Orders of the Day — Educational Expenditure (Priorities)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th April 1951.

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Photo of Mr Ralph Morley Mr Ralph Morley , Southampton, Itchen 12:00 am, 17th April 1951

Now the hon. Member says that there is not enough money. It is the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find the necessary money, and he was fairly successful in his recent Budget in finding some additional money for the nation's needs.

I want to come back again to the question of the supply of teachers, because I think hon. Members opposite will agree that we cannot reduce the size of our classes and the overcrowding in our schools unless we get an additional supply of teachers. One of the difficulties at present is to get a sufficient supply of women teachers. Girls will leave the secondary schools and the grammar schools at the age of 16 because, with some further education in office work, they can get fairly congenial jobs in commerce or industry and can earn as much in their twenties as they would do if they stayed at school until they were 18 and went to college and university and became teachers. I think we want to find some means of encouraging girls to stop at grammar schools till the age of 18 and to go forward to college to qualify as teachers. Something may be done by methods of persuasion, but I think it would be useful if maintenance grants in the grammar schools to the age of 16 to 18 were increased so as to encourage those girls to stay on, so that they could pass the necessary qualifying examination and enter training college to become teachers.

Further, I cannot help thinking that it would be a great encouragement for increasing the supply of women teachers if we now adopted the principle of equal pay in the teaching profession. The recent alteration by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the incidence of Income Tax has made the case of equal pay, I think, even stronger than it was before, because the married teacher with a family and £500 a year would pay very little Income Tax, and have a much bigger net income left after paying Income Tax than the single woman on the same salary.

The special problem with which we are faced in this question of the size of classes and overcrowding in our primary schools is building. Let me say that I do not think that the Opposition can cast any stones at the Ministry for what it has accomplished in school building during the past five years. During the past five years no fewer than 294 new schools have been built, and 80 per cent. of those 294 new schools have been primary schools. Primary schools have had the priority in building during the past five years. Twice as many schools have been built in this country during the past five years as were built in any previous five years during the past 100 years. No Conservative Government have ever equalled the record of school building of the present Labour Government in the past five years. This year we are spending £45 million upon building new schools. Over 900 new schools are now under construction, and the majority of the new schools that are under construction are primary schools.

I think that the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment must agree that a very fair degree of priority has been given to primary schools and is still being given to the primary schools. The merits of the Government's J achievement in the building of schools is seen to be all the greater when we reflect how many other claimants there have been during the past five years for the available supplies of building material and building labour. It has been necessary to build houses, to build factories, to build super generating stations. I should like to see the Ministry building even more schools than it is building, but it cannot have more than a fair share of the building labour and building materials, and I think that, on the whole, the Minister of Education is to be congratulated upon getting the reasonable share of the building labour and building materials that he has so far secured.

The whole question is really one of finance, and although I want to see more money spent on the primary schools, I would deprecate the point of view which, it seems to me, was put forward by the mover and seconder of the Amendment, and more by the mover of the Amendment than by the seconder of the Amendment, that we should find the additional finance by cutting down expenditure on secondary education, by cutting down expenditure upon community centres. It is true that we want the best possible primary education to form the basis of good secondary education, but having got that basis we also want good secondary education.