must never be taken from our schools.
That, Sir, is the fundamental belief of the British Catholics. That is the policy they support and the words I have used are those of the Prime Minister in his broadcast of 21st March, 1943. In a nutshell what is the fundamental Catholic claim? I take my side with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley. The first thing I want to see removed, and I believe the majority of my constituents wish to see it removed, is the Cowper-Temple Clause in the Act of 1870. I am sorry indeed to see that my right hon. Friend has not taken the opportunity to repeal that Clause in the present Bill now before the House. It should be repealed because Catholic education is not inimical to the State. Indeed, it instils submission to lawful authority. One is reminded of speeches made in the past by Cardinal Hinsley and Cardinal Bourne in times of great national crisis.
Our policy in a nutshell is that where there are enough Catholic children to fill a school—and a school which would in any case exist—then that school should be Catholic in religion. That is the simple basis of our claim and that is all. It is the system, as the House has been reminded by other hon. Members, which has been in existence in Scotland, Ireland and in Holland. We realise that in Ireland it was introduced not for the protection of, or in the interests of, the Catholics but for the Protestants. I have never heard a Member from Northern Ireland say in this House that the system has not worked well. The adoption of the Scottish system would end religious controversy in this matter once and for all. As things now stand the President of the Board of Education, while sincerely endeavouring to give education a new start, will, in my judgment, tend to increase rather than diminish that unfortunate difference of opinion.
There is, however, at least one fact on which the House must be agreed—that this is not a political question. In view of that I hope that when the Debate takes place on the financial Clauses of the Bill the House will be afforded a free vote and that Members will be able to vote according to their religious conscience in the same way as they were afforded that facility when the Prayer Book of the Established Church was under Debate in the House some years before the war. Personally, I did not vote on that occasion because I did not feel myself competent to do so but the votes of Members were cast on grounds of religious conviction not on political grounds and as far as I am concerned when the time comes that is how my vote will be cast. What, in fact, are the Government saying to the Catholic parents to-day? "If you do not wish to accept the agreed syllabus, if you do not wish to accept our proposal of 'Pooled Christianity' under the Bill you can of course have your own way, but at the prohibitive cost of not less than £10,000,000 over a period of 25 years." In the 25 years before the war, as the hon. Member for Ipswich has pointed out, the Catholic community had an educational debt of £3,500,000 and even to-day not all of that money has been repaid. Now there is the suggestion that an additional huge sum of £10,000,000 should be added to the weight around the neck of the Catholic community.
As my hon. and gallant Friend has given such a confident outline of the cost perhaps he will give an outline of the whole benefits which the Govern- ment are conferring through the Measure. That would give the House a balanced picture.
I am not for one moment decrying the educational benefits which the Catholic and non-Catholic child will get under this Bill. We are all agreed that so far as that side is concerned it is an immense step forward. I do not wish to detain the House unduly, but I could have opened my speech by throwing bouquets to my right hon. Friend. I agree entirely that as part of the community, and part only, Catholics will derive benefits in the educational field. But it is a most extraordinary attitude for a National Government to adopt at this stage, a Government that is composed of the three major political parties, particularly as the Minister knows full well that for the Catholic there can be no compromise on such a fundamental question as their belief and there is no hope of the Catholic community finding the necessary finance either now or in the future. After all, the Catholics are taxpayers like everyone else, and as such contribute to the educational rates. Do not forget that between 1870 and 1902 Catholic parents derived no educational benefit from educational rates and taxes purely because they were unable to accept the Cowper-Temple Clause limitation on definite religious teaching in State-provided schools. For the sake of conscience they continued to provide schools and teaching costs for Catholic children's schooling, the while paying their educational rates and taxes like everyone else. Where is there justice or indeed the logic in expecting any private institution to bear any substantial proportion of costs which are calculated in terms of public finance. There is no longer any relation between private means and resources of the State when it comes to taxing and borrowing.
Is it fair at a time like this, when Catholic Service men are fighting side by side with their Protestant comrades for the same principles of liberty and justice, to force a conscience disability on their children? Why has the Minister departed from the most prominent and popular feature of the Act of 1921 wherein the wishes of parents were held to be of paramount importance? Apart from the fact that all parents alike contribute to the public education funds no Catholic parents, certainly not all Anglican parents, indeed not all Free Church parents, are willing to submit their children to the teaching of an agreed syllabus of "pooled Christianity" such as is embodied in the Bill. In view of this fundamental fact Mr. Speaker, may I appeal to my right hon. Friend not to do this thing and reconsider his attitude. Do not be, as the Archbishop of Liverpool put it the other day, the "odd man out." The hon. Member for Ipswich has already reminded the Minister that other Government Departments are not in step with him in this matter. He reminded him that the Home Office provides full Catholic maintenance in Catholic schools under its jurisdiction, and that the Colonial Office provides schools for Catholic children. As a soldier I know only too well how popular Catholic padres are in the Forces, and the War Office does not ask the Catholic soldiers to support their chaplains out of their pay.
The Minister will recall that in October of last year I sent to the Prime Minister a petition drawn up by various women's organisations and societies in the Arch-Diocese of Cardiff. It was signed by some thousands of women in their own names and in the names of their men folk now serving in the Fighting Services of the Crown or the Merchant Navy. It will be appreciated that Whether the Catholic parent likes it or not he or she is required, rightly under the law of this country, to send his or her child to school. "Certainly I will send my child to school," says the Catholic parent, "but it must be a school where I can be quite sure and quite secure about the religious training of my child, a school in which there are teachers who believe and love the same faith which at home I teach my child to believe and love. This is a most sacred duty laid upon my conscience by Almighty God and on that I can make no compromise." "I am ready," says the Catholic parent in my constituency of South Cardiff, "at all times to do my duty by my country but I am, thank God, a free citizen of a free land and I claim that the State shall do its duty by me and by my children." I pray, Mr. Speaker, that the State will not fail in its duty.
As one who has taken an interest in education for a quarter of a century I am very glad to welcome this Bill, because it gives us what has been promised and a good deal in addition. That is very satisfactory, and I think I can say, on behalf of Wales, "Thank you" to the Minister of Education and his staff for the efforts they have made. They do not go as far as we would have liked them to go and we have done our best to try to improve the position. We dislike quite a number of things, but they are so far outweighed by other things that we will support the Bill. Though there are things we dislike very much, all the Welsh education authorities are prepared to support it. The Minister says he has endeavoured to get agreement on the religious question. I want to say at once that he has not got agreement as far as Wales is concerned. But Wales has acquiesced for the time being and says that, rather than wreck the Bill, she is prepared to accept it and to do the best she can in the circumstances, but particularly in the single-school areas we ask him to allow us some preferential claim. When I first went on to the Glamorgan County Council we had 72 non-provided schools. By negotiation we have reduced the number to 27 and I think that we shall be able in the next ten years to wipe them all out. I am asking whether it is possible for us to initiate something in that direction by putting proposals before the Advisory Committee. If that can be done it will assist us considerably.
I am very anxious about one thing. We in Glamorganshire have put forward schemes under the 1918 Act and afterwards to the Board of Education which have been cut down and reduced, and what has caused us more trouble than anything else is the tremendous delay that has taken place. When we submit our plans to the Board I hope there will be greater expedition than there has been in the past. The first thing that has happened is that our plans have been sent back to us with a request that changes should be made, that the number and size should be reduced, that something should be taken away that we consider very essential. The first step that the Board of Education takes is to say that we must get the sanction of the Minister of Health. When we go to the Ministry of Health we find we are up against the Treasury and it is twelve months or two years before we are able to proceed with anything at all. That delay is quite unnecessary and I hope that under the new Bill we shall be able to work very much more quickly than in the past.
There is another thing that I want to know about. Wales as a whole is anxious to have free education. We have fought and worked hard for it and made every effort to get free secondary education. I think we are taking the lead as far as secondary education is concerned. But I am very anxious about the arrangements we have in the county. We have a scholarship scheme. I think we are granting as much as the highest authority in the way of scholarships to boys and girls who have not the opportunity of going to the universities unless they get national assistance. We give 60, 70, or 80 scholarships a year. We want to continue that. We have another scheme which has been in existence for nearly 20 years and it took us four years to get it through the Board: that is a loan scheme to boys and girls who have not got their higher certificates. We make loans to parents of boys and girls who are unable to give them university education free of interest and they have been selected by the headmasters and mistresses. There is no repayment until they have secured jobs, and then it depends on the amount they are earning how much they pay. Ninety-eight per cent. of them are paying back all the money they have received by way of loan. I hope we shall get some assurance that we shall be allowed to go on with this scheme.
I feel indebted to the Minister, and to the Department as a whole, for the efforts they have made in meeting us on the question of the Advisory Committee, to which we shall be able to submit anything that we think will be in the best interests of education in Wales, which may be different from other parts of the country. I understand that the Minister will be empowered to consider anything submitted to him by the Advisory Committee. But I ask two other things. One is with regard to the appointment of chairman and secretary. I do not mind so much about the chairman but I am very concerned about the secretary. The secretary should be a person who understands Wales, who knows the culture of Wales and something about the people. He should be able to talk to the people and to convey to the Committee and the Minister the real feel- ing of the country. I hope that the Minister will also appoint a chairman who understands Wales. In appointing the Committee I hope that he will select young men of understanding and good feeling about the things that affect Wales and who are to-day taking a prominent part in education. I believe that it would be in the best interests of Wales as a whole. I am anxious that the President should not irritate the people of Wales in connection with this business. We were dealt with rather curtly by the Deputy Prime Minister a little time ago with regard to a Secretary of State for Wales. I have a great regard for the Deputy Prime Minister and believe that he is a first-class man, but he made a mistake on that occasion, for he irritated Wales. I do not want the Minister to irritate Wales. He has a very good name there. When he has been there he has said that he admired the people, their culture and their language—although I do not know how much he knows about the language. What he said brought the people pretty close to him.
I am glad that school feeding is dealt with in the Bill, for I have been coming to the Board a long time, since 1921 when the depression started in Glamorgan, with regard to it. Afterwards we had a great deal of difficulty and now we cannot get materials from the Board and we are held up with the feeding of school children in consequence. We welcome the provision for clothing, because the Federation of Education Authorities for Wales has been on unlimited deputations to the Board about it and have been told that they must go to the public assistance authorities. Now it will become a claim on the Board of Education and we are delighted. The question of the continuance by the Board of the black-listed schools is a serious matter. I will make the suggestion that as a peace offering the Board should make arrangements with the War Office or the Ministry of Supply so that on the second day after the Armistice a bomb should be dropped on each of the black-listed schools. That will give the Board an opportunity to go on spending the money it is spending now in order to do something to assist the authorities. If these schools were cleared out of the way we should have a better chance of giving the children better education. We are anxious to give it to them and they are entitled to it. The black-listed schools in Wales are a disgrace and a menace to the health of the children. The Board could do a good deal about these schools now. Do not go to the authorities and tell them they have not the money at the present moment or the material. There is a considerable amount of material in many places in South Wales which is rotting away, and it could be used to build some schools. I welcome the Bill and hope that the Minister will consider the points I have raised.
When I was speaking on the Education Estimates about 18 months ago I ventured a comment of some bitterness at the unfair treatment that the Board of Education has received in past years owing to the fact that no Minister had been allowed to hold office in that Department for more than a year or so. I ventured to express the hope that my right hon. Friend would have the opportunity by remaining sufficiently long in office to present to the House the results of his work. I should like heartily to congratulate him on the excellent use which he has made of the opportunity which has been presented to him. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), who opened the Debate for his party, assured my right hon. Friend of his and his party's full support against attacks by vested interests represented by this side. I feel that my right hon. Friend is in an extremely fortunate position, because I am confident that I can commit my hon. Friends on this side to support my right hon. Friend against attacks by vested interests represented by hon. Members opposite. I have sat through pretty well the whole of this Debate and as far as I am aware no Member has made any reference to the draughtsmanship of this Bill. We so often hear adverse comments about the officers of Government Departments that it is only fair that a tribute should be paid to the draughtsman who has been responsible for this Bill. It is such a great change to read a Bill which is pleasant to read and easy to understand. I hope that my right hon. Friend may see his way to hiring out this draughtsman to other Departments, and particularly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to redrafting Income Tax legislation.
I welcome the fact that it is proposed to raise the status of the Minister and Ministry. In view of the enormous im- portance of the work that the Department does it is only right that it should occupy a status of equality with the most important Departments. I hope that the increased powers which the Minister and the Ministry will have will not lead to any attempt at establishing standardisation or uniformity in our educational system. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board spoke very acceptable words during the Debate on the White Paper. He feels, as most of us feel, that any attempt at standardisation would be fatal to education. The more diversity that we have the better for education generally. In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins), who has played for so many years an honoured part in education in Wales, I welcome the institution of the Minister's Advisory Council. It will be an enormous advantage to the Minister. I take it that the council is to advise him on education and not on administration. It happens not infrequently that educational progress can be hampered to a certain extent owing to reasons connected with administrative convenience.
I should like to express my thanks to the Minister for the proposals with regard to boarding schools. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) thought that the children of the well-to-do enjoyed educational advantages which were not open to the children of poorer parents, but here is something which gives equality to the children of all kinds of parents. It is true that the majority of well-to-do parents send their children to boarding schools because they think that the best kind of education is available there. It is a rather curious commentary, that up to now, publicly-owned boarding schools have been available only to children handicapped physically or of unsatisfactory parents. It is all to the good that this type of education will become available to a far larger number of children. I should infinitely prefer that these boarding schools should not be administered by local authorities. Here is an opportunity for a most valuable educational experiment. I should infinitely prefer that these boarding schools were administered by independent governing bodies and be financed direct by a Ministry of Education. We might very well set up in this country an educational institution of enormous value which would, in course of time, take the cream of the boys and girls from our primary schools and give them advantages which the best kind of children ought to be allowed to have. Generally speaking, our education system is the kind of mass production. It is essential to make every possible effort to pick out the mast promising children and give them the best possible educational advantages.
It is significant that the larger part of this Debate has been devoted to the dual system and that is an indication that the majority of us realise that by far the most important work of the schools is done on the spiritual side. I should like to pay my tribute to the courage and imagination shown by the President in tackling this very difficult problem. I have discussed the Bill with a great number of interests, many of whom disagreed with the proposals of the Minister, but they were only too ready to pay tribute to him for the patience and the very real sincerity which he has shown in giving effect to a Measure which would suit all consciences. I am personally glad that the Minister has come down on the side of retaining the dual system. I think he must realise, in fairness to the Churches—Anglican, Free Church and Roman Catholic—that they recognised their responsibility for educating the children of the poor long before Parliament did and I feel that the country owes them a certain debt for the work which they have done in that field.
I am inclined to believe that there is something to be said for the point of view that Parliament was wrong in 1870 in deciding that the State should take over the provision of education in those areas which the denominations were not able to cover. It is possible that education generally would have been better served if the State had decided to set up voluntary agencies to conduct education in those areas. There is a great deal to be said for private enterprise, and private enterprise in education has proved itself more than once; in fact, I feel that it is not untrue to say that the most outstanding characteristic of State enterprise is its lack of enterprise. The solution proposed in the Bill is probably the best that can be reached in the circumstances. The Minister has made concessions which were not in the White Paper but I would like to reinforce the plea which has been made about new schools. That is something to which the denominations attach very great importance.
This is the first time that the Board of Education has recognised that the State has a responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the children of the country. I believe that, as a result of the Bill, religious education will be enormously improved, but that improvement will depend very largely upon the selection of the teachers responsible for the teaching and of the instructors who are to train those teachers in the training colleges. To teach religion effectively is probably the most difficult thing any teacher has to do. It is a most responsible job and the way in which religion is taught in the schools, as a rule, is not as good as it should be. It is not a subject to be taught as a lesson or to be sat for to gain a certificate in an examination. Religion is a way of life. The success of religious teaching depends upon the atmosphere of the school and the example provided by the teachers. Provided we had the right kind of teachers in our council schools and that the teaching they gave was satisfactory, I, as a member of the Church of England, would have no objection whatever to my children being taught under the new system.
One must recognise that although that feeling is probably common to the majority of Church of England parents, it does not by any means meet the objections of the Catholics. I represent a constituency which contains about 40,000 Catholic men, women and children. Incidentally, they are the only religious body which has approached me on the subject of the Bill. They feel most sincerely that Catholic children will not receive as generous treatment under the Bill as they feel they are entitled to. I think that in a large measure they are wrong. Hon. Members who have spoken for the Catholic community in this Debate seem to be quite unaware that the measures proposed in the Bill are infinitely more generous than anything which has been done for the denominational schools in the country by way of public education. That is something for which the Minister should be thanked.
I feel that something should be done for the denominational schools whether they be Catholic, Church of England or Free Church. I cannot see why there should be any real difficulty in arranging that there should be in these schools a proportion of teachers belonging to various religious communities equivalent to the religious convictions of the children in the schools. For instance, if 50 per cent. of the children are Roman Catholics it would be only reasonable I think that 50 per cent. of the teachers should be Roman Catholics, and that applies in the same way to other denominations. I feel quite sure that Catholics intend to make every possible effort to keep their schools in being, and I feel quite sure that my right hon. Friend would wish to do everything he possibly can to help them. I should like to suggest that something might be done by guaranteed loans or something of that kind which would spread the financial burden over as many years as possible in order to ensure that the burden on Catholic, Church of England or other denominational bodies will be one that they will be able to shoulder.
With regard to secondary education, one understands that the selection of children for the type of secondary school which they should attend will in effect be made by the local education authority. I cannot help feeling that the local education authority will be bound to have the deciding voice and that although the parents will be consulted that consultation in many cases will be merely nominal. I hope I shall not be thought to be provocative if I suggest to the House that parents have rights where their children are concerned. I feel that the abolition of fees in council schools may have the effect of depriving parents of the right to which they are entitled. It may well be that in certain areas there will be nothing but council secondary schools, no grant-aided schools, no voluntary schools, no schools of any other kind. It may be that the only type of school available to the children of parents of moderate means will be the grammar schools.
My view is that parents should have the right to send a child to whatever kind of school they desire, against the wishes of the education authority, provided they are prepared to pay the fees. I cannot understand this idea which appears to prevail in progressive and Left Wing circles that there is something indecent about parents paying for a child's education. To my mind this instinct which parents possess ought to receive encouragement from the Govern- ment. Moreover, that instinct has a value in the school. I have been told by many secondary schoolmasters that the backbone of their schools nine times out of 10 is provided by boys and girls who would never be admitted if they had to sit for examinations. Their presence in the schools depends on the willingness of the parents to pay fees.
I welcome the provision which my right hon. Friend is making for part-time education. It has been a shocking thing, to my mind, that we have allowed our young people to face the world when they were nothing more than growing children. It is of enormous value that we have this assurance that to a certain extent they will up to the age of 18 remain under the care and instruction of the education authorities. I hope my right hon. Friend intends to make every possible use of the voluntary agencies who have done such enormously valuable work among the young and the adolescent for so many years and whose difficulties are increasing with the increasing cost of living. I hope also that everything possible will be done with regard to technical education. That is a matter of vital interest to us as a nation. We are going to have an enormous struggle to get back our export trade and increase it after the war. It will be an enormous asset to have as many as possible of our young men and women effectively educated in the technical schools in the years after the war and I hope that technical education will be given in the future a far higher status in educational circles than it has had in the past.
There is one word I want to say about grant-aided schools. That is a matter which we shall have the opportunity of discussing later when the Fleming Committee has reported, but I want now to enter a caveat against any attempt to abolish the independent or grant-aided schools. The Minister has said that probably a number of direct grants schools may elect to become aided schools under the new scheme. I hope he will give consideration to the possibility of allowing those aided schools which were grant-aided in 1922 to become grant-aided schools again if that is the wish of the governing bodies. In conclusion I say that I am quite sure that the President of the Board intends to treat this Bill as an urgent matter and intends it to be put into force at the earliest possible moment. We hope financial considerations will not be allowed to stand in the way. I regard money spent on education as very largely an investment which will return extremely handsome dividends.
But while we want urgency we do not want undue haste, and I am afraid there may be pressure from some directions which may persuade the Board to take forward steps before they are really ready for them. If that occurs I think the effect on education might be retrogressive rather than progressive. Future events will show whether this is a good Bill or not. To my mind the President has provided a framework which may mean an immense improvement in the educational structure. The spirit in which this framework is clothed by local education authorities will decide the issue and I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary will use their best efforts to give the people of this country what they want and what they deserve. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the great work he has done.