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 George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West 12:00 am, 17th April 1951

Thank you so much. It is comforting to hear a "Hear, hear," from any hon. Member when reference is made to the Christian teaching, which I do not mean unkindly. To say that the schools should be put to the front in defence of the British way of life is not to suggest that politics should be introduced; but I am convinced that the ethics upon which our system has been established must find their place in the school. Unhappily, for thousands of children the only place where they have an opportunity of hearing about Christian ethics is in the schools.

I agree with the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) that there seems to be evidence of a breakdown in family life, which I find disquieting. The greater the lack of home life, the greater the responsibility of the teacher, and the greater the responsibility of the teacher, the greater the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to see that the teacher is given every opportunity to get on with the job. The schools have in some way to compensate the child when there is lack of instruction in the home, and overcrowding makes the teacher's job impossible. Reference is made in the "Daily Mail" today to the size of classes at Eton and Harrow and the other schools from which the right hon. Gentleman opposite and some from this side of the House have come. The average is 12 to 14, and it is possible in those circumstances for a teacher to do something.

It is almost impossible to do justice to this debate in view of the time, and as I have promised to be brief and always like to keep my word, I will conclude by saying this. Member after Member opposite has been asking for more education and more money for different aspects of education; some have asked for more secondary modern schools and others for priority to be given to primary schools. So they must make up their minds that the nation must continue to spend not only as much as it is spending but more if education is to fulfil its purpose in the country. The Chancellor must have pressure brought to bear upon him, and we hope that we shall have the support of Members opposite in this.

The service of education in this country is fortunate to have a teaching profession imbued with very high ideals. It is customary for tributes to be paid from both sides to the teaching profession. But tributes are not enough. It is our responsibility to see that the teachers are given the tools to get on with the job. The Minister must not be content to tell the House that he is able to mark time by keeping the average size of classes where it is. He must somehow make inroads on the size of classes. I know that overcrowding takes place in pockets and that it is not the same problem all over the country. I sincerely hope that, apart from that proud story my right hon. Friend has to tell about new schools, he will be able to indicate to these authorities who suffer most from large classes, that there is some hope within the next two years of the size of their classes being reduced.