I beg to move, in page 17, line 25, to leave out from "that," to "for," in line 29, and to insert:
they shall not be occupied or used except.
We are now reaching the Clauses relating to the power of local authorities over the use of the premises of auxiliary and controlled schools. The Clause states that the school premises of controlled schools
shall be occupied and used in accordance with the directions of the local education authority, so, however, that the managers or governors of the school shall be entitled to determine the use to which the school premises or any part thereof shall be put on Sundays and on Saturdays except when required to be used on Saturdays for the purposes of the school or for any purpose connected with education.
That constitutes what I think has been an evil in the past, of the use of the school by persons other than the school children. It ought to be sacred for school purposes. May I tell the Committee that while I was conducting an inquiry, mainly a health inquiry, which involved inquiry into the conditions in schools and so on, not only teachers but doctors also came before me and said time and time again, "It is wrong to have the school used by persons other than children. The school is left
by the children, say at four o'clock. Arrangements are then made for cleaning the school. Then that night in will tramp men with muddy boots and so on and the children come there in the morning to find the school has been knocked about by those adults who have been using the school for their purposes during the previous evening."
This Sub-section of the Clause, as I seek to amend it, will read:
The school premises of a controlled school shall be occupied and used in accordance with the directions of the local education authority, so, however, that they shall not be occupied or used except for the purposes of the school or for any purpose connected with education or with the welfare of the young for which the local education authority desire to provide accommodation on the premises.…
So long as it is being used for educational purposes the Amendment I propose does not affect it. But in these country schools especially—I am not so familiar with the use to which schools are being put in London—the school is the one and only place where evening meetings are held. The members of the Farmers' Institute, for instance, will come tramping into that school at 6 or 7 p.m. It is used with any meeting in connection with the village. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] The school should be sacred to the use of children. There should be another building for such gatherings. There should be, in every village, a village institute. My point is that the school should be used for educational purposes for the children and should not be used for general public purposes.
I know, Mr. Williams, and my remarks were addressed to you. My view is not based on my own experience only but on the evidence tendered by doctor after doctor giving their description of the health of the school children, and every one of them saying that one of the things we ought to avoid was the use of the school for purposes other than the education of the children. They think it affects the condition of the premises to which the children have to come—a dusty place. One has only to go into these country schools—
If they say they have nowhere else to go why use the school? Why not use the church? That horrifies hon. Members at once. [An HON. MEMBER, "No."] Very often Nonconformist chapels are used, quite rightly, but these small schoolrooms should be kept for the children and for no other purpose. They are designed for the children, and in the interests of the health of the children, which is the thing that matters. They should be kept clean, sanitary, airy, entirely for the children, and not put to uses for which they were not built or intended. I quite agree that up to the present, where there have not been the amenities in the country districts which ought to exist, halls should be built. There ought to be village institutes where the people can meet. Now that we are starting to raise the standard of the school—the type of the building—it should be kept for the children. If we go to this great expense to build a new type of school, then build it for the children and not for the adults. If they want their own institute, or hall or whatever it is, that should be built separately. That is the whole point and I hope it commends itself to the Government.
Perhaps if my hon. and learned Friend, who has shown himself so businesslike, realises the significance of the Amendment he would not press it but would let us get on with some other points. What he has in mind is very important. It is desirable that the children should not be crowded out of their small schools by people who want it for other functions. That has sometimes been the case in the past, because the school is the only available place. On the other hand, some of the most remarkable schools in the country, the country colleges, are deliberately built in order to be centres of social life and to take the place of the medieval centre of the village, which was the church. I hope the schools of the country will stand up to the challenge themselves, and not be frightened of becoming nuclei of village life. That does not mean we want the classrooms crowded with people wearing dirty boots. The effect of this Amendment would in fact be to remove from the purview of the foundation managers, the use of the school on Saturday and Sunday, because the position is that the school in the later part of the Clause is made available for local authority use during the week. If the hon. and learned Member persisted in his Amendment he would have dirty boots in the week, and no Sunday school on Sunday, and the Sunday school on Sunday is just the one thing which is being reserved to the foundation managers in addition to the provision for doctrinal teaching. This is an example of the fact that the best of intentions may lead to results which are not desired. As that is the result of that Amendment I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member wishes to pursue it. I am sure that that does not represent the whole of his intention.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes:
There is another aspect of this matter regarding the use of schools for non-school purposes which has not been touched on by the Minister and which may properly be referred here. I do not go all the way with my hon. and learned Friend in the question of the use of the school for other than school purposes, but there was one slip in the Minister's speech when he said that what was preserved to the foundation managers was the use of the school on Sunday. I would point out to him that there is also reserved to them, subject to the requirements for religious purposes, control in the use of the school on Saturday. Those of us who know the country know very well that Saturday night is the most popular night of the whole week for a large range of social and serious purposes. I am concerned to see that, whatever the period of use of the school for non-school purposes, it shall be freely and fairly open to every social and other activity, without respect to denomination. It is most important that this should be so. I could easily raise considerable feeling in the Committee if I quoted some of the instances of one-sided exercise of control of existing school premises.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes:
Sub-section (2) says:
If the local education authority desire to provide accommodation for any purpose connected with education or with the welfare of the young and are satisfied ….
I suggest that those words of limitation would exclude the possibility of classes, such as are given in my little village now, in musical instruction. In any event, there are words of distinct limitation in Subsection (2), and it would be very difficult to bring in some of the social gatherings that are held on Saturday nights. What about the whist drive, which is quite a popular institution in many parts of the country on a Saturday night, connected with which there are often a few musical items, or even a political speech, which might or might not be educational? But very great importance is attached by those who organise events in connection with which these things are arranged to getting the only available building, and I ask the Minister to reconsider this matter, to see that, so far as Saturday night is concerned, there is equality of opportunity, so that on Saturday night the school shall be free and open for everybody, like the door of the Ritz, without regard to denomination. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give some indication of his readiness to see equality of treatment extended.
The answer is that the whist drive would presumably be organised by the managers, or under their auspices; and, as this is a controlled school, the majority of the managers would be appointed by the local education committee. Thus, you could have a whist drive on Saturday night, and all the music you wanted, without getting into trouble under the Clause.
Now that the Minister has made it quite clear that he is seized of the very point that I wanted to raise, namely, the need to protest against the misuse of the school, and as I can well understand that I have drawn the Amendment much too widely, and that it would have the effect of limiting the educational centre which we all want to see, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I will let the Committee into a secret, by saying that I find it difficult to accept this Amendment, but that I shall be able to meet the hon. Member a little later, on the next Amendment in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton)—to leave out "appointment, dismissal," in line 3, and to insert "number."
The Minister has now agreed that these schools shall be used on Saturdays and Sundays for purposes other than education. I want to know what provision there is that the authorities can charge for heating, cleaning, and lighting on those occasions. It is our custom now to allow these schools to be used, but we invariably make a charge to cover the initial cost of the lighting, cleaning and heating of the schools. In the Bill there is no provision for that, and I would like an assurance from the Minister that there will be power for the authority to make those claims, as in the past. That is perhaps the only point I had better raise, because I was not fortunate enough to be able to move my Amendments.
I want to refer to something that was said by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes). He drew attention to the possibility that the managers of the school would adopt a somewhat militant attitude as regards Saturday nights, and my right hon. Friend, quite rightly, pointed out that the majority of the managers would be appointed by the local education authority; so, if the hon. and learned Member's fears were based on ecclesiasticism, they were, one hopes, misplaced. But he was, I think, making a point of substance, that if this Clause, determining the use of controlled schools, is to work satisfactorily, it depends entirely on a relationship of good will being established between the local education authority and the managers of the schools. Otherwise, as he said, there might be trouble on Saturday nights; also, it might operate the other way round. There is, unfortunately, a certain number—a very small number—of local education authorities which are militantly hostile to Church schools of any kind. One cannot tell whether there will be a hangover of that in the case of the controlled schools. It would be an unfortunate thing if that attitude were to lead the local education authority to refuse, as a matter of principle and policy, any and every application by the managers of the school for the use of the school on any weeknight except Saturday. That was the reason underlying an Amendment of mine, which was not called. Somehow or other we have to ensure that there will be a friendly relationship. My own view is both that the managers should pay attention to the wishes of the village on Saturdays, and also that the managers should be regarded by the local education authority as not being in quite the same position as any other claimant, but as having a stronger claim than others, when application is made for the use of a school by them on a weeknight. I am glad that the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen nods his head, because it is only by good and practical relationship like that that we can make the Clause work.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not be able to satisfy my hon. and learned Friend who sits behind me. The Committee will recall that, when we discussed the question of electoral reform, views were expressed in all parts of the House that it might be possible for local authorities to place schools at the disposal of candidates during a General Election.
I was aware of what was in my hon. Friend's mind, but if his proposal was carried out, it would cover a far larger area of consideration than was present in my own mind and that of my hon. Friend. Therefore, before we agree to a restriction of that kind we ought to bear the other considerations in mind.
Is there any reason why the managers or governors of a school should not be entitled to determine the uses to which a school should be put upon any week day during periods of school holidays?
I am neither a member of the Church of England nor a Roman Catholic, but I would like to add a word to what has been said about the use of school premises not only on Saturday and Sunday nights, but also on other days of the week. I understand that as the Clause is framed it would be impossible for managers to authorise the use of a school on any night other than Saturday or Sunday unless the purpose was connected with education or the welfare of the young. I approve of the uses to which these schools are put on evenings during the week. They are, in many cases, the centre of community life in village and town. That is so not only in regard to one denomination but all denominations, to mention the Mothers' Union alone. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether it would be possible, with certain safeguards, to allow schools to be used on any evenings during the week, if they were cleaned up afterwards. It would be of great benefit to the community.
The position as stated by my hon. Friend is not really too bad. There is a distinction between those responsible for letting the school for different purposes. In the case of managers the school can be used for the purpose desired, and when it is an authority it can be used in the interests of the welfare of the young, and between them they cover the whole of life. Therefore, the anxiety which my hon. Friend expresses should not worry him unduly. I will pay attention to what has been said after reading the thing over again. I do not think any new point has been made.
The point of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) is met by the definition of "maintenance" in Clause 103 (2, a). He may rest assured that under that definition the sort of expenses like those which he fears might be forced upon the authority are not expenses of the school, and as such cannot be charged legitimately to the authority. We had looked into that before he raised it, because we were anxious that the authorities should not have extra expense put upon them. The Committee, as apart from these particular points, discussed everything except the point raised by the hon. Gentleman who sits opposite. He asked whether in a non-school period—a holiday period—a school can be used? The answer is, that it can be used by the authority, but under the definition, namely, "welfare of the young," it could be used for youth purposes or anything else. The Clause is drafted in a way which has met the views of hon. Members, and I hope that it will be possible for us to have the Clause.
The use of a school in the evening has been defined as for the purposes of welfare or education connected with the young. I will give an instance. I knew of a village school 15 years ago which was more full after the official hours of school than when technically open. It had a wonderful schoolmaster, and the children used to come back in the evenings, and the grown-ups used to join them in the school, which was the centre for arts and crafts in the village. It produced a school magazine. Parents used the school in the evening.