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 Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West 12:00 am, 17th April 1951

No. I merely referred in parenthesis to L.C.C. buildings as a horrible example of what should not be allowed to happen—buildings which were erected when the party opposite had power in the L.C.C. This process of prefabrication is continuing, as is evidenced in the new aluminium type of school. I have often thought—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam—that education is bearing many costs which it should not bear, especially in relation to the provision of grounds. I have never been able to understand why many schools have been erected in spacious grounds which are reserved for the exclusive use of the school, instead of being used by the general neighbourhood.

On the question of private schools, hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways. As a result of the Education Act, 1944, by which children are given the type of education suitable to their age, aptitude and ability, people who in former times were prepared to pay for some part of their children's education in order to send them to the local grammar school, are no longer able to do so. Therefore, we have 25 per cent. in grammar schools, 10 per cent. for technical schools and 75 per cent. for the rest. There is a form of snobbery among some people who seem to imagine that the county modern school is not good enough for their children. Therefore, private schools are multiplied, very often charging excessive fees, as a result of the working of the Act, but I do not think any hon. Member opposite who has any feeling for education, would welcome a departure from the Act. It was, after all, an all-party Measure. These schools very often satisfy a snob element.

On the question of what should be cut out of education, I have a list of economies which the Kent County Council are seeking to introduce. Among them, they have served notice on all nursery school accommodation in the whole county. This has been done not by the education committee, but the over-riding influence of the county council who, by a savage resolution taken in public, have chosen to wipe out nursery school accommodation. The nursery school for which I had some responsibility in North-West Kent—it was rather a show place—is presumably included in this resolution. We do not solve any educational problem by cutting off one of its limbs. I hope that the Minister's view on this decision will be felt strongly at Maidstone.

There is one point which has not been mentioned in connection with primary schools, and it is this. I think that the working of the Burnham Committee has created a fairer level of salaries. In the old days there were often graduate teachers in grammar schools with classes consisting of about 30 boys, getting a much larger salary than the head of a great school with 600 or 700 children. I am never much impressed when secondary school teachers with degrees put in special pleas. In this matter of teachers' salaries, we are right to pay for the responsibility which a teacher carries, the size of his school, and so on, taking into account whether he is responsible for certain extraneous services. We would prefer that the accent of salary should be placed on this and not on graduate qualification.