I am sure it will give great pleasure to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to have an opportunity of debating education for a second time in recent weeks. On this occasion we enjoy a double advantage. The Report of the Minister for 1949 is available to hon. Members and as we have already had a debate recently in which some major administrative problems were discussed, we may, for once, be able to get to the heart of the matter, and talk of education itself. As the Minister said in his speech in the House on 4th May:
I have never yet been able to succeed in this Chamber in making a speech on education. I hope some day to have the opportunity of doing SO.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 1933.]
I am sure that many Members sympathise with those sentiments and they may perhaps take up the challenge today. To allow them to do so, I shall be as brief as possible, although the temptation to range widely, offered by the Report, is considerable.
One feature of the Report which I shall come to later is the inclusion of an assessment of the quality of education, as seen by the "eyes and ears" of the Ministry —the Ministry's inspectors—to whose work a chapter is devoted for the first time in almost 30 years. Other items recorded in the Report which I may perhaps note in passing, although I have no time this afternoon to discuss them, are the gradual closing of the Further Education and Training Scheme which had, by March this year, accounted for over £40 million in the task of making up the backlog in higher education resulting from the war; the general increase in the numbers engaged in technical, commercial and art education, often, unfortunately, in the face of adverse physical conditions; the steady development in part-time day release of young workers, the total number reaching 224.000 in 1949; and lastly, the continued pressure on accommodation in primary and secondary schools, the school population increasing by 170,000 during the year.
I suggest that the overall picture is one of continual development in almost every sphere of the Department's responsibilities. It is one of a fight against odds to meet the needs of a steadily rising demand. In spite of all the difficulties—and they are considerable—what progress there is to report is encouraging.
I turn to a subject of major importance which has attracted a good deal of attention in the past few years—the relations of central to local government. As this Report which we are discussing today records, in January, 1949, there was set up the Local Government Manpower Committee, with the following terms of reference:
To review and co-ordinate the existing arrangements for ensuring economy in the use of manpower by local authorities and by those Government Departments which are concerned with local government matters; and to examine in particular the distribution of functions between central and local government and the possibility of relaxing departmental supervision of local authority activities and delegating more responsibility to local authorities.
The Committee, which included representatives of Government Departments and of local authorities, appointed subcommittees to examine local government
services supervised by different Departments. We are mainly concerned here with the Report of the Ministry of Education Sub-Committee.
I hope the House does not expect me to examine the recommendations of the Committee in detail, but there are two points on which I should like to comment. First, my Department have under constant review their relations with local authorities, so that certain of the recommendations of this Committee were in fact anticipated. For example, in the all-important field of building, where speed is essential, and obviously grows more and more important, we have streamlined our procedure considerably over the past two years. Formal scrutiny of plans has given way to informal consultation at every possible stage, and in October last what might be described as the first "manual of guidance"—Building Bulletin No. 1, relating to primary schools—was issued. Building Bulletin No. 2, relating to secondary schools, has now been published. Further manuals of guidance, not only on building but on other important aspects of administration, will follow in due course.
I think it is probably true to say that relations between the Department and the authorities have never been better, but that is not to say that there is not considerable room for improvement. Indeed, I am far from satisfied that we understand each other, or that the public understands either of us, as well as should be the case. My postbag—and no doubt the postbags of hon. Members—shows a considerable proportion of individual appeals against local decisions, and this suggests to me that, if we are not simply to re-direct the present volume of correspondence instead of diminishing it, the greater independence of authorities will have to be followed by a further drive to ensure a better understanding between authorities and their customers—and the customers of the authorities and the Department, we must never forget, are the parents and the children themselves.
We might perhaps take some comfort from the fact that the recommendations of the Committee were not more drastic. This has rather surprisingly been the subject of criticism in some quarters on the grounds not only that a mountain has laboured and brought forth a mouse, but that this result was inevitable given the initial assumptions about the relations between Minister and authority laid down in the Education Act, 1944. The answer to this is that the Committee were quite free to recommend changes in the law where they thought it necessary, and, in fact, they did so on a number of points.
Since there was full representation both of authorities and Department on the Committee, each completely free to make recommendations, we may legitimately draw the conclusion that, however many rough edges remain to be smoothed—and there are certainly enough to prevent any complacency on our part—there can be little fundamentally wrong with the relations of central and local government in the educational field at the present time.
No debate on education would be possible today without some mention of the subject of building, and in referring to it I should like to make particular mention of the question of standards, which has given rise to some comment in the House and in the country in recent months. We are now in a position to say for the first time that, provided the general situation does not affect our present plans, we are within sight of providing 1,150,000 new school places between the beginning of 1947 and the end of 1953. There is a qualification to make here, that in all parts of the country we may not have all the places that are immediately required, that is to say, we cannot guarantee that all these new places will be provided at exactly the time and the place at which they are needed. But the lag seems likely to be small if the present momentum of the building programme is maintained.
We can only do this if the cost per place is kept down strictly to the limits announced last autumn. These represent a saving on average net costs in 1949 of about 121 per cent. for 1950 and 25 per cent. for 1951. So far progress is, I think, encouraging. The maximum net costs allowed for this year are £170 for primary and £290 for secondary schools. The most recent returns show that the average net costs of schemes submitted so far this year are £158 for primary and £276 for secondary schools. Indeed a few authorities are already designing schools at the 1951 cost levels.
The comment in regard to this problem is about the possibility, under this reduc- tion per place, of lowering standards. In fact, one of the most striking features of post-war building has been that some of the cheapest schools have also been the best. What we are now trying to do is to get the best practice more generally adopted and to help local education authorities to get better value for money.
One reason why many 1949 schools were too expensive is that the floor area per pupil was high. This happened not because the essential elements in the school, such as the hall, the gymnasium or the classrooms, were larger than they should be or because there were too many of them, but because, for example, a number of architects were using much more space than they need in the form of corridors and the like merely to link up the essential elements. For 1950 we have not asked for more changes than this, except for some reductions in the cloakroom and sanitary accommodation. which experience has shown—one has seen many examples of this overgenerosity—was too generous.
For 1951, there will be no significant reductions in the minimum areas prescribed for teaching purposes in primary schools, though the regulations will be altered to remove a number of anomalies revealed by experience and to allow local education authorities more flexibility in the planning of their schools. So there is no truth in the suggestion that we have stopped authorities from providing in 1950 or 1951 teaching accommodation which they would have been allowed to provide in 1949. Indeed so long as the cost limits are not exceeded. authorities will now be allowed—as they were not before—to provide more than the minimum. And we know that there are cases when this can be done.
Turning for a moment to secondary schools, there will be some reduction in the teaching areas, but again, I suggest, nothing essential will be lost. Under the present regulations a number of separate rooms, in addition to the ordinary classrooms, are prescribed for several of the specialist subjects, with the result that secondary schools contain several more rooms where a class can be taught than there are classes. Under the new regulations, it will be possible to design rooms which can be used, with practically no loss of amenity to the teachers or to the children, for more than one purpose, thus reducing the total number of rooms which have to be provided. This does not mean that the schools will be cramped for space; in a school with 20 classes, there can still be 26 rooms where classes can be taught.
I hope that we can persuade authorities away from the idea that the new cost limits require cut-down or austerity versions of an ideal post-war school. The best results are being obtained by those authorities who start not from a 1949 preconception but from first principles. That is what the Building Bulletins, which I have mentioned, are intended to encourage them to do. One last point. I hope that the new regulations and administrative arrangements, which allow much more freedom and flexibility than the old, will be fully exploited by the local authorities.
We do not oppose standardisation. I know that there are contrary views about this matter, not only in regard to school buildings but in regard to houses and other buildings. My right hon. Friend and the Department are prepared to be imaginative about standardisation because we know that it can play a most useful part in the urgent need for supplying the new buildings required. We believe that it will do so only if it takes the form of a design of relatively small components which can be assembled in a wide variety of ways. In this form it is already making a striking contribution to quality in school buildings. I have had the good fortune, as has my right hon. Friend, of seeing many examples of what can be done with standardised buildings ranging around a small courtyard, or among trees in the school grounds, or even on the edge of a tar-macadamed playground.
There is another aspect of this Report, and a problem arising from it, which have had considerable comment in the House and outside. Perhaps I may be pardoned for saying a few words about this problem, which is, the unemployment of men teachers. Since the last Debate, this problem has loomed very large in the minds of those actively interested in education. As a Minister who has been very much involved with the emergency training scheme since 1945, I can say that it has caused not only my right hon. Friend but myself a considerable amount of thought. If we turn to the Department's Report, we shall see that the staffing ratio in the schools was still improving up to January, 1949. This improvement has continued. The Report also shows that many over-large classes were still continuing. There is no doubt that many of those over-large classes still remain. So the question that has to be asked is this: How is it that any qualified teachers can find difficulty in getting jobs?
First, let me state—although it is not of much consolation to the individual teacher to hear it—that this is not a large problem. There are at the moment about 225 men still without posts for the coming academic year, but 155 of these men finished their courses in the second half of May or during the month of June this year. These figures need to be compared with more than 2,400 men who left the emergency training colleges between December, 1949, and the present time, and with the total of 20,000 men who have so far been trained under the emergency training scheme and who have been placed in jobs without difficulty, among a total of nearly 80,000 men teachers at work in the schools.
The problem, with those figures as a background, is a marginal one. It arises partly from the fact that relatively large numbers of men have been seeking appointment at the same time in the same areas, and partly from the difficulty which some of the men find in moving to areas where they are needed. That is, as every Member of the Committee knows, a really vital social problem, not only in the teaching profession but in other professions, where more mobility of labour is wanted in the taking of jobs. You cannot at one and the same time effect a great improvement in staffing conditions in the schools and also expect anyone to get a job wherever and whenever he wishes. In many parts of the country, schools are so well staffed compared with even a short time ago that this in itself would make difficulties for some individuals seeking posts.
It is because of this that we have sent to local authorities a circular explaining that we are now concerned with the very last stages of the emergency training scheme. In this circular, as many hon. Members will have noted, we give details of the men and women who will be available from the last emergency courses and advise them now and in the autumn to plan their staffing with an eye not merely to the immediate needs but to the needs of the coming school year as a whole. Only if they do this and if they will increase the proportion of men teachers to at least 60 per cent. of all teachers of seniors and 40 per cent of all teachers of juniors, can we hope to meet the needs of the country as a whole over the coming year.
It is already clear that the great majority of local education authorities will gladly accept their share of added responsibility. We have little doubt that when the position is generally appreciated they will take steps to make effective use of all the teachers that become available. We have asked all authorities to increase the proportion of men teachers employed, because the examples of many authorities have already shown that the proportions that we are suggesting are reasonable and because we are satisfied that this is the only way to meet the increasing needs of the schools over the next few years.
My right hon. Friend and myself are well aware that this view of the problem cannot bring immediate consolation to the individuals who are seeking jobs, but I hope I have shown in some degree that we are prepared to do everything in our power to persuade the authorities—indeed many of them require no such persuasion—to take in those who have finished their courses and to look ahead and not to think of recruitment only from the point of view of immediate needs.
Another aspect of education which the Report for 1949 emphasises is that we have responsibilities outside England and Wales. May I refer, therefore, for a few moments, as the Minister responsible in some degree for the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, to the conference in Florence which has just ended? I have no hesitation in stating, from some five or six years' experience of this organisation in the early stages of the Treparatory Commission and since the organisation was established in Paris at the conference of 1946, that the existence of this organisation which has attained a membership of 59 States three and a half years after its inception, 43 of which have established national commissions, is a major achievement in international cooperation. I am convinced that in the existence of such organisations as this lies one of the chief hopes for the future of mankind.
To meet the criticism that one reads, particularly in the Press, about U.N.E.S.C.O., I need hardly remind hon. Members that, as a member of the United Nations, we take on responsibilities for work through its specialised agencies. It is for that reason that my right hon. Friend and the Department have some responsibility as the Government Department most nearly concerned with this specialised agency of the United Nations, U.N.E.S.C.O. If I may summarise briefly the achievements since 1946, I would make the following points, without pretending to cover the wide and effectual work which the Organisation has done in many parts of the world. In this summary I place the organisation of international seminars and conferences, the establishment of new voluntary international associations for the purpose of forming links between professional people in different countries in the world of music, political science, economics, comparative law, and so on.
One could refer to the most important educational advisory missions sent last year to the Philippines, Thailand and Afghanistan at the request of the Governments of those countries, and to meet further requests, further missions have been organised for 1950 to Bolivia, Burma and India. One saw a little at the conference at Beirut of the beginning of the scheme of education for Arab refugee children in the Near East. Without the development of that scheme under U.N.E.S.C.O. tens of thousands of these Arab refugee children would have received no education at all. There is no doubt that U.N.E.S.C.O. has done a great job of work in developing this educational system for the refugee children in the Middle East.
I cannot say that, because the scheme is not yet finished. Thousands of children are still being taught until decisions are made as to where eventually their families are to live.
One final point I would add to this summary is the value of the U.N.E.S.C.O. book coupon scheme whereby 375,000 dollars worth of coupons have been sold, enabling scholars, teachers, scientists and others all over the world to buy books principally from hard currency countries. Although there may be some who may be critical of this item being mentioned in a Debate of this kind, I think the Organisation is worthy of the attention of hon. Members being called to its activities, and in any case it is certainly a part of our responsibility.
I come now to what is to me, and I know to many other hon. Members, intrinsically the most important section of the Report—that concerned with what actually goes on in the classroom. What I have been discussing previously is, after all, only the means to this end; the work of the classroom is, in the last resort, what really matters. As the Report points out, the quality of the education provided cannot be measured by any single yardstick; personal judgments, involving personal values, are bound to enter to some extent; but at least we can record changes in practices and attitudes, and leave it as a matter for personal decision whether the change is for the good or for the bad.
Personally, I am in no doubt that the changes indicated in the Report show considerable progress towards a happier and more useful school life for our children. For example, in primary schools, in the infants' department, one of the inspectors reporting upon work done has this comment to make:
Teachers are beginning to think more of the children's day, of children as growing beings, and of themselves as observers and acclimatisers.
Again, in another report:
The infants' schools are brighter, more progressive and more positive places than I believe they have been for many years.
I may add that this comment bears out my own observation in visits to many primary schools in many parts of the country since 1945.
Much the same tendencies are to be observed in primary schools which are passing through a transitional period. An inspector comments:
They are emerging from the traditional practices of the all-standard school and building up a life of their own. A more liberal curriculum is taking shape, in which there is
a shift of emphasis from the teacher teaching to the children learning.
The arts (painting, movement, drama, music) are now more and more regarded as an Important part of the education of young children; this is especially true of painting. Very slowly but perceptibly poetry is ceasing to be something learned by heart once a week, and very occasionally children even write their own.
A third comment from this section on the primary schools as a whole is the following:
In urban primary schools the children are more purposefully occupied than they used to be, more attention is being paid to the development of children as individuals, their growth in experience and in the grasp of the art of living and the business of living in a community is more apparent, and their education, in the widest sense, is much richer and more coherent than that of children before the war.
The central theme is the same throughout. It is, in effect, that the child is at last coming into his own and is being recognised as a personality in his own right.
It is in secondary schools that the effects of wartime evacuation interruption of schooling, absence of men teachers on war service—are still most acutely felt, and the changes brought about by the 1944 Act, which established the principle of free secondary education for all, have established much heart-searching and reorientation of ideas in what have now become secondary modern, secondary technical and secondary grammar schools. The secondary modern schools have shown great vitality in their struggle against adverse physical conditions to establish their own traditions. To quote again from the section on the quality of education, one inspector says:
The pupils here are regarded as important young people whose needs must be the paramount consideration of the school, if proper growth is to be secured. The school is a place, therefore, where interests are to be exercised as independently as possible, the freedom of choice extending often to goal as well as to means of reaching it.
Again we see the emphasis on relating the education of the child to his everyday experience and of introducing him to the joys of creative activity.
The secondary grammar schools have perhaps been least fundamentally affected by the 1944 Act. It could not be expected that they should altogether escape the effects of a change in the organisation of the educational system, and they have had, and are having, trials and difficulties, particularly in regard to the teaching of mathematics and of science. But there can be no question that their prestige, based on a fine tradition of sound learning, is as high as ever, and the general growth in the size of sixth forms, combined with more liberal educational philosophy—the effect of which in other schools we have already noted—shows that the grammar schools are not behind in meeting the challenge of the day.
It is not the business of education to produce great men; they will require guidance and inspiration in youth, but on the whole they have the facility of looking after themselves. It is the business of education to make the main contribution to the building of great societies. Looking at contemporary society and thinking of the educational needs of our children, we are aware, whether we like it or not. that this century is feeling the full impact of applied science. The world of tomorrow is one in which that impact will become more and more apparent. In other words there has been, particularly in the last 10 years, and will continue to be, an extraordinary concentration upon invention.
No longer dependent upon the appearance of genius, the lives of today and tomorrow are to be more and more affected by the team work of highly-specialised, highly-trained talents and skills, in management as well as in the laboratory. No jobs our children are to do and thereby earn their living remain uninfluenced by this rapid and astonishing change. Indeed, I suggest that the reverse is the case. Managers, artisans, designers, workers of all kinds, must be equipped to face circumstances which are ever changing. That means the need in every individual for adaptability. An educational system such as we have, flexible in curriculum and as free as possible from central control or any hint of dictation as regards curriculum, is the only means whereby this adaptability can be secured.
The day-to-day jobs of our youngsters leaving school will demand higher and higher degrees of skill by the time they reach the age of 20, but they will be superseded by new skills required for new processes by the time they are 40. Whole industries as we know them may have been superseded by others before this century has gone another 25 years. Educationalists must always be looking forward and preparing for adjustments to our educational system which will meet changing national and social needs and conditions
Specialisation only comes from a narrow education. Specialisation with adaptability comes from a consistently liberal education of which it is but a feature. It has its own contribution to make to that liberal education. In my view, a liberal arts background makes a technician more resourceful, more flexible, more imaginative, and more adaptable in the approach to his job. It is because specialisation comes early—and I am prepared to meet that as a criticism of our system—and prevents the majority of our children from getting an education that makes for a delight in observation, delight in reasoning and delight in beauty, that for some 20 years I have pleaded for a new approach to the school curriculum.
The section in the Report on the quality of education gives me personally, and I hope other Members of the Committee, new hope. New ideas and new methods, especially in the primary and modern schools, are earning a rich reward. The service of the teachers in this remarkable experimentation that has been taking place, particularly in the primary school and, in the old days, in the old central or senior schools, cannot be over-praised or over-rated.
It is for the House of Commons, year by year, whatever may be its political complexion, to insist that Fisher was right when he said some 30 years ago:
It is not a question whether we can afford so much education, hut whether we can afford so little.
Ignorance and apathy are the most debasing of luxuries. Only a boldly planned educational system can eradicate them from our national life.
Although I have been in the House of Commons now for over 21 years, I have never yet made a speech on education, so that I almost feel I should use the time-honoured formula of claiming the indulgence of the Committee. I comfort myself, however, with the sentiment in the old Chinese proverb, which says that if people only spoke when they were competent to do so, the world would be filled with a profound and dignified silence.
I have listened to many debates on education and my impression of them is the same as that expressed by the Minister himself on the last occasion—namely, that one hears very little about education in them but a great deal of time is devoted to the vast and complicated organisation which has grown up around the modern schoolboy and schoolgirl.
Even the delightful speech of the Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon was for the most part not concerned with education at all. We were told a great deal about some very interesting other topics, about central and local government, about building bulletins and manuals of guidance, and about the Manpower Committee, and at one time I thought that the hon. Gentleman was getting as far away as he could from education by taking refuge under the umbrella of U.N.E.S.C.O. and fleeing to the Philippines or Afghanistan. There is no doubt that it is inevitable that we should give attention to the apparatus of education. I do not myself criticise the hon. Gentleman for devoting so much of his interesting speech to those topics, but I should like to try to say a word or two about education itself and the Minister, apparently, wishes to touch on that subject, however lightly, during the course of a speech which he will make later in the evening.
The subject of education is both comprehensive and multilateral, and it requires some study to master even the strange and specialised language in which alone it can apparently be discussed. Of course, there are many angles from which one can approach so vast a theme. One's view of the purposes of education must largely be conditioned by one's view of the society for which it is preparatory.
The feature of society as I see it, to which I would refer today, is the immense variety of the callings and occupations to which people devote their lives. I remember that in the months before the recent war I was responsible for a document called the Schedule of Reserved Occupations. These were, the Committee will remember, civilian occupations which were judged to be so essential to the waging of modern war that those engaged in them could not be called up, or even be permitted to volunteer for civilian or National Defence.
I think that every teacher should have a copy of the Schedule of Reserved Occupations. It would bring home to his or her mind, as it did to mine, how ignorant one is of what other people actually do. In that list were hundreds of occupations of which I had never previously heard, and as I had to decide departmental disputes about them I had to find out what they did. It was a profound education. Vast and bewildering as were the number of occupations in the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, it was limited to only a very small corner of human activity and led me to believe that the whole picture of human activity in a modern community can never be grasped in all its detail by any one man.
What makes people go in for such a great variety of callings? We all know lads who at an early age have apparently shown a partiality for some particular calling and they remain true to it throughout life. It may be the sea, or gardening, or engineering, or any one of thousands of other crafts. These early choices are almost inexplicable and must arise, in my judgment, from subtle variations of temperament which exist in the child and make one view of life and one form of activity more attractive to him from an early age than another. I should regard it as one of the prime ingredients of happiness in this mortal life that a man should have the work that really suits his temperament.
As it says in the Interpretation Act, I believe, "Man embraces woman."
It is very important to our educational system that we should constantly have in mind this immense variety and the necessity of providing as ready an access as we possibly can to the work that suits the man. Not only is it important for the individual that he should have work which satisfied his own nature, but it is also very important for society that the many kinds of work should be accessible to the people who are growing up, because if we were all university dons or journalists or Members of Parliament, we should very soon starve.
It is, therefore, a very happy feature of our educational system that it relies so much on local administration. Like our climate, our soil, and indeed our people, the localities of England and Wales are blessed with an abundance of variety. There are even differences—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—between the neighbouring counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire—
—and it is right that these local idiosyncrasies should not have to be sacrificed to any central passion for uniformity. I would view with misgiving any attempt by any central decree to interfere with local authorities in their exercise of educational responsibilities. As far as England and Wales are concerned, I believe that many cooks do not spoil the educational broth.
There is in paragraph 6 of the Report a description of the forces which are relied upon in this country to prevent this variety going so far as to sacrifice a common culture. These are, in brief, the role of the great profession of teachers, the influence of the training colleges and the objectives set by external examinations of various kinds. These are very powerful forces and I think they are so powerful and impressive that they require watching to see that even they do not pinch the growing child too tightly.
As an example of what I mean in regard to external examinations, I would refer to the Grant Regulation which forbids the entry of a child for an external examination before it has reached the age of 16. I am aware that this Regulation arose from the recommendations of a powerful Committee and I criticise it with due deference, but it has always seemed to me to be wrong in principle. With the best will in the world I cannot see how any gain from the examination can compensate for its obvious and undoubted disadvantages. When this was discussed in the House on 28th July, 1948, the right hon. Gentleman said:
The selectors of the Test Team do not pick the players for the Test Match on their averages of a couple of years ago—it may be that it would have been a good job if they had. They look at what the players did last week. In a like manner it is not what the individual knew at 14 years of age that matters, but what he or she knew at 16 plus or 17, when going on to further study or into a profession."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1948: Vol. 454, c. 1448.]
All arguments from analogy are apt to be fallacious and I think this cricketing one is a good example. The true cricketing analogy to this age limit would seem to be if the selectors were to say to the rising young hopes of English cricket, "You must not make a century until you are 21, nor have a chance of playing for your county until you are 25." The undoubted fact is that many children have passed this test at ages well below 16, and I can see no reason why they should not be allowed to do so. Surely the teacher should be the judge of whether the child is fit for the examination.
I am aware that one of the objects of the Regulation is to prevent a child from being crammed at an early age, but I do not think that responsible teachers whom I have met—and I have some experience of them—would indulge in such a foolish practice. But there are children who pass without cramming and with ease, and I think they should be allowed to do so. I know of no case where harm has been done to a child by his being allowed to sit for and pass the examination at an early age. Indeed, I know of cases where the early success has done psychological good to a child by the accession of confidence which comes from "something accomplished, something done." Very often these bright children are inclined to be self-distrustful. They are more imaginatively aware of their own deficiencies very often than the normal child, and early success encourages them to go on to further efforts and fresh achievements.
From what I have read and heard of the utterances of grammar-school headmasters and also of those of public schools, I should imagine there is among them a consensus of opinion against this Regulation. It means serious interference with sixth form work, and the sixth form is often educationally the most valuable part of a child's school life. I think that is the justification for raising the school age. It is the age when idiosyncrasy and personality begin to become apparent. The mind begins to specialise in those activities and modes of thought which determine the individual contribution which the adult will later make to society. The sixth form is a most valuable stage for both pupil and teacher and it seems to me quite wrong that its opportunities should be marred for both pupil and teacher by their having to concentrate on primary subjects whose study could, with advantage to both, be allowed to play a less prominent part, the idea and the object being that more time should be given to those branches of learning in which the pupil is, by temperament, fitted to excel.
If there were not a problem of manpower in our schools, much could be done to mitigate the effect of this Regulation on sixth form work, but that is an unrealistic view to take. In schools where there is an abundant number of teachers, a certain amount can be done, even in spite of the Regulation, to give advice to the child on further reading and objects of study. I am quite sure that where there is a definite shortage, so that the teachers in the sixth form have all their work cut out under the old system, this Regulation works mischief on the work of the school. In support of what I say, I quote the following from page 25, para. 71, of the Report:
In planning their work more teachers now are reported to be taking cognisance of the abilities and aptitudes of the particular children in their care and trying to provide for each to develop as far as he is able.
That is perfectly right.
This change of attitude or broadening of aims is leading to progress in methods of teaching—methods which give individuals scope to go ahead at their own rate, and at the same time give the pupils more responsibility for their own education.
To lay down from the centre that no child, no matter what its attainments may be, is to sit for any external examination until it becomes 16 years of age, is not allowing the child to go forward at its own rate.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that that is exactly what it is doing? When these children become more than 16 years of age, there is no earthly reason why they should not take the examination at a higher level and they need not waste their time in the interim period.
My point is that if the child is forced, when it is in the sixth form, to keep up the certificate standard of arithmetic, etc., which it must have when it sits for the examination, it is prevented from broadening its knowledge, and it wastes its time to an extent which it would not do—
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the child can take the examination at three levels—the ordinary level, the advanced level or the scholarship level, and that the bright boy can at the age of 16 take all the subjects at the scholarship level? He is not kept back in his knowledge at all.
It seems that we are talking about different things. I am arguing against the Regulation that a child is not allowed to sit for any external examination until the age of 16. I think that is a mistake, and that it would be far better educationally—I agree that there may be a difference of opinion about that —to allow a child with natural ability to sit for this examination on these subjects when it can, so that, having that hurdle behind it, the child can use the rest of its school time for specialising in subjects that will be more useful to it for the rest of its time—
Yes, or in preparing for another hurdle. I will certainly come to that point. If the selectors, to return to the right hon. Gentleman's metaphor, want to know—I think that this is the point which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind—what use the bright child has made of his time in the sixth form, having passed the certificate examination at an earlier age, they can always find out. They can look at his averages right up to date, either by further external examination, if that be the way to do it, or by a scrutiny of the work done in some other way.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this matter when he speaks. It is a matter which I know has given a great deal of trouble to many headmasters. Headmasters have spoken to me about it and I have read various decisive denunciations by other schoolmasters, with which the right hon. Gentleman is no doubt familiar. This occasion may give him an opportunity to say what is his view on the subject. I hope that his mind is not closed on this matter.
Two years have passed since the Regulation was made. In that time there has been an opportunity for reflection and consideration, not only by the Ministry and the right hon. Gentleman but also by the schoolmasters, who have been able to envisage more accurately what it will mean to them in the upset of their curricula, etc. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with that point. Anything which is done to prevent a good man in any walk of life from developing his talent for the service of the community cannot he described. to use the words so often used by the Parliamentary Secretary, as a "liberal educational philosophy"; it may be anything else, but it is not liberal.
The general picture of education given in this Report, although it has spots which, no one denies, give ground for some anxiety, provides on the whole cause for encouragement. The chapter on His Majesty's Inspectorate is valuable, not only for the information that it gives but for something which is rare in the pages of a Government publication—it is unusually easy to read. The general impression which I get from the Report and from my own observation over a long term of years is that with the gradual advance of human knowledge, there has been an improvement in the happiness of children at school. I consider that to be a great gain. As I have mentioned the inspectors, perhaps I may be permitted to quote one sentence from a letter which I received from the headmaster of a secondary modern school in my constituency, in which he refers to this better atmosphere. He says:
And how has this been brought about? First, I think, by a new attitude among the members of the inspectorate. At one time they were feared in the schools as ill-disposed and dictatorial snoopers; now the majority of them are welcomed as guides, counsellors and friends.
I thought that the Committee and the inspectorate might like to hear that tribute by a schoolteacher of great experience and public service in my constituency.
The variety of interests now catered for has been greatly extended. This is also a welcome feature. I notice with less pleasure and more misgiving the doubts expressed by some of the inspectors on the standards achieved in the fundamentals or the "three R's." The most fundamental subject for all of us is a grasp of our own mother tongue. The ability to read and write and speak one's own tongue is the gateway to knowledge, which should be as wide open as it can be in every child's mind. Everyone has to read and write these days. Form-filling seems to be becoming a concomitant of human existence on this bewildered planet. The volumes of statistics which are no doubt compiled from these forms—if indeed anybody ever reads them—will lose in authority and value unless those who have to answer the questions can read and understand the complex interrogatories put to them, and can also write down their answers to them in words which are legible and which accurately express what they have in mind.
I was recently speaking, on a social occasion to a senior police officer about recruiting—[Laughter]—I took the precaution of saying that it was on a social occasion. I was speaking to him about police recruitment, and he told me that, while many of the young men now coming forward were of excellent type otherwise, they did not write well enough for policemen. They could not write a simple report about an erring motorist without the most gross blunders in spelling.
We must bear in mind that these young men have suffered, as we all have in some form or other, from the impact of the recent war. Certainly, the requisitioning and evacuation of schools put a heavy additional burden upon our teachers during those years. But while we welcome all these new developments, we ought to do ail we can to make up for lost ground in the fundamentals of school education. It does not seem to me that we have struck quite the right balance between the desirable wider curriculum and the necessity for a foundation with a view to self-education.
We all realise that there are great problems ahead and that our chief anxieties are physical ones, such as the creation of enough school accommodation to prevent over-large classes and overcrowding in schools. On these points the Report gives some useful statistics and today the Parliamentary Secretary has added to what is in the Report. I think he will find general acquiescence from the Committee, and we should do our utmost, with the limited resources at our disposal. to secure as soon as possible, that education will not be hampered by overcrowding or over-large classes. The actual shortages with which we are concerned are bound up with the general economic policy of the Government. It would not be fair to make the right hon. Gentleman entirely responsible for all that.
But when we are thinking about schools let us not forget the human element of the domestic difficulties of teachers arising out of the question of salaries. I know that this matter is under consideration by the Burnham Committee, and I do not think that anyone in this Committee would wish to disturb the established machinery of negotiation. I am sure, however, that all of us would be glad if some expedition in these deliberations could, with propriety, be made possible. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell us when he expects to receive a report from this Committee? I am sure all of us would like to see the anxieties of the teaching profession on this question allayed as soon as possible, so that they may be enabled, without too much worry over their own private affairs, to continue to discharge their great function of handing on the torch of learning and preparing the youth of the nation to be worthy citizens of the future.
I believe that the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) is a Scot, and since all my Scots friends tell me that Scottish education is very different from English education, I must congratulate him on the way in which he has been able to deal in detail with our English educational system. If I do not follow him immediately in all the points he has made, I hope to pick up some of them as I continue with my speech.
I wish to congratulate the Minister on the Report which is issued. If I criticise any part of it I would like my right hon. Friend to realise that I know more has been done about education in the last four years than in any other four years in the history of our country. If there is much more to be done it is because there was so much to do. The Report is an account of many achievements, and had I the time I would like to deal with many of them. But in these Debates, naturally most of the back-bench Members who speak tend to spend their time criticising that with which they do not agree and taking for granted that with which they do. I hope, therefore, my right hon. Friend will realise that if I do criticise some aspects during my speech, I do agree with a great many of the things which have been done and which are contained in the Report.
I am very pleased indeed that the Debate on education today is about education, because, as has already been remarked, education Debates in the past have not been about education but about many other subjects. A great deal has been written about the curriculum and the content of education. We often see rather angry letters in the newspapers demanding to know whether we are getting value for money; and the suggestion that there is something wrong about the schools and the Ministry, or that the local education authorities ought to exercise more control over the curriculum. I believe that in a democracy there is room for great variety in the syllabus in schools and the methods employed.
The Ministry and the local education authority must provide buildings, and we want them all to be good buildings. On Saturday, you, Major Milner, and my right hon. Friend and I were present in your constituency at the opening of a very magnificent school. While we were at that opening I think all of us thought that it was an exception which we hoped would become more generally the rule. But still it was an exception, and while in that really beautiful building, we had in mind that there are so many less beautiful buildings which will probably have to last for 10 to 20 years, and where it is very difficult indeed for the teacher to provide the right kind of education. I do not agree that buildings are unimportant. I consider that buildings are very important, and in our building programme I should like to see much more done in the matter of renovations.
I am not suggesting we should spend public money in rebuilding schools which are to be pulled down within the next few years, but I do suggest that something more could be done with those schools which we know will have to last some 10 to 20 years. I often wonder why it is considered necessary that the oldest buildings should also have the oldest furniture and the oldest equipment. I would like to see some of the new equipment and the new furniture put into the old buildings.
We also must have the right kind of teacher, a teacher who is happy and satisfied and who has not a grudge. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in hoping that we shall get a report soon from the Burnham Committee. I would urge hon. Members, and particularly some hon. Members on the opposite side of the Committee, not to try to assume that this matter can be settled by the Ministry alone. It is, in the first place, a matter for the teachers on the Burnham Committee and the appropriate machinery—
And the authorities. If the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall) knows anything of the Burnham Committee, he knows that the local authorities are represented on it. I am sorry if I omitted that when I spoke about the Committee, but I naturally assumed that it included the local authorities. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we ought to have a basic minimum in the "three R's," reading, writing and arithmetic. I would pay a tribute to infant teachers who have to do this in the initial stages. I spent most of my teaching life teaching children aged 11 to 15, but for six months I was in an infants' school, and I realised the difficulties of teaching, particularly in the initial stages, of reading, writing and numbers. I believe that the curriculum and syllabus should be left entirely to the teachers. It would be a black day for education in this country if either the Ministry or the local authorities were to exercise more control over the curriculum.
Exactly four years ago I was in Russia, and there I had the rather interesting experience of speaking to the Minister of Education. I was naturally eager to see how education in Russia was progressing, because undoubtedly some strides had been made since the Tsarist days. The Government itself exercises control over the syllabus and it is known that at a particular time every child in the same class is doing the same thing. Through an interpreter, the Russian Minister of Education asked me who made our plan. I told the interpreter that I did not understand, and asked him to explain more fully. He explained, and I realised that the Minister wanted to know who it was in England who drew up the State syllabus. I asked the interpreter to tell the Minister that we had no plan. Everybody looked amazed at that reply. But we have no such plan, and I hope that in Britain we shall continue to have no such plan as a State syllabus.
I was not aware of that, but if that is so, I hope that we shall continue to be without a plan. It does not alter the sense of what I said.
We are sometimes asked what is the purpose of education. The purpose of education is to prepare for life. I believe that the mere learning of facts alone is of little permanent value in life. Not long before I left my school, a Ministry of Education inspector asked what I thought was a curious question. He admitted to me some months later when, as a Member of Parliament, I met him in another capacity, that it was his first day as an inspector and he had been scared at entering the schoolroom of one who was a Parliamentary candidate.
He asked the 14-year-olds in a secondary modern school what was the difference between being taught and being educated. I looked at him in amazement, and so did most of the children. Then one bright boy said, "Please Sir. If you are taught, you are taught to repeat things in a parrot-like fashion; but if you are educated you can think for yourself." I have yet to find a better answer than that. Incidentally, in anticipation of something I shall say later, that was an answer from a boy who had failed to pass his scholarship examination at 11 and who was in a secondary modern school, not a grammar school.
Our aim in education is to produce young people who can think for themselves, people who are self-reliant and feel confident to face the outside world. We must produce young people with character who can distinguish right from wrong and who have an ability and a desire to continue their education throughout life. This is of much more importance than learning a collection of facts most of which are forgotten six months after a child leaves school.
I turn to a part of our educational system upon which I am in entire disagreement with the Ministry. My right hon. Friend has probably heard some of this from me before in another capacity and on another occasion. The quality of our education depends to some extent on buildings, on teachers, on the size of classes and on other factors which I have mentioned. But there is another important aspect, and that is what I would call the structure, or pattern, of education. We have raised the school leaving age, and we have abolished fees in secondary schools. These were right and proper actions to take, but our structure, or pattern, has remained almost entirely the same as it was before we put into operation the Education Act of 1944.
In 1926 there was published the Hadow Report. That was held in many quarters to be a great and important event. The Hadow Report said that there was something magical about the age of 11. So much has that view persisted that today all our education ranges round that age of 11. I should like to know why. As a teacher, I do not see anything very wonderful about the age of 11 any more than the age of 8 or 9, or the age of 13 or 14. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or 16."] Yes. I agree that, in the context in which I am speaking, the age of 16 would be better from my point of view than even the age of 11, 13 or 14.
All our development plans are centred round the age of 11. Not only is that the age when children pass from the primary to the secondary school, but it has also become the age at which a child's whole future is irrevocably settled. That is absolutely wrong. To me, and to many of my hon. Friends, this is not a minor point. It is a matter of great importance, a major point when speaking of education. What happens today? The Education Act of 1944 envisaged a new way of allocating children aged 11 into three types of secondary school. In actual fact, that new way has not materialised and in many local authorities we still have the same examination at the age of 10i. If it is not the same examination, it is perhaps an allied one with the addition of something called "intel- ligence" as well as reading, composition and arithmetic.
The effects of this are seen not only in the secondary school stage after the age of 11, but in the primary school. Teachers and parents are still over anxious that their children should pass the examination at the age of 101—and proceed to a grammar school instead of to a secondary modern school. Because of that, we have here an example of an examination at much too low an age. The whole of the primary school stage is governed by the fact that that examination will come at the end of it.
I know that in some places record cards are used, and there are other methods of assessing a child's ability. I can only say that if I were a teacher and were asked to decide which children at the age of 11 should proceed to a grammar school, even without an examination, I should spend some sleepless nights in thinking that I had made tremendous mistakes. There is no valid educational reason for separation at 11. Children are educated together up to the age of 11 in primary schools—in small schools; not great barrack-like buildings—and then suddenly at the age of 11 there is a complete change. The children are separated into three types, categories which never come together again. This builds barriers which last for the whole of their lives.
The Ministry has become three-type minded. Children do not fall naturally into these three types of schools, and they cannot be divided fairly. Even if it was desirable that children should be separated in this way, there is no reliable method of deciding which children should go where. Indeed, in recent tests it has been proved that an examination at the age of 101 or 11 gives a result which is only 12 per cent. better than chance. I want it to be understood that I do not deprecate the modern school. I appreciate that in the minds of parents there is a feeling that if their children do not get into a grammar school they will not get an adequate education.
The modern school is a good school, as far as it goes. In fact, I believe that the grammar school has more to learn from the modern school, than the modern school has to learn from the grammar school—much more. There is this to be said—that the modern school is a full stop. Those who fail to pass the examination to proceed to a grammar school cannot get anywhere beyond the school-leaving age of 15.
I believe there are only two satisfactory solutions to this problem. The first is to have a new grouping of our whole educational system. I would prefer a primary school from five to nine or 10 years, followed by a non-selective secondary school from nine to 10 to 16 years, with many subjects and many courses, and then a higher school, specialising, from 15 to 18 years. I realise that in asking for that at present, I may be asking for the moon, because development plans have already been passed. Therefore, I think the alternative is to have a primary school up to 11, as now, and a comprehensive or common secondary school from the age of 11 onwards and in which children will find their own standards within the school.
There has been some confusion in recent years about the names of schools, and I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke about not knowing the difference between "comprehensive," "multilateral" and so on. In fact, the names have come to mean different things over the last few years. At present, by multilateral school we mean three schools on one site; by comprehensive school, or common secondary school, we mean all children being educated in one building. It is the common secondary school which I favour. I do not like the figure of 2,000 children to a school. I do not believe it is necessary, and I would say to the Minister that there are several cases where local education authorities have put up schemes to the Minister, in which they have provided for comprehensive schools and where the Ministry has said, "We are sorry, but these comprehensive schools are not as big as we would like them to be. Please make them bigger." I do not believe that is right.
We can have the common secondary schools with places for under 1,000, and I do not think we should agree with this figure of 2,000. I would like to ask the Minister to encourage these schools, but he may reply that it is up to the local education authorities. I wish it were up to them, but there is an example of that in the case of a local education authority, which my right hon. Friend knows as well as I do, and which recently submitted a plan containing some 26 schools of this kind. This scheme has been whittled down to three, and the local education authority has been told that these three schools must be larger than the authority had at first anticipated. If my right hon. Friend wishes to see any experiments in this kind of thing, I would suggest that he should not wait for the next 10 or 20 years, but that he should read the Report on Scottish Education which was published some time ago, and should take some examples of what are called omnibus schools in Scotland.
Recently, a director of education said to me that he thought the advantages of the comprehensive school were social and all the disadvantages educational. I do not think that is true. I think there are educational as well as social advantages in having a comprehensive school rather than a three-type school, and I know that, on this side of the House, there is a very great body of opinion in favour of that argument.
I would like to speak on many more subjects, but this particular subject is one on which I feel very strongly. I feel so strongly about it, not merely as a politician, but also as a teacher who has spent some years of her life in teaching children aged between 11 and 15. I believe that not only socially but educationally as well, there is everything to be said for ceasing the separation of children at 11 years of age, and I would, therefore, ask my right hon. Friend to look at this problem again and to say that the Ministry is willing to encourage these schools rather than discourage them, as some of us feel that he has done in the past.
The question of the comprehensive school is one which has given rise to a good deal of discussion in London during the last five years, but the principal point that I want to make this afternoon is that that bone of contention is going to fade into insignificance in London in the next year or two in comparison with a much greater issue which is coming to overshadow it.
I want, frankly and unashamedly, to speak on behalf of the children of London and on behalf of the thousands of parents who, in two or three years' time, will not be able to find room for their children in the schools in London. Let me start with my own constituency, the borough of Hampstead. The education authority calculated that there were about 9,000 children of school age in Hampstead in 1948, and that that figure would have risen to 12,000 by 1953, an increase of 3,000. The building programme of the education authority for 1949 and 1950 gives an increase in school places in Hampstead of only 440. Is it any wonder that farsighted people ask themselves—considering that Hampstead schools were already full in 1948—what is going to happen and what kind of crisis is going to supervene when the post-war bulge of children reaches the schools?
The same type of educational crisis is going to break in 1952 and 1953 all over London. I am concentrating on this great city, because it is the one of which I have the most intimate knowledge, but I am quite sure that other hon. Members will speak similarly from their own experience. The London County Council drew up an educational building programme for 1950 amounting to £9 million, of which £7,750,000 was for school buildings. I am now quoting from the minutes of the London County Council, and the Education Committee's report:
Only through a programme of such magnitude, followed by similar ones in 1951 and subsequent years, would the Council be able to carry out its statutory obligations satisfactorily.
That building programme was sent up to the Minister, who replied that, in accordance with Government policy, he would cut the £7,750,000 to the neighbourhood of £3 million, and, therefore, many of the schools very urgently needed will simply not be there in 1952, unless quite different treatment is to be meted out to London in 1951.
Unless that is done, I calculate that London is going to be short of 30,000 school places in 1952. If I may say so with the greatest respect, this is deplorable for a Government which prides itself on being expert in planning. At the present time, the Minister may have only a few Members of Parliament and politicians buzzing round his head, but I promise him that, in two or three years' time, there will be droves of angry parents who will be wanting to know what the Minister has been doing, if, by any chance, he still holds the same position.
The right hon. Gentleman may reply that the London County Council must accept some part of the responsibility, for not having proceeded much faster with the building of new schools in the years immediately after the war. I agree. He and his friends at County Hall are jointly to blame. But the question I am asking is, what is he going to do now? Is he going to step up the school-building programme? Is it possible for him to do that? If not, I submit to the Committee that, at any rate, it is his responsibility as Minister to face the issue. He cannot pass it off with false logic, like the boy who argued that he should give up learning French because, he said, there was no point in trying to do what the French would always do better.
The Minister is in the position of supreme responsibility here, and, though my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) said he was tied by Government decisions, nevertheless if he is so tied he should be absolutely frank in telling the public what sort of education is going to be available in the schools in these extraordinarily difficult conditions into which we are drifting. Above all—and I think both sides of the Committee will join with me in this—let us not suddenly find ouselves in a crisis as we did over the school dental services, and leave the children for years bearing the brunt of the loss themselves.
Is the Minister going to shut the doors on some of the extra school children, the 30,000 who cannot get in? If not, are more and more children to be pushed into already over-crowded London classrooms? The number of classes in L.C.C. primary schools with over 40 children has already gone up in the last year from 2,050 to 2,220. There we see the danger signal. If that is to be the escape—overcrowding of classes—whatever the Burnham Committee may recommend, teachers will increasingly despair of the job they are called upon to do. Parents will show increasing anger that their children are not gaining from the schools what they sent them to school to get, and the enormous sums which are being spent, and rightly spent, on education will, in fact, bring in less and less return. In London, the education rate already amounts to 4s. 9d. in the pound.
Meanwhile, I suppose, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will continue to lecture us on the virtues of democratic planning, but I beg the Minister in this emergency not to coo to us, in his disarming way, about educational progress. I know that it is unpopular to talk about buildings. One is charged with not concentrating on the content and quality of education. At any rate, I can plead in defence the Minister's own Report, where it says:
It is difficult to assess the relative importance of the many factors that determine the quality of education given in a school, but there would be general agreement that nothing can he more important than to reduce the average size of classes …
Instead of a reduction, what this Committee must envisage as almost a certainty in the next two or three years is a sharp and bitter rise in the size of classes.
Hon. Members may have noticed an admirable letter from Mr. Wechsler in "The Times" the other day. His argument, as I understand it, was that it is not really honest to cut the amenities in new schools, to drop ideas of having libraries, to give up separate dining rooms for new schools and to say that meals must be eaten in classrooms, and then, in the same breath, to aver that this represents no lowering of standards. Let us be frank with the country and with the parents, and admit that what we are being made to do is to drop our sights. We are being asked by the Minister to be content with what all educational opinion, including the Minister's own speeches, in the last few years has told us not to be content with. Even if the right hon. Gentleman spends his days among other Ministers who do sometimes run away from facts, surely it is an essential part of education to face facts. Surely, the Minister of Education, above all other Ministers, ought to set an example in this respect.
There is another direction in which my constituents are expecting the Government to face facts, and that is with regard to the influence and activities of Communists in the educational system. There is a number of Communists—I am not going to exaggerate that number—holding posts in schools. Further, there are men and women coming out of training colleges who have passed under Communist influence, because the Communists were quite skilful enough to see that some of their number were appointed to key posts in emergency training colleges when the war was over. is the Minister proposing to give any guidance to local education authorities on this extremely difficult matter? It is a practical problem and one which we should approach without rancour or emotion.
I do not think that the hon. Member quite appreciates that the Communist attitude of mind is contrary not only to the British tradition of education, but also to the requirements of the Education Act. I frankly do not see how the act of worship, which the Act requires at the beginning of every school day, can be performed in a school where a substantial proportion of the teachers hold the Communist creed, which is not merely indifferent to religion but actively hostile to it.
(Widnes): I should like to ask the hon. Member this question, I myself being an Anglican. Is he in favour of removing from the schools everybody who is an active atheist, and preventing them from teaching in schools?
The hon. Member knows that he and I are both bound by the terms of the Education Act as regards religious tests for teachers. What I am doing is to call attention to a danger. Let me put it in a different way. Section 7 of the Act places on local education authorities the duty to contribute towards the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of the community. Is the ordinary test of truth which a Communist applies consistent with mental development? Is the Communist doctrine that the end justifies the means likely to be beneficial to anybody's moral or spiritual development? I am grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) for saying in her speech that in education we want to endow boys and girls with character, able to distinguish right from wrong. It seems to me to be utterly essential that we should staff our schools wholly with teachers who can do that, and I submit that it is inconsistent with the Communist attitude of mind.
If the Minister will not go as far as some people would wish, and say that we should not have in our schools at all those who do not share the British tradition that freedom matters and democracy matters, may I make three concrete suggestions and ask if he will apply them? First, will he take every opportunity to say, with all the authority of his position, that any parents, or others, who get evidence of Communist teaching or Communist attitudes of mind being spread within school premises should bring that evidence at once to the notice of the head, or a manager or governor of the school, or a member of the local education authority? I believe that is the firmest safeguard of all.
I am willing to give the Minister all the information I have. Secondly, will the Minister request His Majesty's Inspectors to pay particular attention to the quality of the teaching, and particularly the religious teaching, in those schools where it is common knowledge that there are a number of Communists on the staff? Thirdly, will he make his own investigations and come back to the House after the Recess and give us a firm assurance that no member of the Communist Party, no one who is spreading Communist doctrine, holds any post in any teachers' training college?
I apologise for having taken up the time of the Committee for so long. We all wish the Minister success in his high and heavy responsibilities. I have spoken this afternoon of what seem to me the two gravest problems in front of us in London. I suggest that he will not carry out his responsibilities successfully if he handles these two problems timidly.
The Report on Education in 1949, which is before us, contains many features which augur well for the future of education in this country, but I rise particularly to refer to a section of that Report dealing with the status of voluntary schools, to which the attention of the House and the country should be drawn. The Report states:
Some have substantial foundation moneys; others can rely on regular parish income … But the majority of voluntary schools are not so happily placed …
In this country, we are proud of the splendid part that the voluntary schools have played in our educational system. They were the pioneers of education in the dark days when the State had not taken the initiative to give our children the necessary education for future citizenship. Since 1870, with the provision of the provided schools alongside the voluntary schools, the place that the voluntary schools occupy in our educational system has tended to be overlooked, with regard to the part that they played and will continue to play in our system.
I believe that included in a good education is a sound religious education, according to the tenets and principles of the faith held by parents of children who are anxious to bring them up in that faith. One of the greatest things upon which we can pride ourselves in this great country, and which distinguishes us from many other countries in the modern world, is the tolerance which is displayed amongst one section towards the faith of another section of the community. I hope that this tradition, which we have built up after many years of agitation, will continue in full force, and I hope that at the same time, it will be reflected in our attitude towards the voluntary schools, which are anxious to safeguard the consciences of the parents and children of this country. Never was this more necessary than it is today, to safeguard the present and the future.
I come from the great city of Manchester. It is great in many things. It is great for its proud tradition of freedom and toleration. In that great city we have an education committee of which we can be truly proud. It is a model of an education committee. There may be other model education committees, but I am very proud of, and I think the country ought to know of, the splendid work our Manchester education committee is doing, and in particular in relation to the work of the voluntary schools.
How is it that the voluntary schools are so unhappily placed financially? The position is that in years gone by the managers have been bound to collect moneys from the various parishes for the purpose of building their new schools.
These moneys have been collected, and are still being collected, from the poorest section of the community who are determined that, at all costs, their freedom of conscience shall be safeguarded. The position with which we are faced today is rather serious, both from the point of view of the cost of new schools and the alteration of old schools. This burden has grown immensely, not due to the teaching of the faith taught in a particular school, but because of the greater demands for secular education, and because of the vastly increased cost of materials and labour.
I am not suggesting that the work of secular education should not be developed to the fullest degree as adumbrated in the Education Act, 1944; but I am drawing attention to the fact that these additional costs in relation to voluntary schools, in the case of both new and old schools are not due to a particular faith being taught in a particular school. Ministry regulations rightly require central halls, practical rooms, domestic science rooms, physical science rooms, gymnasia and playing fields.
All these are admirable, and are certainly to be welcomed by every section of the community; but, as the Report shows, the fact is that this burden upon the voluntary schools has to be borne in relation to matters which are not covered by the particular faith taught in that school. It means that those people who wish to bring up their children according to their own sacred faith, have to pay twice. They pay in their rates and taxes for the general body of education, and at the same time have to pay out of their savings and earnings for their own school in which their denominational principles are taught.
I want particularly to speak about the position of the Roman Catholics in this country in regard to the 1943 Memorandum. The 1943 Memorandum foreshadowed that the burden would be limited to £9,800,000. Unhappily the situation now is that the cost of the future requirements of that community is estimated at between £50 and £60 million. This is a burden which ought not to be borne when it is in regard to matters which are covered by the general system of education—domestic science, gymnasia and all those things which the State would have had to provide in any event, assuming that that denomination had not taken the initiative and built its own schools. The same position applies with equal force to other denominations and I am today pleading for all equally.
In connection with voluntary schools, there is also the question of displaced pupils. I think there ought to be a more generous interpretation, in the administration of the Act, of the term "displaced pupils" so that it would include displaced families. Under the present administration, in order that a grant may be attracted for a new school, children have to move from an old school in a body. It seems that in that respect, therefore, there is a cramping of the freedom of the individual who wishes to bring up his child as a Catholic or in any other denomination; his freedom to send him to another area is limited because of this very narrow definition of the term "displaced pupil." I hope that in his administration the Minister will see that this definition is extended so as to embody displaced families.
Next, I turn to the question of transport for those who wish to go to their own schools. Section 55 (2) of the 1944 Act simply says that the
local education authority, may pay the reasonable travelling expenses
of a child anxious to go to a school of its own denomination. The fact remains that while some education authorities are tolerant and broadminded enough to take advantage of this facility, which the Section gives, to enable children to receive travelling expenses to go to a school of their own faith, there are other authorities which, in my view, are retrograde and do not give those facilities. As a consequence, there is this sort of disparity between the treatment given to children in one area and the treatment given to children in another area. Section 68 gives the Minister power to prevent the unreasonable exercise of a local education authority's functions, and it seems to me that this is a case in which the Minister could intervene so as to deal with an authority which is not sufficiently enlightened and so as to enable travelling expenses to be given in an area where they have not hitherto been given.
I want to refer also to Section 76 of the Education Act and to parental rights. Parental rights were to be safeguarded in that Section, but we find that the Section is not fully applied in many respects. It was intended to apply, particularly, in respect of the maintenance of children in their own schools, but what we are anxious that the Section should achieve is the maintenance of successful, common entrants to grammar and technical schools whose parents desire them to attend denominational schools of those types in areas outside that of their local education authority, when no such schools are available in the area, as well as, of course, in respect of the general attitude to voluntary schools from a financial point of view.
May I bring to the notice of the Committee the case of one county, Hampshire, where there are no denominational secondary or technical schools so far as Catholic children are concerned. So far as my information goes, when a Catholic boy won a scholarship to a secondary school it was suggested, at first, that he should go to a secondary school provided by the local Hampshire education authority. The boy's parent was anxious that he should go to a secondary school of his own denomination. When a boy is successful in a scholarship in his own school and his parent is anxious that the boy should follow his education at a secondary Catholic school, then I suggest that the Minister and the local education authority ought to place facilities at the disposal of the parent so that he can send his child to a Roman Catholic secondary school, even though it may be outside the area of that authority, where none exists.
Within reasonable distance. As the Minister knows, there are secondary denominational schools of the Catholic faith within a reasonable distance of the county of Hampshire, and other counties, to which the child could be sent.
I have dealt with a number of points about the status of the voluntary school. This Report is a very sound one, but it should not overlook the very dire plight of the voluntary schools and the necessity of maintaining their position securely in our educational system. The Minister is a Lancashireman and in Lancashire we are very proud of George Tomlinson. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] Well, we are very proud of the right hon. Gentleman, but, whilst he is termed right hon. Gentleman, I want him to be a "righter" hon. Gentleman by a more generous interpre- tation, in the administration and approach of his Department to the position of the voluntary school.
There will be other matters which will be discussed later in connection with voluntary schools, but I hope that in his negotiations with the various denominations—and I mean all denominations; I am not confining myself to any one denomination—the Minister will adopt a very generous attitude. We should remember that in the process of education, religious teaching builds character and enables our boys and girls, having imbibed religious education according to the tenets of their own faith, to go out into the world and play a great and noble part. This country has always prided itself, particularly in recent days, on toleration, and I am sure that these children, being loyal and true to their own faith according to their conscience, and having been given the opportunity to be taught their faith free from any handicaps in the schools of this country, will go forward and make a notable and worthy contribution in the years to come.
It is a disgrace that ministers and parish priests should have to go cap in hand and adopt such devices as launching pools and other sorts of gambling in order to raise funds for what ought to be a State responsibility. I hope that in the discussions which will take place the Ministry will show that generous attitude of which we know he is amply capable and will enable these schools to continue to play a noble part in the future as they have done in the past.
I am very happy to have caught your eye this afternoon, Sir Charles, because on the last occasion we had an opportunity of debating education I was one, amongst others, who hoped to make a small contribution. We know now that that resulted in a very prolonged Debate devoted entirely to denominational schools, and it gave many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee the opportunity to redeliver the Election speeches they had made on that subject. Today, it might be said that we have stepped off almost on the right foot, for until the hon. Member for Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) intervened, we had kept almost strictly to education and the content of education. I hope that the small contribution I have to make will not depart too far from that.
I am particularly happy to be able to speak now, because it rounds off a little educational interlude I have had over the week-end. On Friday last, as governor of a modern secondary school it was my privilege to be present when the inspector made his report to the governors after his inspection. This is one of those schools now called modern secondary schools,—which I regarded as a misnomer up till now—which used to be the old central schools. On Saturday, I was privileged to open a beautiful new primary school. This morning I spent discussing visual aids at the Educational Foundation for Visual Aids. This afternoon I have come back to class. I propose to confine my remarks to my experiences over the last few days, but I do not want anyone to think that I shall be so unduly long as to deprive them of the opportunity of getting in their word in due course.
First, let me take my presence at the presentation of the inspector's report on a modern secondary school. I was very pleased to be there to listen to it because of something very pertinent which is not dealt with elsewhere—and as far as I can see it is not dealt with in the Minister's Report—and that is the value of the extra year at school. The general idea on the value of the extra year has been expressed in very uncomplimentary terms. When the raising of the school leaving age was finally decided in 1947, I was one of those who rather thought that perhaps it would be premature to attempt to do it. Indeed, I used what influence I could to endeavour to have it postponed. In the light of events I am happy that the Minister was adamant about it and stuck to his guns, and also to the Act. Mind you, he did not do it, I honestly believe because he thought he could do it successfully. He must have known only too well of the difficulties he had to face, together with the country education authorities, in the immediate years ahead in providing accommodation. But he was quite right.
I, and I suppose many others, have frequently been asked for an opinion as to the value of the extra year at school. As I said earlier, for some time the general opinion was that it was of very little use, but I must say—and I can say it with a great deal of pleasure and with sincerity—that I have now come to the conclusion, after many contacts and much investigation, that the extra year at school is already proving very beneficial. I was particularly interested in that aspect when listening to the inspector's report on this modern secondary school. I had already made many contacts and discussed the question with headmasters and headmistresses throughout my own county, in particular, and elsewhere, and they were practically all of the same opinion—that the extra year at school which they were able to give has proved very valuable.
We all know that to the brilliant child the extra year is of value, but hitherto the important question was: what value will it be to the not so brilliant child? I am very glad to say from my own inquiries that the not so brilliant children—of whom some tens of thousands will be leaving school at the end of this month—will go out into the world, after having had this extra year at school, far finer young men and women than they would have been without that extra year. Now what is the reason for that? I suppose it is within the experience of all hon. Members that the ages of 14, 15 and 16 is a very fast developing period; there are many great changes, not only physical changes but changes in outlook and thought, of boys and girls of 15 and 16. Strangely enough, they come to maturity at very odd times during those years, and I am quite sure that for the ordinary pupil the extra year's teaching he is receiving will be of inestimable value.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) referred earlier to police recruitment, and how it was found that so many recruits were not able to spell, to write or to read. That is a very common experience, and we have been told it particularly in regard to the recruitment of young soldiers. I am hoping that this extra year at school, which is now really beginning to be effective—because, if I may say so, the schools are able to handle it a little more intelligently than they were—should have a profound effect in an improved standard of attainment in the "three R's." That being so, although we accepted this extra year with a great deal of misgiving. I believe that the Minister was right and those who opposed him at that time were not quite so right. I still qualify that by saying that he was not sure whether he was right: but he had to plunge in, which he did with success.
The other side of the picture is that we have been able to make provision to send boys and girls to some of our selected modern secondary schools in which we have been able to start matriculation classes at the age of 13-plus. I can only speak immediately of my own county, but I know that no doubt other areas could tell the same story, and the result has been a striking success. In my own county, we have boys and girls who have taken matriculation at 16, who came from what were the central schools when they were 13 or 13-plus, have had three years in a matriculation class in a modern secondary school, and have passed successfully, and in quite fair numbers. I am very glad to say that many of them are now being trained as teachers. No doubt, that applies to other districts too.
This promotion to the matriculation class at 13 bears out what the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) was saying on that very old and sore subject of the age at which boys and girls should be selected for secondary education; whether it is to be finally 11 or not finally 11. I can tell the Minister that from our experience in my own county—and, no doubt, it is equally the same elsewhere—the age of 11 is not necessarily the right age, but that the age of 13 is the right age.
I hope to be able to convince the Minister of that in the course of another week or so when I have to face him in regard to what is known as the Surrey Plan, in which this particular type of division in the course of education is proposed by my own county, having been able to tell him today of the great success achieved by our modern secondary schools in taking children at 13 where special matriculation classes were provided. That, I think, is a right and proper thing to do. Eleven, and even 13, is not necessarily the right age because changes can take place at any time between. Therefore, in that particular regard I hope the Minister will listen very attentively to me.
As to the content of education, there is praise and condemnation of it in the Report. It is rather fearful. I suppose it is right, however, because if it were all condemnation or all praise, then we should look very suspiciously on the Report. However, it is not very good reading in regard to the standard of education which is really being maintained in our new secondary schools. I think there is no argument about the standard being maintained in these old grammar schools. I think one of the reasons why we are not able to congratulate ourselves particularly on the standard of education in the modern secondary schools is that, apart from the incidence of the war and of all that has happened as an outcome of it—though it is time we should be getting a little over it—the Ministry are not paying sufficient attention to the work in those schools.
I was much impressed by the way the inspectors approached the whole matter. When I read here the very laudatory, though I believe, very well deserved chapters on the inspectorate, I feel that the inspectorate really wants overhauling. I say this with the greatest respect to the Ministry. We have in England only about 500 of these inspectors, and they have to cover the whole gamut of education—I think I am right in saying, from buildings, through administration, to the methods of teaching, and other things. I believe there is sufficient room now in our modern secondary schools for more help and guidance from the inspectors, but I hope that the standard of the inspectorate—I say this with the greatest respect—will be overhauled, because it is very obvious that the men and women who are inspectors, should be, and should appear to be, not only conversant with all the work of the schools but should be able to approach it from such an angle—one could even say, with such a mind—as to command respect, and grave consideration.
I do not like the idea of inspectors going round worrying about clinker heaps and that sort of thing. I would rather they spent their time seeing that in our modern secondary schools we get the very best education. I did hear of an inspector not so very long ago who rather congratulated the headmaster of a school on breaking away from the old, traditional outlook. I wonder what he really meant by the old, traditional outlook. It is rather difficult to define what the old, traditional outlook is. We are still pleading for the "three Rs." I think that he himself might have broken away from the old, traditional outlook, and imparted some of the new outlook to the headmaster to whom he was talking at the time.
I ask the Minister whether it is not possible and appropriate, and whether the time has not come, for some consideration to be given to the standard of the inspectorate, the work of the inspectorate, and the divisions of the inspectorate. The county inspectors, to a very large extent, are making a valuable contribution, but the county inspectors would be very considerably reinforced if the special advice and guidance of His Majesty's Inspectors were made more frequently available. I say very sincerely that the extra year at school has proved and is proving a very valuable contribution to the education standards of this country, although at the moment it is not so apparent as we should like it to be.
The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned in the course of his address the question of the relationships between local and central governments, and he mentioned the Manpower Committee and the work it had done. It is a matter of sincere congratulation to all concerned that they have brought out this Report, particularly in regard to the benefits that may be obtained from applying the recommendations. The suggestions are very valuable indeed, and will tend to cut down a tremendous amount of official interference from Whitehall, or the other quarter—the Minister.
Although the right hon. Gentleman has certainly shortened the period in which plans may be got through and adopted, so that we can get forward with school building—and the Minister has given us a lot of freedom in the way of making plans—there is, nevertheless, in the Ministry this handicap, that if the plans we put to the Minister are not in accordance with the wishes of the Ministry they operate a very successful method by which our plans are sent back to us, so that delays can occur on merely small points. That factor should also be examined once more.
A word about visual aids to education. I cannot but feel some perturbation at the very scant reference given to visual aids in this Report. It is a very voluminous Report, and, in passing, I should like to commend to the Committee, and also to the Minister, the very beautiful illustration, which faces page 38, of the College of Technology at Manchester. It is worth close study. However, that is merely by the way. I refer to visual aids, and I wish the Minister could have had something more put in the Report about them.
It is a matter of regret—and I know he regrets it—that he was unable to be present at Scarborough. But I hardly think it was fair of him to blame my party for being responsible for his absence, suggesting we had stolen his braces. In the Report there is much more reference to visual aids in entertainment than to visual aids to education, and I do not think it is so much the province of the Ministry of Education to be closely concerned with entertainment films, as it is to be concerned with educational aids. The Report gives first place to entertainment films. There are more paragraphs on them than on visual aids to education. I hope that the Minister. having failed to do it here, will give more attention to that in the near future.
In this connection, had he been at Scarborough he would have been able to see the pamphlet circulated there called "Visual Aids in Education"—a very valuable four-page pamphlet for which the Foundation itself is endeavouring to give the very widest circulation. I am hoping that the Minister will, at no distant date, be able to give his blessing to it. because visual aids in education are a very important part of the content of education, and will be in the future. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will sponsor and encourage them still further. I acknowledge the very great help the Ministry has given to the production of visual aids, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will extend that help even further.
Although the £3 million film fund may provide some money for entertainment films, we who are engaged in education want visual-aid films and instruction. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some attention to that. The Minister has presented a really good report, with which, on the whole. I think that we can agree, although naturally he must be prepared for a little criticism.
The Debate has covered a great deal of ground this afternoon, and I would like to say that it is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall). As he is chairman of one of our largest county education authorities, we always listen to him with the greatest respect, for he knows by practice and experience of administration the things of which he speaks. The hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) is, I understand, also in local government work, but one would not think so from his speech. I confess that rarely have I heard so weak a contribution on so important a subject as I heard from the hon. Member for Hampstead.
He threw out some very serious allegations about the training colleges of this country. He sneered at them quite freely without naming one. He suggested that teachers are coming out of the colleges under the influence of Communism, but he was very careful not to give a shred of evidence to support the charge. It is very easy to stand up in this Committee and throw mud when there is no defence because we do not know at whom the mud is being thrown. I earnestly hope that the Minister will investigate the evidence which the hon. Gentleman has brought forward, so that the good name of the teaching profession shall not be damaged by such careless utterances on the Floor of this House.
In the war of ideas which divides the world at the present time, the schools are the arsenals of democracy. The teachers are in the front line in the battle for the defence of our way of life as compared with other ways of life in the world, and it is of the utmost importance that we should recognise that the quality of our teachers is a matter of the first concern to this Committee. It is a matter of concern for us what is taught in the schools and what is the general aim of our educational service. I suppose it is a platitude to say that we live in a changing world where new standards of conduct are being accepted freely by people, and where, in many ways, the moral standards accepted by our fathers are being abandoned. In many ways this is a propagandist world—a world of mass thinking, a world where the Press, the radio and the pictures all bring their pressure to bear on individual citizens.
The place of the school, therefore, is of paramount importance if we are to keep the independent thought of our people of which we have been proud in days gone by.
I believe that the aim of the education service must be to produce men who are real men, to produce people of the best qualities of character which will enable them to face the vicissitudes of life with indomitable courage and vision and to face good fortune with the same calm self-control. The schools aim at producing citizens whose personalities are strong because their convictions are deep; but if this aim is to be fulfilled, we must ensure that the teachers are given the tools to get on with the job.
If I may come back again to the hon. Member for Hampstead in a more kindly frame of mind, he was indeed voicing the sentiments of a great many of us when he warned the Minister about the increase in the size of classes. It is impossible to do justice by each child in a class of over 40—I would like to say over 30. Hon. Members themselves will realise that if the personality of the child is to be developed, it is no good telling, our teachers that they must mass-produce the citizens of tomorrow. The size of classes is a matter of major importance not only to those who are engaged in the profession but also to the parents who send their children to school.
The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) referred to teachers' salaries. I think that we in this Committee must realise that the Burnham Committee must be left to get on with its job. but the Burnham Committee must be aware of the sense of urgency which it ought to be showing in this matter. What are the qualities we look for in the teacher of today? I believe that he requires the patience of a Job, the courage of a Daniel, the wisdom of a Solomon and the understanding of a saint, for which he shall receive the reward of a beggar; but that, I know, will be put right. Teaching is a vocation that calls for sacrifice, but there is no need for the community to feel that needless sacrifices should be imposed upon them.
For 15 years it was my privilege to serve in the schools of this country, partly in London—and happily, before the hon. Gentleman was on the Education Committee of the London County Council—but most of my time was spent in the Principality of Wales. I asked myself, as I tried to prepare for this Debate, what was the aim that I always sought to keep before me. It was not merely to satisfy His Majesty's Inspectors. On one occasion, I mistook one of them for a piano tuner, which made me realise their humanity. But I have tried, and, I believe most teachers have tried, to encourage in the child curiosity, understanding and, above all, a love of humanity and a desire to serve.
There are so many contradictions with which the teacher has to deal. There is much talk about Scripture lessons in the schools. A lot of humbug is talked about that question. The teacher is expected to tell the child "Thou shalt not kill" and also to tell him that the modern version adds "unless you are in uniform," improving on the Mosaic law. It is the most difficult thing in the world for the teacher to give to the child the principles of the Master, of the Nazarene, and to know that when the child steps outside the school, the whole of society is a denial of the principles which he has been inculcating into the child. The school, as the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury pointed out this afternoon, is a reflection of the society of which it is a part. There is a need for us to try to give to children a better chance in the society outside the schools.
Then, it appears to me, that a lot of faddists have been let loose on the educational system. No part of the country is not afflicted by this dreadful disease. In this instance, I am going to follow the example of the hon. Member for Hampstead, and not give their names. Anyone who takes part in the education services is aware of the plague of unnecessary people interfering with the work of the teacher, people who, somehow, have tied themselves on to the service and pose as experts. The expert in the teaching profession is the teacher, and the others are merely there to help the teacher to do his job.
There are, of course, special problems which confront the teacher. and there is no problem more urgent and more serious than that of the handicapped child. In the last school in which I had the privilege of teaching, in the early months of 1945 I had a spastic child. These are children who have no control over their limbs, but whose mind is as keen and as sharp as that of any other child. It is tragic to see them; but hardly anything is being done for these children. I should be horrified if I had to sit where my right hon. Friend sits at present and felt that in Wales there is nothing for these spastic children.
I raised this matter with my right hon. Friend a few months ago, and he has told me that the Joint Education Committee for Wales are considering it. I read the Report of his Department with great interest to see what is to be done for these children, and I find, in the Welsh section, that half a dozen new residential schools are to be introduced for handicapped children in the Principality. I heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend on that achievement; but there is nothing for spastic children. I understand that the educationally sub-normal children will be catered for at Treborth Hall, Bangor, which is about to be opened. They are going to cater for Welsh-speaking children only, which is something that is very necessary for those in various parts of the Principality. But I beg my right hon. Friend to bear in mind that I have a list of 40 children in Cardiff alone who are spastic children, who have nothing except the peripatetic service which is run entirely by the local authority for these children. Under that scheme the children are visited at their homes, and it has been introduced by a very enlightened Director of Education in our city.
We tend to talk in this Committee about large numbers, which is quite understandable. It is understandable that we should bring to the attention of the Minister the matters which are pressed on us in our correspondence. But there is an unseen world of suffering to be found among the children who are born sub-normal, or who develop ailments which handicap them throughout life. Those children have a special claim on us, and we, especially my right hon. Friend, have a special responsibility towards them. I hope we shall hear that my right hon. Friend is to bring pressure upon the Joint Education Committee to see that accommodation of a residential nature is provided in the near future for these spastic cases.
I wish to refer, briefly, to the question of the selection of children for secondary schools. I do not believe that the problem is one of selection. It is one of allocation to the right sort of school. I agree about the desirability of the comprehensive school, which will break down social barriers and wipe out a great deal of the snobbery which exists between the various types of schools in the same town. Members are lucky if there is not a certain amount of snobbery in their constituencies in regard to some grammar schools and the modern schools. If they do not have that distinction, then they can congratulate themselves.
I understand that in Cardiganshire and Caernarvonshire children are required to pass an examination in Welsh before they can have a secondary grammar school education. I am a lover of all that is Welsh, but I feel that it is a gross injustice to tell children, who come from homes where Welsh is not the mother tongue, that they must acquire sufficient knowledge of the language at the age of 11 before they can have a chance of entering a secondary school. I should be a coward if I did not face up to this injustice that is taking place.
My right hon. Friend has done much to encourage Welsh culture and sentiment, and I hope he will not he nervous in tackling this problem. He likes to oblige and to please. I know that he does not like to offend, but there are times when it is necessary to offend, and until all children in all parts of the Principality are given an equal opportunity to have a secondary education, I hope that he will have a turbulent and stormy Ministry.
I hope that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) will forgive me if I do not follow the topics he has raised, because in the limited time at my disposal I want to address myself to a rather different aspect. The hon. Member did, at least, teach me something. I have called the places where I have been educated various things, but I have never called them, as he has thought proper to do, "the arsenals of democracy."
I want to deal with further education and, in particular, the short-term school which has come into being only since the end of the war. Few will deny that when boys leave school, even at the age of 15, the impact of life on them is very marked indeed. Many of them have never left their homes. Many of them become confronted almost overnight with grown-up problems, for which their strength and character are but ill-formed as yet. Parents, who have had responsibility in this matter, are busy either housekeeping or earning their living, and have little enough time to study the problem of their children bridging the gap between boyhood and manhood.
I have no doubt, that for reasons such as those, there have grown up those many voluntary organisations, which do splendid work in that field, and which are being increasingly taken note of by the Ministry itself, but it remains true to say that less than one boy in five is a member of any voluntary organisation at the present time. While it is very desirable that we should find ways and means of organising leisure, I submit that welfare work in itself is not enough.
We are told that the world has progressed. People point to the mechanical age and the great advantages which that has brought—a higher standard of life, less squalor, better health, greater leisure, and so forth. I am quite satisfied that those improvements have brought with them certain very serious problems at the same time. Mass production, which has enabled many luxuries to be brought within the range of the wage earner, has almost killed craftsmanship. We find that our great cities and towns deny to many any contacts with the beauties of Nature.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West, mentioned the effect of the cinema, and there is no doubt that the commercial exploitation of leisure has encouraged many people to watch others doing things instead of doing them themselves. As someone put it very graphically to me the other day, "spectatoritis" is a very prevalent disease. Even the welfare State, with all the advantages that go with it, has in my judgment many inherent dangers, which we in our time must be quite sure we are able to safeguard against. Today, individuality means swimming against the tide. In the face of those tendencies—tendencies which have come to stay—we of the 20th century have a special responsibility to see that the advantages that accrue to us from these tendencies are not, through the dangers, undermining the qualities that we cherish in our race.
I am very glad that several hon. Members this afternoon have drawn attention to the value of character, because I believe that character is of far more importance than knowledge. We can only discharge that responsibility of which I have spoken if we accept that proposition and ensure that our plans are laid accordingly. In reading the Report for last year, I see that there are signs of growing attention to that subject. Nevertheless, I am not satisfied that our system gives adequate weight to the formation of character. We have to impart knowledge from outside inwards. but it is surely more important to ensure that there is stimulated within our own people what I might call the internal dynamo of the human spirit, so that they may not only have power to distinguish between right and wrong, which was mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) but, having distinguished, have the moral fibre to give effect to those convictions in practice.
Certain lessons which are learned from war have an application in this business. To many the war provided opportunities for the development of qualities latent in them but which they had never had a chance to develop—qualities of initiative, leadership, self-control and resource. They were as it were hammered on the anvil of adventure. Is it possible to devise in peace-time, if perhaps in a lesser degree, the facilities by which those opportunities, which normally occur only in war-time, can be made available to our young people, not in the cause of self-defence and destruction, but in the much nobler cause of Christian purpose and the Samaritan spirit? I believe it can, and indeed a start has already been made, because, derived from those three considerations—the needs of young people, the importance of character and the lessons of the war—is that which lies behind the development of the short-term school, of which I want the Committee to take note this afternoon.
I should perhaps say here that I have some personal association with those ideas as the chairman of the Outward Bound Trust, responsible for two of the schools that are operating. So far as I know, there are four such schools, three of which I know personally. One is the Moray Sea School under the auspices of Gordonstoun, the Outward Bound Sea School at Aberdovey in Wales, and the Outward Bound Mountain School at Eskdale in Cumberland. Both the last two operate throughout the year, and are operated by the Outward Bound Trust.
The methods applied in these schools is the same in each. They offer monthly residential courses during which they use the sea and the mountains as the media through which to apply certain specialised training designed to fortify character. In the case of the sea schools, some boys go who are destined for the sea, but in addition to training for the sea there are many who train through the sea. The boys are subject to tests of increasing severity in seamanship, mountain craft and athletics and compete not with the other chap but with their own previous record, so that through accomplishment they may increase that self-confidence, which is so important and to which reference has already been made.
They have to give up smoking, and probably for the first time in their lives they become really fit. They are subjected to the hazards of wind and weather and learn to resist the challenge of nature. That is something that comes to too few in these modern times. The boys come from all walks of life, and I submit that there is something which boys from the public schools and those who are already starting to earn their own living can both gain through community life with each other during the course of that month that they are training together. They learn the skill and the thrill of true service. for in the localities concerned they are recognised as competent to deal with coastguard watching, life-saving, fire-fighting, ambulance service and mountain rescue. There is no doubt that when an emergency call is made their response is no less great than if they were asked to repel an invader.
Perhaps it might be of interest if, for a moment, I mention the question of cost. These courses cost £17 10s., and on the basis of 100 boys a course and 10 courses a year, it is sufficient for the school to be self-supporting. The question is often asked, can anything really effective be done in as short a time as a month? The experience with some 6,000 boys who have already passed through these schools is that there is no question that the most potent injection, calculated to stimulate and inspire young people, is made even in as short a time as a month.
The great problem is so to arrange things that there is an adequate follow-up, and that the effect of the course is not dissipated by the resumption of normal life. I am quite satisfied that such courses offer a great service to the voluntary organisations, with whom full collaboration is already assured. More than 60 education authorities are already sending boys, and more than 150 industrial firms are coming more and more to include the sending of boys as part of their schemes in their own works. We were delighted when the right hon. Gentleman himself was willing to come and open the last of these schools and to see for himself what is being done. We welcomed still more the public testimony that he gave of his belief in the value of what is being done.
I do not want my own unbounded personal enthusiasm to tempt me to exaggerate the claims about what is possible from these post-war developments. I will just say that I am certain that very valuable lessons are being learned from these experiments, from which the county colleges will have much to gain when they come to be developed. I believe that the time will come when such schools will be a regular feature of our educational system and that they can make, and indeed are making, a notable contribution to the greatest of all arts, the art of living.
I have sat through many of these debates on education. I find that they go on peacefully, generally speaking, about teachers' salaries, size of classes, school buildings and school places, and that controversial issues are very seldom raised. Today, I intend to bring forward one or two suggestions that will be very unusual, not to say controversial.
Education should be related to circumstances. It should be modified according to circumstances. Our education in this country has gone through steady progress; in the last five years at least it has made very great advances and improvements, but we have to look ahead when planning for education and not simply at what is good for today or to- morrow. We have to plan for what may be necessary in 10, 15, or 20 years' time. Mobility has been the principal progress of this century. Everything has tended towards greater mobility. We therefore have to relate our education in the future to what mobility may mean in the world. There may be vast movements of population in the country, movements which always interfere with the education of the children who are being moved.
Let us take primary education first. In primary education we should be laying the groundwork for the whole future of mental development. If the child undergoing primary education is disturbed, the groundwork of that child's mental development is disturbed. Primary education should embrace all the essentials for the groundwork of the child's future education. In almost everything it should be the same: the same style, the same method, the same essentials.
It would not be difficult to make the whole teaching of primary education throughout the country rest on the same basis, using the same books and the same materials and progressing at the same rate. If any artisan with, say, two or three children at school found it to his advantage to move, say from Southampton to Liverpool, he would not bring any disadvantage to his children in doing so. He would be able to leave Southampton on one day and arrive in Liverpool on the next. His children could go on with their education in Liverpool with the same books and materials as they had left behind in Southampton.
I am afraid we shall have to have much greater rigidity in primary education. In the course of Civil Defence operations a vast proportion of the population may have to be moved from one area of the country to another. If we have this kind of primary education spread through the country, using the same materials and the same books and working at the same rate of progress, we shall not disturb the children very greatly in the first stages of their education. I know from experience that there are parents who might have bettered their position by moving to other districts but who have not wanted to do so on account of the disadvantages that their children would have suffered in these first steps of their mental development.
I appeal to the Minister. I know how broad-minded he is. Although this is an unusual proposal, I ask him to think it over carefully. Rigidity in primary education may in the long run be of great advantage to the whole country. He may say that it will be impossible, but I would remind him that during the 1914 war when we wanted the fire brigade of one borough to help another, we found that they could not do so because appliances in one place did not fit appliances in the other. In the next war we nationalised the fire service and made all the appliances fit. Then we were able to use the fire brigades wherever they were wanted. The same kind of knowledge and spirit could be brought into primary education to the advantage of everybody and to the disadvantage of nobody. For that reason I say that we have to aim at unification of system and standardisation of material.
I turn to secondary education. This point will be far more controversial than what I have proposed for primary education. In secondary education I should like to see far greater flexibility. In primary education the child learns the basic things. In secondary education the child should be given great liberty of choice in the subjects he would like to learn. When a child gets to a certain age, there are certain subjects which he hates and other subjects which he likes. It is a hardship on the child, and it is useless, to make him study subjects in secondary education for which he has no ability and no adaptability; it is no good forcing these subjects on the child and depriving the child of the subjects which he would like to learn.
Charles Darwin said that the object of education is the development of innate instincts. I can add, multiply and divide, but, for goodness' sake, do not ask me to do anything more than that in arithmetic. Whatever I learnt at school I hated, and I never liked mathematics, and every time I had to get down to mathematics I hated the teacher more and more; but give me languages and I can sit down to the most difficult etymological problem and enjoy it. On the other hand, there are children who like mathematics and hate languages. We may be forcing the children to learn things which they do not want and will never require. I am well on in age now and I do not require any more arithmetic than I was taught in the primary school.
I wonder whether any hon. Member opposite could do a cube root sum if I asked him to do so. I had to spend months on these things and did not know how to do them in the end, and if I had done, I should not have known to what use to put them. Why should we oblige children to learn things which they hate and which will never be any good to them, and prevent them learning what would be of advantage to them? The young person should choose the subjects which he wants. The system should be flexible, and, although other subjects may have to be learnt, the individual should be allowed to develop his choice to its fullest.
I want now to speak about examinations. I have never yet known what good examinations are as a proof of anything except that the person undergoing the examination may or may not have an examination temperament. Untold misery has been caused in schools by examinations. I have here cuttings from national newspapers about children who have committed suicide. One headline is, "Tall boy worried by examinations. Thought he would fail exams: dies." Another one is, "Baronet's daughter hanged in school." These cases were brought about by the fear of examinations. If one has an examination temperament, one can pass an examination without a great deal of knowledge. yet other people with far greater knowledge but without an examination temperament fail in their exams. [Interruption.] No doubt the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) will have an opportunity to speak later if he is called by the Chair.
Surely it would be much more advantageous to keep careful records of the progress of the pupil at school so that these records can be passed on if the pupil moves from one school to another. I do not see any comparison with the benefits to be gained from records of school examinations. I believe that the Minister of Education rather sympathises with this point. It would tend towards the total abolition of examinations at school and the substitution of carefully kept records, not only of the intellectual development of the pupil, but also of the ability of the pupil to enter into different systems of education.
I now come to what I shall call tertiary education. In Loughborough we have the famous college, Loughborough College. This was started by Dr. Schofield and a gentleman who is now Sir Robert Martin, as an experiment, and it has proved of inestimable value. It is a great undertaking. In view of all the new inventions which we have had during this century and judging what there may be in the next half century, with atomic energy developments and so on, we may very well require far more scientists in this country than clerks, far more chemists than lawyers 'and far more physicists than accountants. We must bear in mind the advantages which Loughborough College has given the country and we must realise that, instead of having one or two such colleges, we may require 100 or 200 of them in order to provide the necessary number of scientists, chemists and physicists which we shall need in the future.
There might be some combination of the universities with such colleges, and there, again, I plead for far greater liberty than there is at present to allow students to go from one college to another. If their carefully kept schedule of progress goes with them, they can visit a certain college for a year and then transfer to another if they consider that the lectures of a certain professor will be of more advantage to them, and such things will be credited in their records wherever they go. They can even go to France, Germany or Italy to take advantage of the systems at technical colleges or universities there and have these studies credited in their record. That was always possible in Germany. The student carried his record with him and at the beginning of a semester, he handed in his record with an indication of what he wanted to study, and his record was signed. We should get greater liberty and far more learning than we do at present through such a flexible and varied system of study.
I want to say a word about late arrivals, for whom there is no provision in our educational system. We have provision for late developers, but there are also late arrivals, men of 25 or 30 years of age who suddenly find that they would rather study for the medical, or some other profession, instead of what they are doing. The Russians have provision for that in their education system, and when I was in Russia they told me they had had wonderful results from people who late in life changed over to another system of work.
In this country we have had doctors who have become writers, and in this House we have the son of a business man who, later in life took to the law and became one of our greatest lawyers. He is not sitting here at present, but he often does so. Those people had the wherewithal to do it, but a man who has not the economic means of satisfying his ambition in this respect, has no alternative but to carry on a system of life which he does not like and which he may not be very good at, whereas if he had his own way he might make a success in some other walk of life.
My last instance is that of Charles Darwin himself. He studied for medicine, became a failure; he studied for religion, became a failure; then he did the thing he wanted to do, he became a naturalist. He went aboard the "Beagle" for five years and became one of the greatest philosophers and men of science we have produced in this country. If the Minister of Education could make some provision for the many people who want to do something similar, he would be doing untold good.
The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) will forgive me if I do not pursue his arguments. We have only one thing in common; neither of us can do cube roots. I am sure many hon. Members and the rising generation will be taken with the idea of the abolition of examinations. Indeed, it may help the Government to recover some of the ground they have lost with schoolboys since they promised to deration soap.
I would preface my remarks by explaining to the Committee that I am not an educational expert. At the same time, I am definitely not a faddist. I am simply one of those essential people without whom there would be no need for education, namely, a parent. I have listened to the whole of this Debate with great interest and at times with a certain amount of surprise because, as far as I know, there has been nothing said about education in rural areas. Therefore, I shall devote the few moments of my speech to the subject of the village school.
I do not think anybody would deny that we owe a tremendous lot to the village school, not only as an instructor in the "three R's" but as the centre of cultural life in a village community. Again, nobody could over-assess the great debt of gratitude that the people of this country owe to the village schoolmaster and schoolmistress, generations of whom have given of their best, often with scant reward. They have given of their best not merely as instructors in the "three R's" but as builders of character—men and women who have been guides, philosophers and friends not only to generations of schoolchildren but to their parents and to old boys and girls, and they have been as much a part of the village life as the squire, the doctor, the parson and the village pump.
Times have changed. The squire's house is now probably full of displaced persons, the parson looks after five parishes on a motor scooter, the doctor is possibly an overworked near civil servant. All that remains is the village pump and the village school, although the school, too, has changed because of the centralisation of education in country districts. But I believe it has a great part to play in the future, in a way just as great a part as it has played in the past. It has a new part or, rather, a revival of an old part. It is this. Owing to the high cost of private education, the small village school will become more and more the pre-preparatory school for everybody in that locality. In other words, children from different income levels or different types of homes will start their education hand in hand, and there can be nothing but good in that.
One hon. Member talked about breaking down snobbish ideas of education. There is one of the ways in which it can be broken down most quickly. If, however, we are to keep the great tradition of service, it is essential that in the village school house there should be the right type of schoolmaster or schoolmistress. We have them now, but I am apprehensive about the future, because we shall not get them in the future until conditions and salaries are improved.
We have heard a lot, and rightly so, about the salaries of teachers, but we have not heard enough recently about the added hardship with which the village teachers have to contend. They cannot augment their earnings by teaching in evening classes—not that I want any teacher to burn the candle at both ends in order to live at a reasonable standard. The village teacher is often denied access to public reference libraries, to theatres, concerts and lectures because of transport difficulties. In other words, between the refreshment of cultural relaxation and the teacher there is a barrier of high 'bus fares or the upkeep of a motor bicycle. It is the same transport difficulty that militates against the teacher being able to meet his or her opposite number and discuss matters, and that should be done. Therefore, I say in all humility that if we are to carry on the idea of service, something will have to be done not only for teachers as a whole, but for those teachers living in the rural areas.
Now I want to turn to the question of visual aids and pictures mentioned by one of my hon. Friends. Many years ago I had several talks with an old schoolmaster who had taught both in the great cities and in the small villages. He held the theory that the town child learned more easily and quickly—in a word was much more precocious—but was inclined to forget more quickly than the child in the country, who perhaps learned a little more slowly but retained knowledge. I have not the experience to say whether that theory is true—it may well be—but it would be safe to say that the country child needs just as good an equipment in the small village school, as the child brought up in the town.
Some time ago the Central Office of Information lent educational pictures to the rural schools, and one of my constituents, who is the Headmaster of Blennerhasset School, told me that they were the best educational material he had received in 25 years' experience and that they were of inestimable value to the small rural school. Since March, however, owing to the economy cuts, that service has been suspended and it is no longer possible for the small schools to get those pictures free from the C.O.I. I suggest to the Minister that it was a pettifogging economy. I beg of him to reconsider that decision and to let the schools have that valuable material. It would not cost very much and would be well worth the small outlay involved.
I want to deal with the rather wider aspect of the future planning of education in rural areas, and in doing so I plead for a little more elasticity. It is well enough to look at a map, to consult people in the locality up to a point, to get a hold of figures, to consult a statistician and then to say, "We will build a new central school here and pull this old one down," and so on. That does not go far enough to deal with the real problem, because I want in education to see consumer choice. I do not mean that a child aged five should have the choice of the school where he is to be educated; I believe that we should have more consultation as far as the parent is concerned.
The Minister will, I hope, forgive me if I mention a specific case which I have already referred to him, and about which he has been as sympathetic as he could be. It concerns a small school—St. Wilfred's R.C. School at Warwick Bridge, near Carlisle. That school was built and endowed by a pious lady many years ago. At present it has about 20 pupils; it has a good scholarship record, the reports from H.M. Inspectors of Schools are excellent, and the condition of the buildings and equipment and the mistress's house is right up to standard. That school has not cost the public anything except for milk in school and the school medical service.
The old endowment was quite sufficient for its upkeep, but for one reason and another, that endowment has dwindled to £180 a year which, of course, is totally inadequate to keep the school going and to pay salaries and everything else. We have asked for aid status for that highly satisfactory little school, and the reply, unfortunately, is "No." The reason, we are told, is the simple one that the school does not fit into the plan for the locality. I hope, however, that second thoughts may be given to this matter, because if that school is closed, it will mean two things. Under the terms of the trust deed the total capital sum will be lost entirely to education. Secondly, the children, if their parents wish them to attend a Roman Catholic school, will have to travel 4½ miles into Carlisle.
My final plea is with regard to transport in rural areas. I know that some people —not, I think, in this Committee—are inclined to think that school transport facilities are overdone, that we are softening up children and pampering them. That is absolute nonsense. Can there be anything worse from an educational point of view than a little child arriving at school in the morning physically exhausted and with wet feet and clothes? That is no way to start the day. It is essential that something more should be done. People are inclined to forget that the modern curriculum places a much heavier strain, mentally and physically, upon the child, and so it is essential that the child should arrive at school bright and fresh and able to undertake the duties of the day.
I had a case the other day of a little girl aged five or six who lives a matter merely of yards under two miles from Hesket New Market School. Because the distance is just those yards short of two miles, she has to walk alone, in all weathers, nearly two miles over a wide, lonely fell road. It is no wonder that her parents are alarmed and perpetually worried and dread the coming of the winter with its dark nights. And it will be no wonder if those parents keep the child away from school on the slightest provocation.
As the Minister is aware, a great deal of heated public feeling has been aroused in Carlisle over the transport difficulty. I do not want to weary the Committee with details, but the hard core of the problem is this. Children are being brought into the city by service buses. They are being put off at the bus stand and they have to walk quite a distance to their particular school, crossing several main roads where the traffic is continuous and very heavy. Only a week or two ago a small boy was seriously injured; but for the grace of God he would have been killed. Therefore, I say that while local authorities are very sympathetic towards these transport problems, they are tied down by hard and fast regulations. I hope that the Minister will see his way sometime to allow these authorities to interpret the transport regulations more in the spirit and not so much merely in the letter.
I have put forward the best and most sincere plea I could for the rural child, for the country boy and the country girl. I know that they are in the minority but they are among our most precious assets. It is up to us to see that that asset is not wasted either by false economy or by ill-conceived planning.
I wish to pay tribute to the work which is being done by the Ministry of Education, not because it happens to be part of a Labour Government, but because I believe that a first-class job of work has been done from 1945 up to the present. It is some little time—in 1935 to be exact—since I left the teaching profession, and before that, I taught for 11 years in what in the olden days we used to call a council school.
To go back to 1935 is not going back such a very long time. It is the lifetime of a child, I know, but it is only going back to four years before the war, and there must be hon. Members on both sides who know that, if we go back only that short time, what is happening today must seem to be a real transformation. In the northern city where I taught, I never had a class of less than 55 children. I was particularly keen on athletics, but the great majority of those children never had rubber or gym shoes in which to play, and they certainly had no ground on which to play.
I am glad that some hon. Members who have spoken today have mentioned the folly of stuffing children with information at the age of 11. My mind takes me back to three of my schoolchildren who got scholarships at that age and to what was the old, old story to many of us who taught in the schools where the less fortunate of our children went. Those three children were not able to take up their scholarships and go to the secondary schools because there was not the money to enable them to do so. There was nothing that the local education committees or the parents could do—they just could not afford it.
Also in this northern city of which I speak, and only four years before the war, we had a "Boots for the Bairns Fund." It really was a boots for the bairns fund, and I have been very distressed—I pay hon. Members opposite the compliment of believing that they also have been distressed—to read of the ridiculous nonsense which was put out in the newspapers when my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade spoke some time ago about children coming barefooted to school or not having boots. That nonsense has not been said in the House, and I do not wish to say that it has been said. In that northern city, in 1935, when we had that "Boots for the Bairns Fund," the only time when my classes ever came down to 30 was when the winter was so bad that the children could not attend school because they had no boots in which to come.
Looking round today, one cannot but pay tribute to the job that has been done In reading the Report—and I expect that many hon. Members have thought the same—I was particularly impressed by the references of the inspectors to the question of quality. I suggest as an exteacher—and I believe it very firmly today—that the quality of the children we turn out from our schools is infinitely more important than any proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic. Incidentally, I would say, in passing, that many people who are very clever at other things just cannot spell. I do not know whether it is an affliction, or a blessing, but they certainly cannot.
I believe very much in the quality of our young people today and I am sure that every hon. Member who has talked to young people in his constituency, or brought them to the House, would say the same. I remember when I had a group of children round the Table one morning I very carefully gave them an Order Paper. I told them we had Questions on four days of the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but I had not got very far before a youngster said, "I have an Order Paper here and there is a Question down for Friday." I had to explain how on Friday we have written Questions.
The Report makes reference to smaller classes. As an ex-teacher, the thought of 35 or more in a class fills me with nostalgic longing; I defy anyone, however good, to teach 60 children in a class. I remember as a young teacher of 20 being confronted with 65 in my class in a northern city. One learns a lot in college, but much more from a class. I came across the word "dessert" and I should have known that youngsters were not likely to know the word dessert. I asked them about it, but no one could manage it, so I hopefully printed it on the board and said "That is something you have after dinner." Children are always willing to help and a bright youngster put up his hand and said, "Hiccups." To my right hon. Friend I would say that I would have been much less embarrassed with 34 children than with 65.
Mention is made in the Report of English and paragraph 76 says:
There has been some deterioration … to some extent in English.
I am going to be rash. I do not believe that there has been deterioration in written English, or in children's powers of expressing themselves. I believe that if a child writes a good essay it is not necessarily one which is spelt correctly, but one in which the child is encouraged to express himself. In the matter of English, I believe that children are expressing themselves better today than ever before and are acquiring a self-possession—not a precociousness, but a self-possession—which is valuable.
Not long ago in my constituency I was seeing people on a Saturday and hearing many sad tales, as we all do. I suddenly looked up and saw three youngsters come in. I did not think they had come to tell me sad tales, and I asked why they had come. They had written a letter asking to see their Member of Parliament and they had come entirely on their own to arrange for a party of children to visit the House of Commons. The ages of those children were 15, 14 and 13½. I thought that when I was 14 it would never have entered my head to write and ask to see a Member of Parliament to arrange for 30 schoolmates to come here.
In the city represented by my two hon. Friends and myself, which is a much blitzed city, one would expect the education committee as far as possible to replace the blitzed schools. I pay tribute to that committee, for I believe that in the City of Coventry, within the next two or three years, it will have carried out many of the experiments which are envisaged and desired at present by the Ministry of Education. They are not only rebuilding the old schools, but building new schools in order to try out the new ideas. That city is famous for its pioneers in industry, but I believe that in this respect it will be a pioneer in the new spirit of education.
I should hate to overwhelm my right hon. Friend with compliments—he will know that we Yorkshire people, particularly those keen on games, never pay compliments to Lancashire—but I assure him that we believe the warm humanity of the present Minister of Education is one of the greatest assets to the future of education in this country.
I hope the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) will forgive me if I do not follow her. Perhaps she will allow me to say that I am sure the Committee feel that the children who were taught by her are to be envied.
I want to diverge from the main current of this Debate and to call attention to one of the minor activities of the Ministry of Education. A few months ago a children's home, for children under five in my constituency, was inspected by the representatives of three Departments. A prominent part in the inspection was taken by a representative of the Ministry of Education. What happened then, and what I know now is happening in many children's homes, has caused some consternation amongst people interested in that activity and should cause us consternation also because it throws a sidelight on what may be a trend—and I think an undesirable trend—in the Department.
These children were under five, and the representative of the Minister of Education interviewed the matron and inculcated a complete go-as-you-please system in bringing up small children, that they must not be taught to say "please" or "thank you," or put toys away, and that games must on no account be interrupted for a meal, that there were not to be fixed sit-down meals, but a sort of running buffet and—this was almost a stroke of genius—she believed that the dining room was overcrowded but the tables were too far apart.
It does not hurt matrons to answer questions, and I am not here to fight the battle of childrens' homes because I think they are well able to look after themselves, but I am here to express the consternation and anxiety felt by many people at the thought that these curious and, I think, deleterious ideas of education are expounded officially by represen- tatives of the Ministry of Education, and I ask the Minister to look into the matter. I am sure the Committee will agree that it is nonsensical deliberately to instruct those who are training the young, particularly the very young, on these lines.
It is ridiculous to say that a child should be discouraged from saying "please" or "thank you," or at any rate not instructed to say "please" or "thank you," particularly orphan children in homes. I speak as a father, and I believe all children need instruction in good manners and need regularity in their lives, and that these new fangled ideas are bad. I should hate to think they were officially supported by the right hon. Gentleman and his Department. I beg him to look into it and do something about it because I feel something is very wrong when inspectors, who have never had children themselves, go round and tell other people these fairy tales.
I have another engagement and I hope the Committee will forgive me if I leave shortly: I mean no discourtesy to the Minister. I feel that the matter I have raised should be raised as it has caused considerable uneasiness.
It is with some trepidation that I venture to intervene, as I see present many hon. Members with much greater experience and knowledge of this subject than I can claim as a university teacher. University teachers would certainly not qualify for the glowing description which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) gave of his colleagues in the secondary schools. I hope that the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) will forgive me if I do not follow him along the by-way which he was discussing.
I wish to discuss technical education and to say a word or two about the opportunities for adult students. I am particularly concerned about the role of the technical college, particularly in regard to its responsibilities for the technical and other education of all those who leave school and go into industry or commerce at the age of 15 or 16 years. Some idea of the magnitude of the task of the technical college can be gained from the fact that only about 2 per cent. of those who leave secondary schools each year go to the universities or any form of full-time education. Technical colleges are, therefore, entrusted with a very important job, and I believe they are doing a very valuable job under many difficulties.
I have been a visiting lecturer at one of the largest technical colleges and have had to compete in my lecture against the trains running almost alongside the college. I contrasted that with my experience in one of the older universities. I do ask that these, in some cases, appalling buildings and also the inadequate space and staff which are their chief difficulties, should receive the attention of the Ministry. From these technical colleges we must get the much needed increase of technical knowledge in industry. A great number of firms are recognising the need for greater technical education by their schemes of part-time day release.
I would urge my right hon. Friend to give the highest priority to the recommendations of the Percy Committee, and in particular to look very closely at the possibility of setting up regional colleges. I appreciate the difficulties of finance and building limitations which stand in the way, but I would say that some cuts might, if necessary, be possible in other parts of the educational programme to bring about greater speed in putting through technical college building and expansion. I would say that in some cases university expansion could be held up to allow technical education to go ahead.
I wish also to say something about adult students and opportunities for adult education. Here again, because we have to be realistic and realise that it is a matter of priorities and that one cannot continue adding to the educational programme, I would, in asking for an extension of scholarships for adult students, say that I should be prepared to have the cost met by a reduction in the number of those who get them as they leave school. I should declare my interest, as I went to Oxford at the age of 27 as an adult scholar. The fact that I did not go at the normal age was because, at that time, my father was unemployed. I am glad to think that today, because of the greater opportunities provided by this Government and because of full employment, it is not now the case that people have to refuse university scholarships because of family and home responsibilities.
At the same time, there are many who are in the same position as I was in, and who could benefit by more scholarships being given to adult students. My own opportunity came through the prisoner-of-war camp. In this interim period at least there is a special need for an extension of awards to adult students. Even in the future, with the system fully working, there will be some who develop too late to mount the educational ladder at the right age to go forward to the higher fields of education.
I will give one example of what a scholarship can do for an adult student. While I was at Oxford, one adult student who came up was in his middle forties. He had spent 30 years working in the iron and steel industry. He came to take a degree. He is today doing a very important job in the educational and foremanship training section of the firm in which he formerly worked. He has the dual qualification, which is sometimes a unique feature of the adult student, of having had experience as a foreman in the industry as well as possessing the necessary academic qualifications.
I have seen enormous enthusiasm and keenness in the technical colleges. People in their thirties often come in, and often travel long distances at the end of the day's work to go back to school. There are more than 27,000 registered students for the external degrees. of London University. To achieve a degree by spare-time study is a great distinction. I say that because I know something of the difficulties with which these students must contend. I ask my right hon. Friend whether it would not be possible to give to the best of the people who obtain intermediate standard at the technical colleges, or by their own efforts, a scholarship or grant to enable them to have one year of full-time study to get their full degree.
I know, also from experience in the prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, of the great possibilities of adult education. We had to contend with great difficulties. We built our own school, and we managed to organise classes in more than 50 subjects, thanks to the generous assistance of the British Red Cross Society. They not only arranged the books but also arranged for us to take examinations. There were many difficulties. Few of us were qualified as teachers. If one had read a lesson ahead of the class one became the teacher. Very often there was only one text book for a class of 20 or 30. Paper was strictly rationed—about six pieces per student per month. The bulk of the work was done on the back of cigarette packets and the labels of food tins from our parcels. In winter there was usually no fire in the school. If people were prepared to study in those conditions there is a latent demand for adult education which we should try to meet.
Despite these difficulties in Germany, many people took examinations, for the bar and in accountancy, and degree examinations, and for many it was the turning point in their career. But we cannot, nor do we desire to, depend on the prisoner-of-war camp for this opportunity. The Minister is already doing much for adult education, and the Parliamentary Secretary has a great knowledge of that field of education. I would ask the Minister to do even more. I would urge him to do his utmost to tap the vast reservoir of ability and enthusiasm for education among those who had not, prior to 1945, the educational chance of the young people of today. I believe the expansion of technical colleges and the provision of more adult scholarships would be steps towards that end, of providing a better chance now for those who were not fortunate enough to be at school under a Labour Government.
While I disagree with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) to a very considerable extent about the order of priorities which he has advocated, I have one thing in common with him, in that I, too, for some years both learned and taught in the miniature university which sprang up inside a prisoner-of-war camp, first in Italy and then in Germany. I came home from there fired with the ideals of education to such an extent that I became an instructor at an Army school of education; and about Army schools of education I think that the Parliamentary Secretary knows a great deal and has had a lot of experience.
There, the thing which struck me most was that we were teaching methods of instruction from the rising of the sun until the going down thereof. We taught methods of instruction until our heads, and the heads of pupils, swam. Because we had them only for a fortnight, we seldom had a chance to teach them very much about the content of the things they were trying to teach; and, Heaven knows, some of them needed it enough, because few of them had a really sound background knowledge of the subjects they were trying to teach. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee have commented on the fact that we find it difficult in education to get down to this question of content and to get away from the methods and administration. Though my experience of the House is very short, I consider that more has been said about education today than in any other Debate in the last few years, and that is obviously to the good.
It is also very gratifying to find that there is little divergence between the two sides of the Committee. I may possibly introduce a slightly discordant note into this unison at one or two points, but I shall not apologise for that, because I believe there are two sorts of unity and agreement in this matter. There is the precarious sort of agreement which springs from a lack, if not of appreciation, at least of explicit statement of what we are after, and what we in fact disagree about. There is also the much firmer and more useful sort of agreement which springs from a decision by both sides to disagree about certain things and to get down to dealing with each other.
I have always held very firmly that it was quite essential to keep education out of party politics; and the best way to do it was to try to keep party politics out of education. I think we should congratulate ourselves on the fact that there has been very little attempt on either side to make party capital out of any defects in the system or points of principle which may arise, but nevertheless we must all realise that there are certain fundamental disagreements between us about aim. When we come to those fundamental disagreements, we find that they do affect many of the things which are referred to in the very excellent Report of the Minister.
On both sides of the Committee—and it is not only in education that we do it —we all talk very easily about equality of opportunity, yet we never state very specifically precisely what we mean by that. Nor do we ever state—and this is much more important—at what stage in the child's career we intend that opportunity should in fact be equal. It is my personal view that there can never be complete equality of opportunity, because the homes from which children come will, in some cases, put them ahead in the race before they get even to the junior school. But if we agree that the degree of equality of opportunity is at present too little and ought to be more, we must concentrate on trying to see how we are to achieve greater equality and what are the dangers of losing something else equally precious in the process.
I believe—I was going to say passionately—and so, I know, do a number of my hon. Friends, that of all the social services in this country, the two to which we must look above all others in this matter are housing and education. If we give people decent homes, if there are decent houses in which children can be born and brought up in their infancy, and if we can waken them to the need to think for themselves about the really important things, so that they grow up into parents who will raise their children intelligently, we shall be able in the fullness of time—perhaps in a generation—to spend far less on some of our other social services, particularly in the field of health, than we are having to do now.
But if it is true that we have to give. within the field of social services, priority to housing and education—and I am not sure that this is being done at the moment —it is equally true that there must be certain things to which we have to give priority within the field of education. It is on this question of priorities that I ask the right hon. Gentleman for a little more information than we have been able to obtain from his excellent Report, or from the interesting speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. I may be stupid in this matter, but I am still in considerable doubt about the scheme of priorities which is being followed during the very difficult period which we hope is to come to an end in 1954.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) has called attention to some of the difficulties which he expects will be met with in certain parts of London. I know of very similar doubts and misgivings which are being expressed in the Middlesex area, and anywhere in crowded urban areas the same doubts are to be found. From the speech of the Per- manent Secretary to the Conference of the Association of Education Committees at Scarborough, one might think the problem was already half-solved, but I do not get that impression from the Report.
It seems to me that the Report qualifies in several ways the hope that all the school places will be found. It qualifies it in respect of the actual carrying out of the 1950 plans which have been nut forward. At the same time I get very little indication of the degree of development which the primary and secondary schools respectively are to enjoy. This I consider to be very important, because while it is quite true that what is known in the jargon as the "bulge in the birthrate" will come in the primary schools over the next four years, it is also obvious that it will be pushed forward into the secondary stage at a later date. If there is any doubt as to whether all the places can be found or perhaps even a minute number of the places can be found, within the vital period, it is surely essential that the place where we must buy time in order to develop the system is at the beginning of the process that is, at the primary stage. If there is any reason why we cannot find all the places, surely we must buy time now to ensure that we shall find all the places at the secondary stage. Even within the secondary field, I find it difficult to discover exactly the priorities on which the Ministry is working.
I agree with everything that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Scott) about village schools, but at the same time I find it extremely difficult to discover anything in the Report about the progress of reorganisation about which very serious doubts were expressed at the Scarborough Conference. Undoubtedly a large number of unreorganised schools are left. Again, I may have been stupid, but I could not find the number in the Report. It may be there, but I could not find it.
I apologise. Actually, I know the number. I only said that I could not find it in the Report. I should like to have some indication of the priority which reorganisation is to be given within the development plan. That is an important point. It is one question to know whether we will find all the new places which will be required in the secondary programme: it is another to know whether we will hold up development on the secondary level in order to reorganise existing schools.
I find it difficult to decide what is the policy of the Ministry about secondary technical schools which have always been in a somewhat precarious and anomalous position. There is a lot of talk in the Report about the importance of the secondary technical school, but we all know that the secondary technical school at present is squeezed up into a corner of the technical college which, in most cases, would probably like to get rid of it altogether. We know that, as far as parity of esteem is concerned, the secondary technical school is having a very thin time.
We ought to make up our minds whether the secondary technical school is to be developed to the point where it provides an alternative to grammar school education for a really substantial number of boys and girls. At the moment, it does not look like that. That is a matter upon which we should all value some comment from the Minister. I know it has been argued by some that we should make the best of a bad job and create bilateral schools by merging them, some say with grammar schools, and some say with modem schools. Without doubt, they have a position in the educational system in their own right. I only say that they are very slow in getting anywhere near what I believe to be their proper position.
I have already taken rather more time than I intended, but I wish to comment on the question of standards and content. I do not believe for one moment that we shall ever get anywhere by arguing about what we are trying to educate children for. The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon), said that the aim of education is to prepare for life. A remark of that kind begs far more questions than it attempts to answer. There is a long passage in the first or second book of the "Politics" of Aristotle which deals with precisely this question of what we are educating people for. If hon. Gentlemen read that paragraph now, they will find that it might be taken from a leader in the Educational Supplement of "The Times," or from a manual of the Ministry of Education.
The questions which Aristotle was attempting to answer in 2,000 B.C., or whenever it was, are precisely the questions about which educationists are wrangling now in precisely the same words. Therefore, since this problem, after 4,000 years, might be judged to be virtually insoluble, we have to get on with the slightly more limited field of the work of teaching people the things which the majority believe that they should learn. It is very much easier to relax academic standards and to simplify content than it is to move in the other direction. It is always easier and more popular to give greater freedom than to impose discipline.
I do not want to appear to be reactionary. I should be the last to suggest that not quite a revolution, but a great change in the atmosphere of schools and in teaching methods has taken place in the last generation. While I do not want to suggest that that has not produced great benefits, I think the time has arrived when we should question whether sometimes it is not carried a little too far. The crank and the faddist and the educational expert who has a new "ism" or theory to sell—because it is his livelihood and because he has invented it—is a very dangerous person if he is allowed to run riot. It is always easier to give greater freedom than to impose discipline, and nowhere is that more obvious than in education.
It is difficult to impose on others the self-discipline necessary to become a good Christian. It is very much easier to be an agnostic. For that reason, it is much easier to suggest that the place of religious teaching in schools should be made smaller. It is much easier and more popular to suggest that children should be allowed to do what they like than to suggest that they should be subjected to the sort of discipline—
I know all about activity methods, freedom and the self-expression of the individual. If the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) will allow me, I should like to read a passage from this Report which I am bound to say fills me with a certain amount of alarm. The Parliamentary Secretary quoted the beginning of the passage which says:
The pupils here are regarded as important young people whose needs must be the paramount consideration of the school, if proper growth is to he secured. The school is a place, therefore, where interests are to be exercised as independently as possible, the freedom of choice extending often to goal as well as to means of reaching it.
I would underline, if it is possible to do such a thing verbally, the words:
… the freedom of choice extending often to goal as well as to means of reaching it.
The paragraph continues:
The teachers interpret their task as that of offering incentives and contributing counsel. In practice, the work is usually undertaken by the pupils in small groups, working at their own pace towards ends acceptable to themselves.
A little later we find the words:
In pursuit of these ends they are free to seek assistance from books …
Again, I do not want to be too reactionary, but when it is necessary to say that a pupil in a secondary school may, in the course of his education, be free to seek assistance from books, I think the time has come when we might with profit pause and survey the theory of education which has given rise to this. I remember hearing an hon. Member opposite, who is not present today, saying about a well-known independent, and what I believe is called progressive school, that while he fully recognised the merits of the experiment, it was an advantage that the children should be able to read and write at the age of 14. That is still true. It may seem remarkable, but it is still true.
What I find a little alarming is the fact that we say that we are educating people for life, yet we are content to believe that it is less necessary than it was that they should be able to read and to write and to express themselves in English. That seems to me to be odd when, in the great period of the working-class struggle for reform and for self-expression, the ideal which they set before themselves always was the ideal of literacy. If we go back to the days of the mechanics' institutes and literary institutes and so forth, we find that what the working men of that time sought was the ability to read and write, because of the belief that it would give them something well worth having.
That must still be true today I am convinced, because if men or women cannot read and write freely, cannot understand freely and express themselves freely, they are at the mercy of the State and the official, in an age in which the power of the State and the official is, perhaps necessarily, very great. They need the feeling of self-confidence in being able to understand the various forms presented to them and in their ability to complete them in a way which will not produce correspondence going on for several weeks and becoming progressively more frightening at every stage.
It must be true that education, in the academic sense, has not had its day, but must be pursued in a more inspiring and more attractive way. But if we relax these standards too far, I am quite sure that we shall "rue the day," and, what is more, I believe that our children will not thank us for relaxing those standards. If we want to prepare them for life, let us prepare them to be able to do their jobs, but let us also meet their desire to learn and their ability to learn by such methods as will make education what it ought to be—a continuous process from the cradle to the grave, one which begins at the mother's knee and ends only in the coffin.
The hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. A. Maude) has certainly given us a very interesting speech, in which he raised many points, but I do not intend to follow his line of argument.
I may appear to be sounding a rather discordant note, after some of the speeches made this afternoon, but I do so only because I am trying to get as much as I possibly can for the youngsters attending our primary and secondary modern schools. Today's Debate has been very interesting, and we have had some very refreshing speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the Committee concerning the educational system of this country. It has been interesting also to hear the tributes paid to my right hon. Friend, and, particularly, to those people who are doing the job of teaching in the schools of the country.
One appreciates all the good work that is being done in our schools by the heads, the teachers and the education authorities, but difficulties arise from time to time, and I think some of these difficulties are envisaged in the Report of the Ministry, which most of us have enjoyed reading. The Report includes some extracts from the reports of inspectors, and some of them speak very highly of what is being done and of the new types of work which are being done. Other extracts do not speak quite so highly of what is being done, and one wonders what divisions there are in the types of work taking place in our schools which call for these differences in the reports by the various inspectors.
I believe that one difficulty which is reflected in these reports is the size of classes and the number of children a teacher is expected to teach in these days. The very fact that a teacher has large classes and has to take large numbers of children, must give rise to many difficulties, some of which I hope we shall be able to overcome in the near future.
For instance, in these large classes we see a different standard of attainment amongst the children, so much so that, very often, a teacher is not in a position to give attention to the youngsters who are not capable unaided of reaching such a high standard of attainment as that reached by some of the other children. Therefore, it seems that more attention to those children is called for. If some little extra attention is given to those children who are perhaps slightly below average, they may be able at a later date to reach at least as high a standard of attainment as the others. To this end, I have obtained some figures which are rather illuminating, because they apply to one or two different areas and are accompanied by the comments of various headmasters and headmistresses, which deal with the point that I am now trying to stress.
Taking one particular area, the girls and boys who are leaving school this month will number somewhere about 180. I asked the question "What would you say is the standard of attainment in reading, writing, and arithmetic and in general education?" In one case, I received this answer: "Perhaps we should say that 40 per cent. are a reasonable average; 30 per cent. are above a reasonable average; and 30 per cent. are below that reasonable average." Eleven children in these schools are either unable to read or write or do any arithmetic of any kind, or are able only to do a very small amount of reading or writing. In those extreme cases, the children have not the advantage of a special school and special attention paid to them which they ought to have as special cases, and I am wondering how many cases of that character we have throughout the country.
Then, if we take the groups of the 30 per cent. below average, we find that very often they arise from the fact that these children are not able to get the individual attention which the teacher would like to give them to enable them to reach the average standard. It is the group of children who come in the "below average" class with which I am concerned at the present time. We very often find that these children termed "under average" are amenable and very receptive if they can have a teacher to give them a little extra attention, and that, otherwise, they are apt to become a little frustrated and sometimes led into mischief. and that is the point I want to stress.
I want to ask the Minister if sufficient emphasis is being placed on the supply of teachers, so that we can, at the earliest possible moment, reduce the size of classes and enable these children who are now termed "below average" to get that extra attention which they need and which they themselves desire, in order to be brought up to the average level which we all want them to attain in our primary and secondary modern schools.
Then, again, I have obtained some figures about, and taken advice on, one of our approved schools. In this school there are 116 boys of whom two are illiterate, 14 semi-illiterate, and 100 fair or just below fair. Every one of those boys is amenable and very receptive to the specialist training given in the school. I wonder whether the Ministry of Education, through the statistics which they have gathered from time to time, have been able to form any link between the under average, the children who have not been able to get the care and attention necessary for the "under average" at an approved school, and child delinquency.
I think that is a point worth studying, in view of the fact that the figures seem to indicate that there is, at least, some link between the "under average" at approved schools and child delinquency in various parts of the country. I do not say definitely that there is, but I do ask the Minister whether there is any information available on this point, because it would be very interesting to know if, in fact, such a link can be established. But whether it can or not, I want to stress the urgency and importance of attention being paid to the supply of teachers so that the classes can be reduced in size and so that the children can be given the care and educational attention necessary in order to avoid the three divisions of which there is so much evidence—the average, the "above average," and the "below average"—and so that we may only have the average and the "above average."
Other points arise in following a line such as this, but if the Minister would give his attention to that particular point, to the point expressed by many people that there is a link between child delinquency and the "under average" child, I think it would be well worth while inquiring into.
It gives me much pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling), but I wish to leave the matter of the average, below average and above average child and come to a more mundane matter. I wish to say a word or two on the subject of buildings, the youth service and voluntary youth organisations, and, finally, on physical recreation, about which very little has been said in this Debate today.
On the first point, that of buildings, I think that the opening sentence of Chapter IV of the Report is so significant that it is well worth reading to the Committee. It says:
During the year the amount of educational building increased considerably: Work completed during 1949 was £21,501,000 compared with £15,831,000 in 1948; work under construction rose from £33,398,000 to £69,940,000; and work started, at £58,043,000, was about double the 1948 figure of £27,852,000.
In the Report we are also told that some 46 out of 129 development plans have been approved. I am concerned with one quite considerable development plan which has been submitted in revised form to the Minister, but which has not yet been approved. It is in the County of Essex where we have, of course, a very big population. We have our responsibilities in connection with L.C.C. schools. The capital sum involved between 1950-65, in respect of primary and secondary schools alone, is, approximately, £36 million. To anybody concerned with
local government finance, the expenditure of capital merely foreshadows what the revenue costs are going to be.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the fact that the relation between the county councils and the Ministry arising from matters of manpower exploration is better than ever before. I think that is true, but I am afraid that in my own authority's area, where we have 43 authorities on which we precept—and the major part of that precept is in connection with expenditure on education—the situation is not completely understood. We all welcome this increase in expenditure on education, but we all want to know just where we are going.
I wonder whether it would be possible for some indication to be given, because on page 58 of the Report there is what I think is a visual aid to those people who, like the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick), do not completely understand figures. It shows just exactly what this expansion has been. Presumably, this curve must flatten out sooner or later, and I am wondering whether it would be possible for some indication to be given of the total capital involved in the 46 plans already approved and some rough indication given of the sum involved in the remaining 129 plans. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some idea when this enormous curve is going to flatten out, and perhaps come down?
In connection with the development plan. there is a rather ominous sentence which states that this does not include the cost of the sites. One can calculate what is involved in cost, land charges and other expenditure, but it gives one cause to realise the amount of land required under the Act, a great deal of which has to come out of first-class agricultural areas. There have been cases where land has been sterilised long before it was necessary and put out of production. I am sure that everybody concerned with the enormous problems of water supplies and opencast coal-mining realises that the poor old land of this country is being so eroded that soon there will be nothing left for the farmers to work.
Regarding the youth service and the voluntary youth organisations, which I do not think have been mentioned by
anybody so far in the Debate, I think that these are tremendously important. On page 28 of the Report it says:
In considering the future of the youth service, authorities have, with few exceptions, expressed a lively sense of the value of voluntary effort, and have emphasised the importance of supporting and encouraging the voluntary organisations rather than superseding them.
I am very glad indeed to see that expression of view, and I hope that it will be carried out in the spirit throughout the country.
I have had some little experience of these youth organisations, and some of us have occasionally thought that they have been supplied a little too quickly and rather too lavishly with certain equipment. It has always been my experience that when one got things too easily, one did not value them as much as one might. On the other hand, I appreciate that some admirable work has been done in this direction. Speaking of one 'case, the Report says:
The credit goes to the personality and character of the founder leader, a woman of middle age whose influence inconspicuously helps the members to get so much out of their club.
I know one such woman in my own neighbourhood, but, unfortunately, these people are few and far between. There are an enormous number of these organisations, part altogether from the youth centres. For instance, there are the three pre-Service units, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides and the National Association of Boys' Clubs. While casting no reflection on the two Front Benches in this Chamber, we must remember that we have had two world wars, and that many potential leaders have been laid low. Such clubs depend very largely on the people who lead.
I realise the difficulties, and I realise the difficulty of a local authority like ours which is often asked to make grants to many of these voluntary organisations which are doing wholly admirable work, but I hope the passage I have read out will be interpreted properly, so that there may be, perhaps, less expense and less concentration on youth centres than in the past and rather more on the wholly admirable voluntary bodies. There is a shortage of leadership and capital, and a move in that direction would be of advantage to the youth service.
Now I come to my third point, the question of physical recreation. I have a little hesitation in doing so because the Parliamentary Secretary himself said that most of us were concerned with what happened in the classroom. That is so; and we have covered the classroom very considerably today. Moreover, we have referred to the parents, who play a part in the education of the young. I believe that the playing fields do also. Here I am glad to recognise a statement on page 43:
A feature of the Council's work during the year was the help given to the governing bodies of sport in connection with their are assisted coaching schemes, some of which by the Ministry.
My information is that, so far, that assistance has gone only to the A.A.A. and for lawn tennis, but I hope that, perhaps, in the light of what took place in this Chamber last week, it may be extended, not merely to boxing but, if I may add it, to cricket. I have myself been concerned with an organisation over the last few years which has as its object the provision of better facilities for enabling the young people of our country to enjoy the game of cricket, and that organisation is very appreciative of the help we have received from the Ministry and from the local authorities we have approached.
This subject of education is very wide. It concerns not merely the classroom, but the home and the playing fields. There is an expression, Mens sana in corpore sano. I believe that there are so many of my fellow Wykehamists here that I need not elaborate it. There are the "three R's," and in the Report there seems to be some hesitation by the inspectorate about the content of education. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) has cast doubt on this particular matter. I myself was born and bred and lived for many years in a part of the country where there was a section of society known as "failed B.A.s." I remember that one of those gentlemen, who had failed his exam., put it in a nice way. He said he had been plucked by the ignorance of the examiner—a situation in which many of us may have found ourselves before now. He went on to recite a long list of qualifications, ending by saying he could "swear a good old English oath and drink one damn strong whisky peg."
I hope and believe we shall have no more of those in our country, and that in the great adventure of education we shall not have too much theory and too little practice—too many rules and regulations and not enough common sense. I believe that the theory underlying the words Mens sana in corpore sano is the true principle which underlies this great adventure of education, and I, for one, wish it well.
I speak as one who has spent a great part of his life as a district education officer. Perhaps I may deal with one or two mundane points which have worried me during the past few years. I start by paying a tribute to the Minister for the revised building regulations which this year will provide us with 12½ per cent. more buildings for the same cost as that of the buildings which were erected last year, and which next year will provide a saving of 25 per cent.
As the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton) said, the great building programmes which face the local authorities do give cause for alarm, and if building costs for new schools can be cut by 25 per cent., that will be a very substantial saving. I hope, as I may proceed to show later, that the whole of that amount will not be saved to the ratepayers entirely, for I should like to see some part of it spent in another direction. I think the Minister has been very realistic in revising these regulations so that many of the expensive items, such as cloakroom and sanitary accommodation, have been lessened and we can get more money for other things.
I note that £58 million worth of work was started in 1949. I put a Question to the Minister a week or two ago as to how many of the new schools during the past few years—I gave 15, I think, because during the war, after all, there was very little building—were erected to serve the needs of new housing estates. Evidently, figures have not been kept; but I suggest that £58 million does not reflect just how much ought to be spent, if we take into account the counties instead of only the county boroughs and the big cities. In the counties we have a smaller population and we have many old buildings. We have in my county
of Cornwall a great proportion of buildings which were erected in the 1870's, following the Education Act of 1870. Speaking by and large, very little modernisation has been carried out in those buildings since, and it is that which causes me some anxiety. I quote from the Report, which says:
The last annual Report referred to the desirability of improving conditions in old school buildings by minor works of improvement and greater attention to cleaning and decorating. Precise information about work of this kind carried out during the year is not available, but expenditure on it by the local education authorities last year totalled £3,276,000, an increase of £563,000 over the previous year. It is matter for regret that, because of the need for economy, there has now to be some reduction of the rate of expenditure on this kind of work.
It is that paragraph which worries me, because too often, in my experience, I have seen money earmarked for new buildings sacrificed for other purposes, and I plead with the Minister to take that into account.
Many of our old buildings—I hardly like to say so—are not very much better than slums in the parishes today. Throughout the counties, and throughout the country, largely as a result of the policy of the Minister of Health, we are seeing new communities of council houses set up throughout the countryside. I would say that, in instance after instance, we shall find that the sanitary provision in the houses of the people is far and away better than the sanitary accommodation in our schools. It is one trifling thing, which perhaps ought not be mentioned here, but let us take closet seats. What provision is ever made for seeing that those old seats are replaced from time to time?
We teach hygiene in our schools, but I think that sometimes the teaching of hygiene is a mockery. I could mention one village school in my constituency, an all-age school of 130 children, where, unless some improvement has been made in the last few weeks, the position today is that these buildings, built in the 70's, with office pits for 130 children, have no water supply and inadequate cloakrooms. The improvement of these buildings has had to be sacrificed time and again because the money has been used for other purposes. The Minister will know, as all people who have served on our local authorities will know, that each year there comes expenditure which is recurrent and non-recurrent, and in view of the financial stringency of the times, I plead that if ever a time comes to cut down expenditure, we shall think of cutting down some of the recurrent expenditure so that more money is available for the non-recurrent, because the improvements that are carried out to buildings will last for a lifetime.
I would remind the Minister that the Minister of Food has sent to thousands of canteens throughout the country advice on improving cleanliness. Will the Minister ask his inspectors whether the standard in the school canteens throughout the country schools will in any way come up to the standard required by the Minister of Food in restaurants, industrial canteens and places of that kind? I speak perhaps a little passionately because I know that there must be throughout the country thousands of schools where small improvements to the buildings would mean much to the children and to the teachers. I plead with the Minister to see that more money is available for the improvement of these old buildings.
I ask him also to bear in mind that in the town in which I live, Redruth, a small industrial unit of 35,000, no new primary or secondary school has been built in the last 40 years. One of our secondary modern schools was on the list of condemned buildings in 1919 in priority list A—there were three categories—and that building is still in use. I must say —I am thankful to the Ministry and to the local education authority for providing it—that we are now building the first instalment of a technical college in our town at a cost of £100,000.
Mention has been made of the 14-yearolds, and I ask the Minister to see that these children who are now kept in all-age schools and have been there since 1945 should be transferred as quickly as possible to secondary schools where they can be provided for properly.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), speaking with great knowledge and wide experience, has put matters of great importance before the Committee. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not pursue those particular points, but in a Debate of this width, of course, Members must, I think, have their own particular subject to advance for the consideration of the Committee. That subject, in my case, is the question of the provision of special schools for handicapped children.
It will be remembered that the 1944 Act defined the duty imposed on local education authorities as being to secure the provision of sufficient schools to afford for all pupils such education as is desirable in view of their ages, abilities and aptitudes. Under Section 8 of that Act, it was further provided that the local education authorities, in seeking to fulfil that duty, should have special regard, among other things, to the need for securing that provision is made for pupils who suffer from any disability of mind or body by providing special education in special schools or otherwise.
It will probably be the experience of most hon. Members, as it is mine, that there is unhappily still a considerable shortage of places in special schools. I think that some of these cases are very tragic, particularly those of the mentally back ward child who, if it remains at home often causes great distress to its parent and family, and, of course, if it is not able to go to a special school is deprived of the chance—and a very hopeful chance—of being trained to be a useful citizen.
I am happy to read in the Report which has been presented by the Minister that progress is being made in the provision of special schools. Plainly, in our present economic difficulty, one cannot expect a special school in every area. What one looks for is a sufficient number conveniently dispersed up and down the country. I read in the Report that during the year 26 new boarding schools and nine new day schools with accommodation for some 1,900 pupils have been opened and the total number of pupils in the special schools has risen by approximately 3,000, I think, in the year 1949 over 1948. The Report, however, shows that progress has still to be made, by pointing out that it is too early to say whether, when allowance is made for the increase in child population, the deficiency in various categories of special schools is being overtaken. My sole purpose, in speaking in this Debate, is to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is able to give the Committee some substantial hope for further improvements in the fairly near future.
I recall that last year we discussed a very interesting proposal, which was to the effect that where there were no special schools available, a local authority might make a financial grant to independent schools which had places available for handicapped children. I see from the Report that the practice has grown, and that 84 such schools are being assisted. That was an admirable plan towards helping this problem. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can assist the Committee by giving some further information when he replies, and that he will have some good news for us upon this very human problem.
If I speak briefly and rapidly, it is because I welcome this opportunity to direct attention to something which has not so far been referred to. I regret that the 1949 Report does not reveal a more complete awareness of the fact that we are still far away from equality of opportunity as far as children are concerned. We still have a class system of education, and in 1950 the better-off people are still doing everything they can to avoid sending their children to the State schools.
Last week, a member of an education committee could still comment that it would be wrong to send a gipsy's son to Eton, and that it would be equally wrong to send a duke's son to a council school. Those of us who believe children are the same no matter what their fathers have been find that kind of thing rather distressing. Reference has been made to the shocking condition of village schools. All I wish to say is that if the duke's son, the gentleman's son and the farmer's son had gone to some of these village schools with the farm worker's son, then we might have had decent village schools 50 years ago.
A recent P.E.P. Report on the state of the universities says:
In the older universities 52 per cent. of the pupils are from fee-paying schools and 21 per cent. come from local education authorities.
It is stated that
Oxford and Cambridge are still the preserve of the professional classes.
At Oxford and Cambridge 93 per cent. of the places are taken by children of the
upper and middle classes—the rentier,professional and clerical groups—and just under 8 per cent. of the places are taken up by children of manual workers. The Report goes on to say that
The children of the manual workers are grossly unrepresented at all the British universities, and particularly at Oxford and Cambridge.
Our present pattern of education almost suggests that English society believes, with the Communist Lysenko, in the transmission of acquired characteristics. If, as some people believe, the children of ability are likely to emerge from any class and from among manual labourers. then there is something radically wrong with the British education system.
I cannot imagine all the things we must do before we have a really democratic system of education, but I would point out to the Minister that the British Navy has already shown the way. The Royal Naval College at Dartmouth has become the first public school that really is a public school. I have learnt to admire, particularly since my days in the House of Commons, the public school education and all that it means. I look forward to the day when Winchester, to which so many references are made in the House. will return to the original purpose for which it was intended, and have 70 children, chosen because of their ability, to 10 feepayers, something like that proportion would be much more democratic and in keeping with a system of equality of opportunity.
I was going to say that I hope we shall make an effort to carry out the reforms and recommendations suggested in the Fleming Report—not have two or three guinea-pigs taking part in very strange surroundings, but a real experiment in making a public school a real public school by taking children from all classes.
I want to say a word about the economies in building. I am concerned about this phrase "non-teaching space." I want to make a special plea for gymnasia. I would remind the Minister that very few schools have a gymnasium, and even fewer schools have assembly halls, I hope that in the 12½ per cent. economies, which are next year to become 25 per cent., there will be no further tampering with the non-teaching space of the school.
I mention assembly halls in particular, because I am one of those who regret the suggestion which has been made by people, whose consciences and religion I respect, that State schools are irreligious. I regret the correspondence recently in "The Times" minimising the value of the act of worship, which is part of the law of the land and part of the corporate life of every single school. I know from 30 years' experience how vital a part morning assembly and the act of worship can play inside a school. Around it are built in school after school that organic unity that sense of purpose, which makes a school a school, and not just a place for instruction.
I would urge the provision of school assembly halls in all the schools of this land. They are not a luxury, but a vital necessity, and I should like to see the end of school assemblies and morning worship in classrooms, or in rooms that serve as a gymnasia and dining room. I would say seriously to the Committee that it is a great dis-service to Christianity and to the teaching profession to suggest that only in denominational schools are the deep and spiritual values of education being given their full and proper place in the schools.
I want to call the Committee's attention to the fact that there are millions of our children still being educated in all-age schools. Tributes are paid in the Report to the remarkable advances in infants' education and to new activity methods, but this type of education can be very little heeded in a school where the infants of three age groups are grouped in the same classroom. Reference has been made during this Debate to the great adventure of modern secondary education beginning in every corner of the land. Modern secondary education can mean very little for children in the all-age school, who spend the thirteenth, fourteenth, and sometimes the whole of the last three years of their school life inside the same classroom as part of a composite three-age-group unit. I urge the Minister to do all he can to push on the efforts for complete reorganisation. I am aware of the shadow that the selection of children at 11-plus brings to millions of homes almost every year. To all parents I would say, "Whatever you may feel about your child not getting a grammar school place, do not let him feel that at 11-plus he is a failure because he has not got it." No child in the land at the age of 11-plus ought to be regarded as a failure. If the parents are disappointed, the last thing they should do is to let the child know. How many parents promise their children a bicycle for winning a scholarship, and it is a very charming idea, always provided they give him the bicycle if he does not get the scholarship.
Parents should learn that while we have this, to me, arbitrary division of secondary education into three kinds, it is better for the child to be in the stream for the kind of secondary education for which he is fitted. To the authorities, on the other hand, I would say that their responsibilities are manifold. The barriers between the three kinds of secondary education should not be final at 11-plus. It ought to be possible to transfer a child at any stage from one stream to another. The recent broadening of the certificate of education helps here.
We should open all careers to able children inside the modern secondary schools. Again I would say from experience, to business men, that whilst it is easy to advertise for young men with school certificate or matriculation, the best boy from a modern secondary school will often go further than the one who has just scraped his way through grammar school and school certificate. I would urge the local authorities to pool their ideas about methods of selection and to keep a look-out for the late developers. They should remember that the right hon. Gentleman who is the Leader of the Opposition was quite a failure in his early days at school. A number of great men in this land showed no ability whatever at the age of 11-plus.
I want to plead that we should increase the number of grammar school places in the country areas. Children in Hampshire have one chance in seven of going to a grammar school, while in the towns of that county they have one chance in five. I urge that the modern secondary school be provided with all the amenities of the grammar school. It may interest hon. Members of the Opposition, who were responsible for the state of education up till 1945, to know that, in the school over which I recently presided, for the first 40 years of its existence the science equipment was carried in one little cupboard in the corridor. Under the present Ministry of Education the children in my school have begun, for the first time, to learn science in the only way in which they can learn it, by doing it themselves in the laboratory. This was indeed a revolutionary advance, and I urge the Minister to carry on with the work of providing these prefabricated practicalrooms for science and handicraft. I am pleased to see what the Report says about science laboratories and I hope that the Minister will let us have a second H.O.R.S.A. programme of practical rooms.
I want to refer to the fact that the Minister has reintroduced the uniform grant for poor children going to grammar schools. I understand that it does not apply to direct-grant grammar schools. If that is so, I would urge the Minister to end this anomaly so that those who win places in direct-grant schools will not be marked out on the day they take their places in September because they cannot afford a uniform. Anything which humiliates a child merely because its parents are poor is bad.
I would urge the Minister to improve the grants for teachers' training. At present, students get tuition fees and the cost of maintenance in the college but there is a means test for the training college far more severe in its incidence than the Ministry test for university grants. It weighs heavily on what might be called the lower-middle-class people. The student teacher has to be kept by his parents during the holidays. He earns no wages until he is 21 or 22. Some authorities give him a book grant and others do not. All this means tremendous sacrifices on the part of parents, especially for those earning under a week. Some boys may be fortunate enough, as I was, to have parents who would make every sacrifice to keep them at the university, but lots of people are finding the burden of maintaining children up to the age of 21-22 something which they cannot undertake without the help of the Ministry. I am glad that the Minister has urged local authorities to bring up their own university grants system of means scales, and their system of scholarships, to those which the Minister has laid down as models, and I urge all who have the power to see that local authorities do it. I urge the Minister to make a direct attack on the shortage of doctors and dentists by tying up some of the money which he provides for universities to the setting up of new medical and dental classes. I want to see the Ministry concern itself about advanced education in music and to see that the child with musical talent in this country, either vocal or instrumental, has the opportunity, as in France, for the fullest training. I wish to commend the experiment of the one-year course for young men going into technical colleges as teachers. It is referred to in the Report as an experiment. I urge the Minister to carry on one of the most successful experiments of these last few years.
It would be beneath my dignity, and not a service to the teaching profession, if I pleaded here on behalf of my profession for an increase in salary, but I would say, coldly and objectively, that if we are to get the teachers in the future we shall have to make the profession more attractive. The rate of entry is drying up. Even now the women's training colleges are hundreds of students short.
The most vital question of all before the Committee today is that of school building. I am glad that administrative "streamlining" has taken place during the last two years. I hope that all local authorities will push forward with school building of the non-traditional type because we need all the bricklayers for the nation's houses. The photographs in the Report show that we do not necessarily need bricks to make a beautiful school, and that the standardisation of parts, as practised by Hertfordshire, does not necessarily mean ugliness and uniformity. "The Times Educational Supplement" last week spoke of the vast need to speed up the programme of the Ministry and said that it will be 40 years before we can achieve the buildings we want. Those of us who have seen the shocking village schools of England are not prepared to wait 40 years for something better to be provided. As regards infant accommodation, I was very pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary realised that merely to provide the right number of infant places by statistics over the whole population does not conceal the fact that this year, as in previous years, in odd places in the country—but this year especially—local authorities are refusing infant children admission to schools. Parents take a very grim and grave view of this. I urge the local authorities to do all they can to speed up their building programme. I plead particularly on behalf of the blitzed towns who lost something like a quarter of their school property, either destroyed or damaged, during the war. If the War Damage Commission did something to speed up the carrying out of repairs in the blitzed schools of London, Southampton, Coventry and Plymouth, it would be a real contribution to the urgent infant accommodation problem.
As what I have said may seem ungenerous, I must add that I admire the work of the Minister of Education. In these post-war years I watch the children of this land coming to have a look round the House of Commons. I say without fear of contradiction that there is a vast difference between the children who wander through this building today and those of the elementary schools who went to school with me and in the years between the wars. By full employment for their fathers and by square meals and decent clothing for the children, we are making it far more difficult to distinguish between the child of the public school and the child of the grammar or modern secondary school than it has ever been in our history, and we are doing that without hurting the rich man's child. I welcome all the steps which are being taken in this respect to bring our children to that state of equal opportunity for all. I regret that there is not more consciousness in the Report of how far we are short of the glory which is yet to be.
I feel rather shy in intervening in the Debate because almost every hon. Member who has spoken has mentioned in parenthesis at some point in his speech that at some interlude in his career he spent 15 years teaching. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) has been teaching for 30 years. I thought I was safe in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson), but I believe that at one time he must have been a handicraft teacher, for under my very eyes he has produced from an Order Paper this superb piece of work which I told in my hand. I hope that the time will never come when we shall not have in the Committee a number of hon. Members with direct teaching experience.
I heard the other day of a Member of Parliament who went back to address his old school. He finished rather pompously by saying, "Study elocution, my boys, and you may become Members of Parliament." Then he said to one boy, "What does elocution mean?" The boy replied, "It is a humane method of putting people to death."
I do not quite share the enthusiasm of the Parliamentary Secretary for what U.N.E.S.C.O. has performed to date. I cannot help thinking that if we have to cut Government expenditure, that might be one direction in which we might look. The hon. Gentleman gave some interesting quotations from reports of His Majesty's Inspectors about some new discoveries and some discoveries that I thought not quite so new. One inspector mentioned that some boys even wrote poetry. I wrote poetry nearly 40 years ago at school and only gave it up after testing public opinion on my productions.
I think it splendid that this Committee should look at education in perspective occasionally to see where we are going. I am sure that every wise person connected with education hitches his wagon to a star and then tries to keep his feet on the ground, if that is not too mixed a metaphor. The heart and the head of the present Minister of Education seem to work admirably in harmony and, at the same time, he succeeds in keeping his feet on the ground. Whether it has anything to do with the fact that those three parts of his anatomy are not quite so far apart as they are in some of his more elongated colleagues, I do not know.
But is our perspective right in every way? I do not know. I wonder sometimes whether we do not lay ourselves open to the charge today that we rate aptitude in trigonometry or civics higher than knowing the difference between right and wrong. The great enemy of education is what might be called shallow intellectual arrogance. I think it was Mark Twain who said, "It is not men's ignorance that matters but they know so many things that ain't so." The truth is that education is useless and dangerous unless it is based on a humble mind. I hope we shall always remember the debt we owe to the voluntary denominations, that we shall not do anything which will weaken still further the links between our State education and those voluntary denominations, and that we shall not make it more difficult for parents to get for their children the education they choose.
A word or two about methods. Is it true that today we are in danger of lacking something in robustness in our education? That is a quality which in the past foreigners have much admired in British education, and I think we are in danger of losing something there. Are we carrying a little too far the idea that children should spend their time in doing only things they like and thinks that interest them? I do not know. It is a good thing to exploit natural bents and interests, but life includes doing so many things we do not want to do later on that I cannot feel it is an entirely satisfactory criterion alone. If that is so, perhaps the fault lies partly with the enthusiasm for new educational ideas that we spread between the wars. Some of those ideas we have now found are not so sound. I agree with the educationalist who said that there are three things not worth running after: a bus, a woman and a new educational idea, because there will be another one along in a minute.
I want to say a word from my own limited experience as a hard-faced employer. First, from the little I have seen directly of the results, I believe that the raising of the school leaving age has already been a success. Members of the Committee will, I am sure, make allowance for the fact that I have just entered on my second half-century, and therefore, I suppose, I can be excused for seeing a few faults in the generation that is coming on; my own generation, of course, was an exceptional one in every way.
However, I am really not out of sympathy with the young people of today. I find that those whom one runs across are extremely pleasant people to deal with. As an employer, one finds that physically boys and girls are miles ahead in comparison with the past. They are more adaptable, they are friendly and, on the whole, well-behaved. On the other side, however, one finds them lacking in doggedness and tenacity, not very accurate, and not very thorough. They expect to have things provided and made easy for them. To coin a phrase, they expect to be featherbedded.
That is, I believe, the experience of voluntary organisations also. It may be that we are in danger of making education just a little too easy and too soft; if so, this is something we must watch against. Might not the present-day juvenile delinquency perhaps be a rebellion in some way against the fact that the more adventurous spirits do not find satisfying outlets in school for their energy and enterprise?
I was sorry that the right hon. Lady the Minister of National Insurance the other day "had a go" against boxing. I have never myself had the courage to box, but I have always very much admired those who had, and I think it a fine manly sport for boys. I was interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) told us about the Outward Bound School, which surely points the way in the provision of good active purposeful activities under strenuous conditions.
If these faults which I have suggested are true, part of the trouble may be that we are trying to do too many things at once—our effort is dispersed; and that is bound to be an enemy to thoroughness. If education, as we have been told, is preparation for life, as it should be, then we cannot give any better service to the youth of the country than by paying more attention to the virtues of thoroughness, robustness and tenacity. Let me say a word also about manners. I sometimes wonder whether today, in our revolt against the excessive formalism of Victorian manners, we are not perhaps leaning backwards a little. I hope it will not be forgotten that life without its little courtesies and expressions of consideration and gratitude would be a sorry affair.
I should like to have said something about the small village school, but there is not time to say more than that, with reorganisation and the need to get greater numbers in secondary schools, the small all-age school has become an impossibility. I hope, however, that while recognising the needs of secondary education, the Minister will encourage authorities to go as slowly as they can in closing down the village school, however small, for junior children.
In the future, the cost of education will be tremendous. In the past I always thought that we did not devote a big enough proportion of our national resources to education, but for the future the pace clearly will be limited by questions of finance and resources. What can be done will depend on the value which is put on education by public opinion. Today we have to contend with other needs such as defence, factory extensions to produce goods for export, and housing—and I believe that at present housing is our greatest social need.
Public opinion wants to feel it is getting value for the money which is being spent. I cannot say that it is convinced it is getting it today. It feels too much is spent on administration, and perhaps that is true. I believe we can reduce the cost of administration, but, let there be no doubt that from the point of view of local education authorities anything they save on organisation today will be more than outbalanced by the increase in other expenditure which is bound to take place in the next few years from the commitments we have already entered into.
I should like to have given my own view of the priorities which should be followed. Nothing raises passions in any assembly of people more than entering upon the question of rival priorities. I would not have minded in the least but would have been delighted to give my own ideas and I hope other hon. Members would have given theirs, but time is getting on.
I would end on this note: I am sure we cannot too often remember that the quality of education must be and always will be measured by the quality and the devotion of the men and women who are teaching in our schools and colleges. Our first aim must be to find, enlist and encourage men and women of vigour and who have a real sense of vocation for what I believe to be one of the most important jobs for the welfare of the nation.
It would be a mistake in a Debate on education to set an example in anti-social behaviour, but I want to introduce a rather new subject which has not been covered and to introduce it as quickly as I can, not because it is not tremendously important, but because time will not allow me to devote as much time to it as I should like.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), in a moving speech, dealt with the underworld of suffering children and referred to one type of handicap with which our education system has to deal. I draw the Committee's attention to another type of handicap which has not been yet given very much attention in the Report before us; that is, the handicap of the maladjusted child. I have not the time to put in all the padding and I appreciate my right hon. Friend's problems, but I ask him if he can do something to increase the supply of schools for maladjusted children. Today they are being brought before juvenile courts by their parents in despair because the educational services cannot provide the care and treatment which is required.
The powers are there, but the provision is not being made and the result is that a child which, at the best, is in a difficult state and badly adjusted to home surroundings, finds that he has to stand in court and listen to his character being literally sworn away by his parents because that is the only way in which any kind of residential training can be provided for a child of bad behaviour. Those are the children who are ascertainable as being maladjusted, but, of course, there are many children who have not yet reached that stage.
It is a not uncommon thing among children in middle-class homes when they reach a stage at which they become unendurable—they cheek their mothers, refuse to brush their teeth and kick their little sisters—for father to say, "It is time he went to boarding school" and to boarding school he is packed off. But what revolts me as a Socialist and, I am sure, my right hon. Friend, is that because many parents cannot afford to buy residential training, they have to go to court and put this kind of child into the misery of standing in the juvenile court to hear this kind of accusation made simply in order to be able to find some means of getting the child, as the horrible phrase has it. "put away." It is a waste of the time of the courts. It is not the purpose for which juvenile courts exist.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the education service over which he presides has not done its job so long as there are any children of school age being brought before the courts by their parents under Section 64 of the Children Act because the Education Act, 1944, is not being operated with sufficient vigour. I apologise to my right hon. Friend for uttering nothing but criticism, but I had only five minutes in which to say what I wanted to say. I know his difficulties and all the problems, but I plead with him to give his most serious and careful attention to this serious and pressing problem.
I know that the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the remarks he made. He has tried to link up the grave and difficult problem of juvenile delinquency with our educational system in this country. I entirely agree that when we can get the educational system working as it should work, a great many of our problems of child delinquency will undoubtedly disappear.
It is always difficult, at least for an amateur back-bencher, to wind up a Debate. It is particularly difficult to try to wind up for one's side in an education Debate because the subject is so enormous. and because although we try, as we have tried on this occasion, to keep to a particular part of the educational problem, inevitably we tend to stray away considerably. I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Stanley) whose absence from this House we very much regret, once saying at the end of a Debate of a somewhat similar nature—I wish I could repeat it the way he said it—that he thought he detected the sound of the thundering hooves of their hobby horses in the speeches of hon. Members. That might apply to some of the speeches we have heard today. I do not mean to imply that it is not a good thing to have hobby horses or amiable bees in the bonnet. This is the right place to let them out. If I have the time, I propose to let some of my own have a buzz. I turn for a moment to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. I thought it was a very good speech and a very brave one. One thing which surprised me, however, was that it was being made in 1950. I wish it had been made earlier. There was a facing of the problems and a tackling of the difficulties and there was the phrase used that we were endeavouring to get value for money. That is not a new phrase. Surely we ought to, we could have, and we must have been trying to get value for money for all these many years. It is tragic that we now have, in the building section of this Report, the same phrase used about getting value for money. It is very late in the day to talk about these matters.
The main theme throughout the speeches of hon. Members, particularly those hon. Members with far more experience of educational matters than I shall ever have, was anxiety. Even had that not been so, it has certainly been the theme of those people throughout the country who have been worrying about educational matters. The Association of Education Committees recently had their conference at Scarborough. The underlying theme was anxiety. If one reads the resolutions they passed, one cannot avoid the realisation that those men, who are the partners of the Minister, view with the greatest anxiety the gravity of the situation which faces education in this country today. I do not want to be misunderstood in the critical remarks I propose to make. I know perfectly well that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have the absolute desire to forward education by every means in their power. I would go so far as to pay them the back-handed compliment that if other Ministers did as well as they, things would not be quite so bad—they would not be right but they would not be quite so bad.
I wish to examine the reasons for the anxieties which I detect, and which I think we all detect, throughout the country today. I will take them in their obvious categories. First, there is the question of building. This extremely frank and excellent Report is most frighteningly frank and makes no bones about that problem. On the question of building it says, on page 3, paragraph 13:
But pressure must be maintained if the minimum needs of the increasing school population are to be met.
Further on it says:
Too many schools were taking too long to build; too few were designed with sufficient regard for economy in the sense of value for money, labour and materials expenditure.
Those are very serious criticisms and they must give rise to great anxiety. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) produced a string of things which he wanted, and in fact we all want; but how can we get them when we are faced with the fact that only with the greatest difficulty shall we maintain the minimum requirements of education?
Many of us read the recent speech made by the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry when he deputised for the Minister at the Scarborough conference. It was a very good speech and it certainly put heart into the conference. But it seemed to me that he and the Parliamentary Secretary made the same sort of suggestion, that after the 1950 programme a further 300,000 places are required by 1953. I cannot see any evidence at the moment as to how we are to get them. I do not see it in the Report and yet the Permanent Secretary said at Scarborough
that 850,000 of those new places were in the bag. The target that remained was 300,000 additional new places to be found by the end of 1953. He wanted to say on behalf of the Minister that he honestly believed there was good, reasonable chance of getting a good deal more than 300,000 new places by the end of 1953.
I cannot find any grounds in the Report for that optimism and I should like the Minister, when lie replies, to tell us what they were. I would remind the Committee that a place is not only a place in a building, but somewhere where an adequate staff is necessary to teach in it. I would like to consider the scope of this great problem which we have to face. An excellent speech was made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton), who asked the Minister what we have to tackle. The Report of the Technical Working Party on School Construction says on page 2:
Meanwhile the Committee on Sites and Building Procedure, which reported in November, 1946, envisaged a programme of capital expenditure of the order of £1,000 million spread over about 15 years. This would be a comprehensive programme.
That was the programme in 1946. They reckoned that to implement the Butler Act would cost £1,000 million, and we
have actually spent £50 million in approximately five years. We have not got very far. We must face that fact.
Let us turn to the position in regard to teachers, which is almost equally serious. First, the graduate teachers. In the Report the graduate teachers are dealt with as follows:
… information from a variety of sources showed that many schools, especially girls' schools, had considerable difficulty in filling posts in science and mathematics with suitably qualified graduate teachers. If these difficulties persist, the result will be particularly disturbing, because the needs of the schools will become greater as the larger age groups of children born in 1945-48 move into the secondary schools, and as more pupils remain in the secondary schools after the age of 16.
That does not take into account the enormous difficulty which the grammar schools have in getting hold of high-class graduates for their sixth forms. I do not want to go into that question now. I mentioned it when I spoke in the last education Debate. The problem of graduates is undoubtedly extremely serious. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, and none better, the key problem is the position in regard to women teachers. Here the Report says:
As more girls stay on at secondary schools of all types, there should be no difficulty in finding recruits for an increasing number of training college places. In the meantime, it is not going to he easy to maintain the volume of training to which we are already committed, though this will not secure the number of women teachers mentioned in paragraphs five and six above as likely to be required by 1954.
That is particularly serious. Since that Report was written we have had speeches from the Permanent Secretary and, I think, the Minister, pointing out that this is not entirely correct, because it is being found extremely difficult to fill the places in the permanent training colleges for next September. I believe that is right, and I hope that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong. I shall be only too pleased if I am wrong. That does not paint a very happy picture of the situation ahead of us as it affects the supply of teachers.
I should now like to touch on another important point about the quality of education as it affects the future. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will forgive me for saying that the Report as he presented it appeared to be a little one-sided. The summing up of the Report points out that we have not yet reached the standards that we had before the war. I am pleased to see that it is true that schools are happier places than they used to be; but, nice as that is—and I have five children, four of whom are at school—I do not find that that is the only consideration of importance. There is something more in education than the creation of a school as the sort of place where people are happy. Home is the place in which to be happy; school is the place at which to learn. That was the position in my day. I may be reactionary but that still holds to a considerable extent.
I have tried, rather lugubriously, perhaps, to paint a picture of the difficulties which this Report shows. We must face them. We are all on the same side in this matter. We are all determined to see that our children get the finest education possible. We need not hide that from each other. We need not burke the issue. We must face the fact that it will be extraordinarily difficult to get over this peak birth-rate period which will face us soon.
I do not want to make all these criticisms without trying—and it is not very easy, when one does not possess the means which the Minister has—to make some suggestions, if I can. We have to realise that the Ministry of Education is peculiarly placed, as opposed to other Ministries, because it is a partner, perhaps the senior partner, and pays half the money, or a large proportion of the money, which is raised in rates by the fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts of the children at school. They feel it directly, and it is absolutely vital that it should be made clear to the people of this country what they are now facing; otherwise they will never meet the very considerable rise in expenses which must inevitably face our educational programme.
I have just said that the Ministry is peculiarly placed, but it is also happily placed in this way—that it can plan ahead better, perhaps, than any other Ministry. We know how many children are coming to the schools for many years ahead, and we know it with a considerable degree of accuracy. It is true that there are difficulties about movements of population, but they are not sufficiently great that they cannot be overcome. We really ought to have a far longer look ahead than we have at present. We want to show the local authorities as well as the House of Commons what the picture will look like if drawn five years ahead, and, if we do that, it might be rather frightening.
I have mentioned the question of buildings and the rising expenses, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to in his Budget speech. We ought to know about that, because we ought to know whether we are going to be able to catch up with that great problem of the bulge in the birth-rate. If we are not going to catch up with it—and we do not look as if we are going to do it at the moment, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) made it clear that it does not look as if it will be done in London—if we are not going to be able to catch up, it may alter our ideas on the best way of spending the money.
Many hon. Members have suggested that we should try to repair and improve existing schools rather than plump for the provision of new places. If we are going to solve the problem, my feeling would be to plump for the new places, but, if there is no hope of solving it—I may be a pessimist, but the studies I have made have led me to the conclusion that it is going to be very difficult—I think we should change over to the policy of trying to get existing schools brought up to modern standards, with better equipment in old classrooms and all those things which then assume a much more important aspect.
So I would ask the Minister seriously to consider whether he cannot produce a White Paper to forecast ahead for a considerable number of years, so that we in the House of Commons, who are behind him in this matter, and the local authorities, who are also behind him, may together face this problem, to find out what we can do about it and what is the best way in which to expend our very slender means. It would be quite disastrous if, at the end of 10 years, when the birth-rate is levelling off or even decreasing, we found that during these present vital years we had been wasting our money. That would be something for which the children to come would find it very difficult to forgive us.
In my last few minutes, I should like to mention a point which has been discussed on more than one occasion, and
that is the question of choosing children for secondary schools. On page 25 of the Report there is something about secondary schools of which, I think, the Committee ought to be reminded. It deals with the difficulties concerning grammar schools, and I think that the following sentence is a considerable understatement:
Changes in methods of selection for entry, the imminence of drastic changes in the external examination system"—
which my right hon. Friend mentioned—
and other less definable factors have tended, during a period of staffing difficulties, to produce a feeling of uncertainty among many teachers who are anxious to ensure that the highest possible standards of intellectual attainment are safeguarded.
That is absolutely true. A lot of it undoubtedly arises from the problem of the selection of children as between the grammar school and the modern school. I want to reinforce what has been said from all sides of the Committee, and ask the Minister not to abandon this problem. It is one which anybody connected with education must know exists. I understand that he will shortly be going into the Surrey scheme. I, too, believe that 13 is a far better age. I do not know how it can be done, but I sincerely hope that he will look into the matter. If he does, I am sure that he will have the whole Committee behind him in his research.
There is just one more thing I wish to say—perhaps rather a stupid thing—and that is about the School Certificate. There was recently a headline in the "Daily Herald"—the "Daily Herald," need I inform the Committee, is, I understand, the organ of the Labour Party—which said:
Farewell matric. Hail the exam. which cannot be failed.
If that is the Labour Party doctrine, I think it should be made clear to the Committee. I think that is going rather too far, and I hope the Minister will point out that that is not the idea. I have several children who will shortly be taking this examination, and if they go in with that idea they will not do as well as their father hopes they will.
We have missed out many important subjects today. We have not talked about a technical education; I wish we had had time to do so. I know the Minister realises that we need far more technical education in this country. The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) mentioned that magnificent establishment in his constituency for which I have the greatest admiration. I hope that we shall have many more, but we must face the fact that all those things add up to the price we have to pay. We must surely put into practice straightaway all the methods of economy we can.
I understand that when the Report on manpower and local government was produced by the educational sub-committee, one county council, which is probably the foremost in this country in educational matters at the moment, put it into force straightaway. There is no doubt that we can find many things on which to economise. One of the things we can do, if we really face up to our difficulties, is to impress upon local authorities the vital need for economy.
That is all I have to say; I have no peroration to make and no trite platitudes to express. All I will do—and I am sure the whole Committee will join me in this—is to wish the Minister luck in the great problem he has to face and courage to tell us—we will have the courage to bear it—all the difficulties and problems with which he is confronted.
Let me first of all thank the Committee for the nice things that have been said about my Ministry and about the Minister. I am modest enough and, I think, human enough to like occasionally being praised. I am also realistic enough to face a situation and to try to tell the Committee the truth about it.
I want to express my thanks at the way in which the Report has been received. When it was written, and presented to me, I had to make a decision whether or not it should be printed. Those items in the Report which deal with the quality of education are, as everybody realises, the opinions of His Majesty's inspectors. Some of them were favourable; some of them, to put it mildly, unfavourable. I decided that both sorts had to go in. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to have suppressed the unfavourable ones and to have only the favourable ones put in, but I guessed somebody else would be seeing the schools in addition, and would probably come to Parliament and, as we say in Lancashire sometimes, "Blow the gaff." Well, they went in.
It is an honest, a straightforward, and a realistic report; and I think that, in spite of all the criticism—and I have some criticisms of it myself—it shows a picture of which, in the circumstances after the war, we can be proud; because people who do not understand the effect of the war on our educational system have failed to understand what, I believe, is probably the primary thing in dealing with the children of today. Let me say in passing—for I may not get back to it again—that we should never forget, in either praising or placing blame upon the children of today, that we are responsible for having faced them with many, many problems that we ourselves, in our childhood, were not called upon to face.
I want to deal, if I can, with the questions which have been raised. It is going to be difficult, but there are one or two that stand out and that must be given attention. The first is one which I anticipated, namely, why the children are not to be allowed to take the new General Certificate Examination before the age of 16. First of all, I should like to remind the Committee that, although one section of the educational world has been very vocal in attacking the age limit, opposition to the new system is not at all general. There are two sides to this argument. Naturally, those who agree with my decision, being satisfied, make less noise than those who disagree with it; but that should not lead this Committee into the false assumption that I have imposed this arrangement in an autocratic manner or from some noneducational motive. We need to remember that the new system of examinations was not my idea originally. It was devised by the Secondary School Examinations Council, a body representative of various educational interests, including the universities and the various headmasters' and headmistresses' associations.
Why is it that the only part of the scheme recommended to me by the Council that has been subjected to any serious criticism is the age limit? Various arguments have been used from time to time, but the core of them all is the fear—which, I am certain, will prove to be unfounded—that the age limit will penalise a clever child. I am always being asked, why should a boy or girl be held back for a year, if he is ready to take the examination, just because he was born a little later than the Minister thinks he should have been? The answer to this question is, to my mind, quite simple; and I declare quite sincerely that my confidence in the answer has not been shaken by all the comment and the criticism which has been uttered in the last couple of years or more.
The answer is in two parts. First, the conception of children being "ready for an examination" is, in my opinion and the opinion of the Secondary School Examinations Council, inconsistent with the educational principles which underlie the 1944 Act. We do not have children for examinations. We have examinations for children. And we have external examinations, not because they are necessary for the education of the children but because they are needed for some external purpose, like getting a job or qualifying for entry to a profession or a university.
Therefore, the question which the teacher asks, or ought to ask, is not "Is this child ready for the examination?" but "Has the time come when this child needs to take an examination to show people outside what he can do?" That is why the Secondary School Examinations Council decided that the new examination should be used, not to show what a child can do in subjects which he proposes to drop at an early stage in his career, but to prove that he has reached a reasonably worth-while stage in subjects which will be of some permanent significance in his education. It needs to be emphasised that the new examination is not simply the old School Certificate and Higher Certificate under another name. It is intended to be a quite different examination with a different purpose.
The second part of the answer to this question about the bright child is that there is nothing in the new system which need have the effect of holding anybody back. On the contrary, the main principle is that the teacher should be freed of the limitations involved in the old examination system and set at liberty to bring on each child as far and as fast in each subject as his interests and capabilities allow. Under the old system, up to seven or eight subjects were commonly taken together in the School Certificate at about the same standard. Under the new system, a child will be able to make earlier and faster progress in his best subjects while keeping up steady work in the other subjects which are necessary to his general education.
It seems to me that this argument about the clever child being held back contradicts itself. It amounts to saying that the clever child is so clever that he can pass the examination at a more or less elementary level at about 14 or 15, but he is not clever enough to maintain two or three subjects at this level for a couple of years longer, while at the same time working to a high standard in his main subjects. I just do not believe that. I am convinced that as time goes on and the schools settle down to work the new system, it will be generally recognised that it has conferred a great measure of much needed freedom on both teachers and pupils. I have listened all my administrative life to arguments about the desirability of setting the schoolmaster free in order to plan his curriculum without the fear, as it were, of an examination at the end of it, and when one takes a step in that direction it appears as if these people are afraid of the freedom that is being given to them.
Now we come to one of the vexed questions that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon). That is the question of the comprehensive school. I want to say, quite frankly, what my position is in regard to the comprehensive school. In this time of change when we are attempting to apply this new principle of secondary education for all, I believe it is necessary for experiments to take place. I have, in the circular that was issued, outlined the attitude of the Ministry on this subject. When it is suggested that I have refused to give authorities permission to experiment, unless they were prepared to build schools for a large number of children, the suggestion being made that that number was excessively high, all I would say is that in Middlesex, which is not far away, I have given permission for three of these schools to be started. These are now actually in being, and not one of them reaches 1,000 in number. That is evidence of my willingness for experiments to be made in this direction.
One thing about this subject which leads many people to express different comments is this question of deciding at 11 years of age whether or not a child should go to a secondary school of one kind or another. I know the arguments that are going to be put forward when the Surrey Education Committee come to meet me in a few days' time, and I appreciate the special pleading of my very great friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall) in this Debate.
Who is to say 13 is going to prove better than 11? The parent of a child who passes an examination at 11 is convinced that 11 is the right age, while the parent of the child who does not pass at 11 is convinced that had it been at a different age her child would have been successful. So long as human nature is what it is, so long will a mother consider her child is as good as the next-door child. It is suggested that the development of the comprehensive school will solve this problem. It may do; but it is not for our lifetime. I cannot contemplate—I wish sometimes I could—the possibility of places being offered for all children to go right through to the university. I agree as to the opportunity to go there, but I am referring to the ability of a child to go to a university; but, after all, think of a world in which everyone has been to a university.
I think there is something to be said for the humanising influence of the modern school and its development, because, let it be remembered, it has not yet begun to be developed in the sense that we wish it to be developed. Until the age is raised to 16, we cannot have equality between the respective types of education. That is impossible, but it is not impossible to develop the modern school in such a way as it becomes, not an alternative to, but something just as good alongside the grammar school.
After all, the grammar school has had a start of 40 years and has had considerable achievements in those 40 years. It is not likely that in four or five years we are going to convince parents that the one is as good as the other. I hope no one will give parents the impression that the modern secondary school or the secondary modern school means a stop at 15, because more and more we have children remaining until 16, as the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam has pointed out.
I am hoping that we shall develop a syllabus in the modern school which will not only enable children to remain until they are 16, but will enable them to pass this new certificate of examination with marks given for things never dreamt of in the old days of the School Certificate, when it will not matter to a great extent so far as the certificate is concerned whether they can do the things my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) cannot or can do.
I want to refer to what was said by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) about the London building programme. It is impossible for me to carry in my head onto the Floor of this Committee all the figures relating to the 146 local education authorities; when he suggested that I cut down the programme of the London County Council from £7 million to £3 million he is misleading not only the Members of this House, but the people of London. It is true that £7 million was the amount that they would need if they were to do the things that they were anxious to do, but it is also true that they knew that the £3 million, which I allowed them, was about all they could possibly spend on building materials and the wherewithal to get the schools going. I shall be delighted if they meet that requirement. It is suggested that the places will not be ready for the children in three years' time. I am not a complacent person, but I get a bit tired of people preaching disaster three years ahead. I wish either they would bring it a bit nearer or forget it altogether. What is to happen in three years' time? That depends on what happens in the three years.
I want to give the hon. Gentleman a progress report on what is being done. I apologise for quoting figures, particularly at a quarter to ten, but I want to give these particulars. The total number of new school places provided between the end of the war and 1st June, 1950, was 432,880, and I have not the slightest doubt that last year somebody said it was impossible to provide this number by this time 1950. The new schools which came into use between the end of the war and 1st June, were 386, and the number brought into use between 1st February, 1950, and 31st May, 1950, was 96, equivalent to six a week. The new school places brought into use between 1st February, 1950, and 31st May, 1950, were equivalent to 350 a day—42,690.
If we can keep it up—and I believe we can maintain that rate of progress—I will not say we will have too many places, but we shall have sufficient places to meet requirements. It may be a squeeze. but we have been squeezed in this direction before. If I had listened to the suggestions made when we proposed raising the school age, such as that we could never meet all the requirements, we should never have raised the school age. That cannot be done which the people, who are in charge, determine will not be done, but if we have got a desire to do anything and are prepared to put our backs into it I believe it can be done.
Reference has been made during the Debate to a letter which appeared in "The Times." I do not often read "The Times." I think it is far more important from the standpoint of democracy to read the letters in the "Daily Express" because all the people who write to "The Times" are those who have been complained about this afternoon—the experts who come along with new ideas, one following the other. In every single item of that letter the individual who wrote it, Magnus Wechsler, gives the wrong impression of what we are seeking to do.
I am not spending the time I have in this Debate on Wechsler, when I can spend it on hon. Members. But I will give the Committee an idea of the "Aunt Sallies," which he sets up for himself and which he then knocks down. He says that in the primary school there are to be no gymnasia. There never have been. Then he suggests that we are cutting down the standards, and, as a consequence, will not get what we desire.
I want to come for a moment to the question which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). He dealt with the question of spastic children, and I agreed with every word that he said. If there is one set of the children for whom I have responsibility that I feel for, it is the children who, in some way, are handicapped either physically or mentally. In the last five years we have done as much as has ever been done in any five years in our history to attempt to deal with this problem. It is not easy.
There are only two schools for spastics in the whole of England and Wales. There is not one yet in Wales, but I am hoping that the hon. Member's raising of this question and my answer today will lead the Joint Committee to do something in this direction. Mind, there is not a great deal that we can do for these children but we can certainly make life a little pleasanter and more agreeable for them. For some of the illnesses from which they suffer there is very little than can be done. I want to promise my hon. Friend, as I have promised every other hon. Member, that everything which can be done within the limits of practicability at the present time in this direction I am prepared to do.
My hon. Friend also mentioned the Welsh language test that was being imposed by one of the authorities in Wales. I am given to understand that only one authority is as yet concerned, and that the paper is very simple. How a paper can be very simple that deals with the Welsh language passes my comprehension, but I certainly will ask the Joint Committee to look at the matter.
The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) spoke of the new departure that is being made in short-term education by the Outward Bound schools. This is a voluntary body which is doing a great work. I had the privilege a few weeks ago of going, on a Sunday—I blame this House, or rather the constitution of the House, for my having to go on a Sunday—and of opening that second school. I believe that not only employers but local education authorities will get full value for the money they spend in sending children to continue their education there.
A question was raised by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) with regard to an inquiry that had taken place, or rather an inspection. I have not time to go into it now. There is an answer to the question, and I will write to the hon. Member on the subject.
The hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Scott) raised the question of the village schools in what I considered to be a very useful and fair way. I want to tell him and the Committee that we are not doctrinaire about village schools. I realise that they have done a great work and that they still have much to do, but I think they need to be looked at from the standpoint of the children and of the opportunities that are offered by modern education before we continue them for continuing's sake.
The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton) dealt with the subject of youth services, village halls, community centres and the rest of those things. As hon. Members know, it was necessary when the economy cut took place to cut down on these altogether so that we might continue with the provision of the priorities which have been mentioned, primary schools and schools on new housing estates. I felt that we were making it a little too drastic, many voluntary organisations and authorities have spent a good deal of money in this direction, and I am happy to be able in the very near future to ease up on the statement which I made and allow some of these schemes to go forward.
The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) said something about the purpose of education, and quoted a remark of mine about never being able to make a speech on education itself in the House. I have just about five minutes in which to say something about education. I agree with some of the things which have been said about the purpose of education. It is essential that children should be educated in a way which enables them to earn their living. I believe that competence is one of the things which are of the utmost importance. Knowledge of the "three R's" is just as essential today as it ever was, but that does not mean that the only method of teaching the "three R's" is that which was used in my day.
It is not enough just to teach people to be competent, because after the individual has earned his living he has to live, and very often there is not much living in the real sense while one is earning one's living. I remember putting to some elderly women working at the Ministry of Works the question, "Are you happy in your work?" and they looked at me as if I was "crackers." How can one be happy when one is working? I have a feeling that unless one is reasonably happy when working one is not doing one's best work.
I have the same feeling about schools. In spite of all the Jeremiahs in the educational world—there are a few—a visit to one of our schools today convinces me through the spirit which is revealed in the faces of the children—particularly in the new schools—that there is not much wrong with them. Unless children are reasonably happy they cannot be taught properly. They ought to be happy not only at home but also at school. If they are happier at school than they are at home there is something wrong at home, and if they are happier at home than they are at school there is something wrong at school. Between the parents, the teachers and the people who provide the money—this Committee—our job is primarily to keep the children happy and to see that they are taught in such a way that the results we desire, not only in the shape of human happiness but in the way of duty to others, are achieved.