I always feel that when we come to debate the main questions of education, we can all say that at least we have some knowledge and experience of the subject. In many debates on various subjects, some hon. Members can speak from personal knowledge; but all of us can look back, however long it may be, to the time when we were at school and when we were going through those years of education. Perhaps some of us think of the benefit that we got from our schooling and the chances of which we did not take full advantage.
Very often it helps if we can look at these educational problems from the point of view of the child who is being educated. We know that expert opinion will come from those who have been in the teaching profession and those who serve on local education authorities, but I still feel that our main point is to look at the education of a child—not a large quantity of children—and to try to ensure that each child is getting the best possible chance that we can give.
First, I should like to speak about this strange volume which we have been given. We all know that Section 5 of the 1944 Act places on the Minister the duty of presenting to Parliament each year an account of the performance by him of his duties and powers under the Act. But this year we have a different sort of document. I have been thinking of some of the other points which I hope to discuss, and I might perhaps call this document a comprehensive volume. It has a strange title, "Education, 1900–1950." It is not a survey or a record. It is described as:
The report of the Ministry of Education and the statistics of public education for England and Wales for the year 1950.
I wonder whether many hon. Members did what I did when the Report became available and began looking through it before turning to the introduction. If they did, they probably came to the conclusions which I reached, that it was most difficult to find anything in this volume concerning 1950. Of course, the matter is made clear if we turn to the introduction, because there we find that there are only to be short references to the events of 1950 at the end of each chapter.
That is a great mistake. When we get the Report of the work of the Ministry for each year, we want a good deal more information than is given in this document. The introduction speaks of the fact that there is not:
… a substantial chapter on educational method and the curriculum of the schools.
This does not of course mean that the schools have made no response to the new knowledge about the nature and needs of children or to the changing conceptions of the function of education in a democratic community.
But why cannot we be told anything about these changes? There is a footnote. If one looks at that footnote after reading about the
function of education in a democratic community
one sees that there are a good many interesting documents referred to, the latest having been published in 1938.
Our first reaction is that we should like to know more about what has been happening in the educational world, and that it is impossible for us to assess the value and use of an administrative machine unless we know what has been the result of the using of that machine. I agree that the local education authorities have the right to arrange their own schools, but I think that every hon. Member will agree that the Minister in charge has a duty to keep in touch to see what has been happening in the schools.
His Majesty's inspectors, rightly, have been referred to as guides, philosophers and friends. We should have liked to have known how they were guiding and what their philosophy was. I see also that these guides, philosophers and friends spread abroad "sweetness and light." It is rather a pity that we had to have the footnote about Matthew Arnold. I think that I should have left gut the reference to "sweetness and light" if it had been necessary to make an explanation about that phrase. I am not really asking that in this Debate we should have much sweetness, but on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends I should like to ask for a little more light.
Exactly. It is about the children that we want to hear from the wider point of view. We meet them and talk to them and to their teachers, but I think that this document which is supposed to be the Annual Report should tell us more about the children and their education. I have seen this document referred to as an historical digest. I cannot help finding some of the language in which it is couched not very digestible. I can imagine the difficulty of making this a comprehensive volume. It is a difficulty found in other comprehensive schemes. Probably the lay-out would have been much greater and the document would have been longer. As it is, it appears to have been cut after the information was gathered together. There are bits about one objective and bits about some other.
I do not think that anyone can say that it gives a very good example of English prose at its best. I wonder whether I am being pedantic, but, after all, this is a volume from the Ministry of Education and it ought to be in really good English. I wonder why the title of the last paragraph in the chapter on buildings is Envoi. Was it not possible, in the whole range of the English language, with all its richness, to find some other title? From the historical point of view also, I think that this document is a little bit strange. I never knew, and somehow I do not think that it is quite correct, that adult education in this country began with Ruskin College.
There are some other matters which are disappointing. I know that it must have been terribly difficult to write this document. It should have been done in a different way. An historical survey of the years 1900–1950 should have been made into a volume of its own, and then we might have had a proper Report of the work of the Ministry in 1950. There is an explanation of the various Acts and the various Reports. There is also a good deal about the changes which those Acts brought about; but, strangely enough, when we come to the Butler Act—
Yes. There is reference to the Butler Act and the Fisher Act.
From time to time, we have references to the 1918 Act and to the 1944 Act, but in this volume, which perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not fully studied, there are references to both. The choice for all tastes is fully comprehensive. On page 39, we have a strange statement. Having been told what was done in like cases, as the result of other Acts we are then told:
But this is not the place to attempt a detailed description of the 1944 Act and the amending measures that have followed it. The Act awaits the verdict of history, and its true stature will not become fully apparent for some decades.
I quite agree that the verdict may await history but, as this is supposed to be an historical survey of the difficulties and the changes that have been made, I think it is a pity that there was not either the time or the space to include even an outline of the changes that took place under the Butler, or 1944, Act.
As to the conclusions, they are referred to at the end of each chapter, and I think they work out at under one-third of the Report, and probably a good deal less. These paragraphs to which I refer are almost snippets, and we get very little information even there. It is rather tan-talising, in view of some of the problems we have to face, and we had hoped that we would have got more information about the problems; but no facts are given.
Let us take the question of finance, which is dealt with on page 32; the Report says that that is not the place to deal with it fully. Where, I wonder, is it to be dealt with? On the subject of higher technological education, a Report was received in 1950, but no decision has yet been made. On the revision of building regulations, the Report says the task was well advanced at the end of 1950. I went through this volume, through these little bits, having gone into the history and having checked it up with a few other historical documents which are more easy to grasp in the language in which they are written, but I found very few actual facts or decisions given to us on these matters, and I must, therefore, in what I have to say, ask the right hon. Gentleman a good many questions. I have informed the Minister of some of the subjects on which I shall ask questions, and he may think that the list is quite formidable, but the reason is that the information contained in this volume is so slight.
In passing, I want to ask one question about finance. We see the figures of the increase in expenditure, but what is particularly interesting and requires attention is that, although the increase for 1951–52 will not be as great an increase in the Exchequer grant as before—it is an increase from just over £193 million to just over £204 million—the increase in the charge on the rates is from just over £98 million to just over £113 million. If hon. Members looked at the increases each year, they will have found that the outstanding thing is the enormous increase in the rates. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, to tell us what he is doing in the consideration of this financial problem.
When there was a debate in this House on 17th April, we asked the Minister several questions on finance and priorities, and he said that there probably would have to be priorities, and that he would have to look at some things which might be called frills and possibly cut them out. Are we to have any further information about these things, because there must have been a great deal of consultation about them? Hon. Members will remember that, in his Budget speech, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Government had got as far as considering the amount that would be saved either by lowering the school leaving age or by raising the age at which children come into the schools.
Indeed, this problem has to be faced, and the whole country is wanting to know. I am certain that we want to carry the people of this country with us in our determination to provide the best possible education. Therefore, I think it has to be made absolutely clear and quite definite to the people that the rates are going up, but that we are looking very carefully at the financial considerations and seeing what can be done.
It was rather disappointing to find, at the end of a paragraph, the statement that this was not the place to discuss finance, because, even with this increase, we are all agreed that there are many gaps still to be filled and that the filling of those gaps will mean extra expenditure. In arranging for that, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us, when surveying the whole field of education, that there is to be further expenditure on filling certain gaps.
The second question I want to ask him is about higher technological education, and it is very serious. We know that we in this country are behind other countries, and we know that a great industrial country—
The right hon. Gentleman says that, in higher technological education, we are not behind other countries, but I think there are a great many cases in which we can say that we are. At any rate, we will all agree, which is even more important, that we want more higher technological education. Very well, we agree; and I do not think there need be much between us on that point.
We want to know what arrangements are being made to carry out what we all agree ought to be done. We have far too few colleges and schemes. Manchester has done a splendid job, but we all agree that there ought to be more and more examples of what Manchester has been doing. I ask that question because we have had debates and discussions about this matter and there have been reports one after the other, and still nothing is being done. At this time, industry is requiring this technological knowledge more and more, and there must be more push and drive infused into it. I therefore ask the Minister whether he has made up his mind what ought to be done, or whether he is doing nothing at all about it.
Now I should like to turn to what I would call the ordinary school life of the children, and to consider whether, in their various stages, we are doing as much as we possibly can for them. We are all agreed that what we want to do is to help them to the best and fullest development of body, soul and mind. We all agree that there are many difficulties that might hold us up in many ways, but we want to see that we are making the best possible use of all the means we have.
I begin with the health side. I think that the subject of the children's dental treatment is something of which we should all be ashamed. I put the blame for that absolutely straight on the Government. We knew the facts, and the number of dentists looking after children's teeth has been discussed before. There were last year, as far as I can gather, only 717. If we were to have one dentist to every 3,000 children, which we were told was the aim, we should have to have 1,900. In this volume, we are not told the number of children whose teeth were inspected or treated in 1950, but we know that in 1949 the number inspected was 2,807,000, the number referred for treatment was 1,761,000, and the number of children treated was 1,422,000.
How many children were inspected and how many were treated during last year? I fear that the number will not be very large, but I repeat that this failure to look after the children's teeth is entirely the responsibility of the Government. This failure to deal with the matter is all the more serious because they have had the time in which to decide what to do about it. We have not yet been given this information, but are still waiting for it. The Coalition Government knew in 1944, and the Labour Government knew in 1945, that it was quite impossible to have a full, comprehensive dental service for the people of this country without injuring the dental service for the children, and they had to make their choice.
I would refer hon. Members to the White Paper of 1944 on the National Health Service. On page 9 of that White Paper we find a paragraph headed "Temporary exemptions to comprehensiveness," which says:
A full dental service for the whole population, for instance, including regular conservative treatment, is unquestionably a proper aim in any whole health service, and must be so regarded. But there are not at present, and will not be for some years, enough dentists in the country to provide it. Until the supply can be increased, attention will have to be concentrated on priority needs. These must include the needs of children and young people and of expectant and nursing mothers.
I took part in the debate on that White Paper and discussed it with hon. Members of this House. They asked over and over again,
"Cannot we have a full dental service?" My reply was, what is the use of the Government saying that there can be a full dental service when we know there cannot be a good service? We must keep the dental skill available, above all, for the children, and in that
way we shall have gradually growing up a generation with good teeth. Again, there was the Report of the Teviot Committee which was set up to go into this matter. In that Report we find exactly the same thing, that special care should be taken of the children.
A point ultimately of even greater significance is that if they come to a true valuation of dental health, our major problem is solved not only for them in their adult lives, but also for future generations.… We regard a big expansion of the dental services available to school children as one of the essential foundations of a comprehensive service.
Those were the Reports and those were the facts known to the Government, and yet, in spite of that, they brought forward a dental service for everybody and deprived the children of dental care, which simply means that we shall have another generation growing up with their teeth in a state of disease—a thing which need not have occurred—and we shall have to begin the whole course over again.
I know it is being asked, what are the Government to do now? Suggestions of various sorts are being made, and I want the Minister to tell us what he is going to do about it. I have heard it suggested that persons not fully qualified should be brought in to help look after the teeth of the children. We hear talk of what is being done in New Zealand, but I would urge the Minister to realise that the greatest skill is needed in looking after the children's teeth. I think it would be a great setback to the health of the children and to the welfare of the next generation if unskilled people were given the care of the children's teeth.
I also want to ask if medical inspections are being carried out to the full extent, and whether there is a sufficient number of school nurses. We were all interested in this problem during the war when the children were evacuated. I saw a good deal of it as children were evacuated to the various parts of the country. I remember the splendid work which the school nurses did, and I want to know if we have a sufficient number of them, and if they are still carrying on their work to the fullest possible extent.
One of the great things about their work, and something which is not easy, is that they visit the homes and get in touch with the parents. A great deal of their work has to do with cleanliness, and, as we all know, one of the greatest difficulties of many mothers today lies in the fact that the houses in which they live are not suitable. We are always hearing of the difficulty of their doing their washing and keeping clean. I think that tactful and understanding school nurses, given the co-operation of the parents, could do an enormous amount for the welfare of the children.
Now I pass to something which I consider very important—partnership between the teachers and the parents. I know that nearly all teachers are anxious for a real partnership with the parents of the children they teach. We have the parent-teacher associations, and they are excellent. We want to stress more and more how good they are, because we are not going to get the best chance for the children unless we keep that partnership. In some cases it is extremely difficult.
We know, of course, that there are bad homes and bad parents, and that it must be heart-breaking for a great many teachers to try and struggle with such people; but I believe the great majority of parents are anxious for the welfare of their children and anxious to be consulted about them by the teachers. There are occasions when the parents may feel that there is something of the atmosphere of "the teacher knows best," just as we are sometimes given to understand that the gentleman in Whitehall knows best, which is very irritating. We want to get away from that sort of atmosphere.
There is another subject of great interest which has lately been mentioned in the Press and in one or two reports. It is the question of truancy. I would say straight away that I do not think truancy is practised on a very large scale. Perhaps I ought to refer to it in present-day language as the "voluntary absenteeism of the pupil." We could find other terms for it, but I am trying to keep up the standard, although I am not going to use such words as "Envoi."
In the Report of the Committee appointed by the British Medical Association and the Magistrates' Association to study the matter of the delinquent boy, there are several paragraphs devoted to this subject of truancy. I understand that truancy occurs mainly among boys between the ages of 14 and 15, although I believe that the numbers are very small. Hon. Members have probably read that Report, and I do not want to go into it in any great detail. The Report suggests that the boy of 14 or 15 may get bored at school and may feel frustrated. His parents may not feel that he is using his time to the best advantage. There does not appear to be that partnership between the teacher and the parent for the purpose of keeping up the interest of the child that I hope we shall get to the greatest possible extent.
The Report says that in the case of such boys, it is nearly always found that when they go to work, they are the main offenders as regards voluntary absenteeism. That is something that must be checked, and we must consider whether in our schools we are retaining the interest of boys of 14 and 15 years of age. Perhaps the Minister will tell me if it is correct to say that most of the absenteeism occurs in that age group. I am sure the number of such cases is not large, but I should be interested to know what it is. I think it is for us to study the problem and find out the reason for it.
I am very disappointed in the number of children attending technical secondary education, and I wonder whether we have pushed on sufficiently with that part of our educational system. The numbers have not increased to the extent that I thought they would. In 1948, there were 72,000, in 1949, again 72,000, and in 1950, up to 74,000. Our idea was that with the three streams there would be a chance of technical secondary education. I am talking now of boys of 15 years of age, and I am sorry to say that in many ways I do not think this third stream of our secondary education has received perhaps as much attention as it should receive. I know there has been much to do and that there are many schemes. Indeed, I wonder whether we have been trying to do too many things at one and the same time.
I think it is important that we should look at this matter and that the Minister should tell us more about the progress that has been made in technical secondary education. I was sorry to hear the Chancellor, when he made his statement about reductions in the investment programme, say that increased provision for technical education must be delayed. I think that is disastrous. I know that there have to be economies and I should like the Government to look around. Some of us may think of some economies, but I am not going into that today. We should look again and consider what are the priorities. The claims of secondary technical education certainly ought to be considered.
I should like to say something now about the voluntary schools. In the document about the adolescent delinquent boy to which I have already referred, there are paragraphs dealing with the lack of religious influence on the life of boys which are most distressing and tragic; but they are facts which we have to face. One hears a great deal said today about the lack of parental control and about the lack of parental interest in children. I hope, therefore, that we welcome it when parents or the churches or religious bodies urge the need for religious education.
The opinion is often expressed that there would be greater progress and a tidier scheme of education if we could dispense with the voluntary schools and have an agreed syllabus, but the tidy scheme is not always the best scheme. If we agree that parents should take an interest in the welfare of their children and we are thankful when we hear that parents are anxious that children should have the church teaching in which they believe, then we must face the difficulties of the voluntary school. We cannot have it both ways. We have too little rather than too much interest in religious affairs nowadays, but I know, and we all know, what difficulties are involved with the voluntary school system.
We all realise that since the passing of the 1944 Act unforeseen difficulties have been met by the various denominations. Perhaps it was not foreseen to a full extent what the re-distribution of population would mean with large numbers of people going into new housing estates and what are called "displaced pupils" arriving from various parts of the country. We also know the difficulties created by the greatly increased cost of building. There are many other difficulties which I cannot mention in the time available.
I put these matters merely to ask the Minister whether he is considering them and whether he is hopeful that some of the difficulties may be ironed out. I do not expect a final reply. We know that they cannot be easily overcome, but that does not mean that we should sit down and say that we cannot be bothered about them. We want to help the parents and to help the children to be educated as far as possible as their parents would like them to be educated.
I will leave that for the moment, but I have been very careful. I have not asked the Minister to give a final reply, but merely whether he is considering these things and whether he thinks he will be able to make certain adjustments. I hope that decisions on revised building regulations will be reached as soon as possible.
Another factor which affects the home, parental co-operation and the children vitally is the village school. I know that the problem of the village school is a very difficult one. I see that since 1947, 369 primary schools and three secondary schools in villages have been closed. In speeches by experts on education and in articles in the newspapers, a great deal of concern is expressed about the closing of these village schools. I know that on each occasion when he has been asked to sanction the closing of a village school the Minister has said that he would look at it entirely from the point of view of the welfare of the children.
But in connection with the village school, it is not only the time the child spends at school that matters. The village schoolmaster and schoolmistress are friends of the family. When the child leaves school he keeps in touch with the headmaster. Troubles and difficulties are brought to the headmaster, the friendship is kept up, and parents talk over their problems with him. If we sweep away the village school and take away the village schoolmaster, we take something valuable out of village life.
I am coming to that. I should like to ask what the Minister is thinking of doing about this problem. We all know that at the moment it is not possible to clear away village schools which are not as good as they might be. Seeking for a solution, I put out as a personal idea whether there is any chance of improving some of them. I do not say that all of them can be improved; but is there any chance of further repair or of adding to them—a kind of make-do and mend?
It is clear that with the present push for places, we shall not be able to sweep away immediately all schools which are not up to standard, but could not some of the schools in that condition be made better schools while they still have a certain term of life? If we did that we should be doing something useful for the country and for the children. I should like to know what the Minister thinks about that suggestion.
I turn now from the village schools, and what are very often too small schools, to the problem of the big classes in our schools. I find that 85,000 children are in classes of 50 or over and that 1,500,000 are in classes of 40 to 50. There has been an increase in the primary schools, but there has been a decrease in the size of classes in secondary schools as a whole. The increase has actually come about with the increased birth-rate and the other factors to which I referred earlier. There are 2,400,000 children in classes of 30 to 40. This problem of big classes is a serious matter. I agree with what the Minister has said before, and what hon. Members have often said, that it is impossible for teachers to teach children in those numbers.
We need not worry about who was in power. I agree that the Conservatives were in power for 28 of these past 50 years, but it has been a magnificent story of progress in education and of anxiety on the part of the country to do the very best for the schools. Standards have gone up and changes have been made in all walks of life, but right through, whatever party was in power, there has been a real desire for educational advance. Now we have been able to go further. In the years to come, per- haps people will look back and say that some of the things done today were wrong. Certainly there will probably be changes in children's diets, and the food we give them today will be considered to have been wrongly balanced. That always happens every few years.
I should like to ask the Minister a question about buildings, to which I think I know the answer, though I should like to have his confirmation. The amount of work to be started this coming year is less than it was last year. I know that the cost per place in the secondary schools has been reduced to £240 and that the cost per place in the primary schools is £140. In other words, there is a reduction. I should like to know whether it is simply a reduction in the cost of providing places or whether there is a reduction in the number of places.
I thought that was the case, but in view of those figures I wanted to be certain. Having reached that stage, I now want to ask hon. Members to consider what the children are learning. Are we satisfied with what the children are being taught, how they are being taught and how they are learning?
Hon. Members will all have read the Report on reading ability. In that Report there are a number of very interesting facts for us all to learn. Although I think we shall all agree that in any test it is not possible to judge exactly to a decimal point, it is rather serious to reflect that probably five out of every 100 children leaving school at the age of 15 may not be able to read any better than a child under nine. I think it is cruel if children leave school without being able to read. They will start their work with a feeling of failure and probably with a defeatist outlook. They will try to hide from their companions the fact that they cannot read. Surely reading and figuring, as the Minister said, are essential. As is said elsewhere in the Report they are the tools of education.
This matter is serious. I was surprised when the Minister, replying to the debate on 17th April, said:
I would not take it as tragic if some expert pointed out that the youngsters of today were not quite as good readers as children were 10
years ago If they are not quite so literate in that scholastic sense, maybe in other directions they are far more capable of entering into the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 1728.]
I did not like that statement. It alarmed me. But I was much comforted when I read another statement of the Minister's —perhaps it was a more considered statement— in the preface to "Reading Ability," in which he expressed the hope that the suggestions would prove helpful to all those whether teachers, parents, etc., who recognised that the ability to read, write and figure and the development of personality were not competing ideals but that the first was indispensable to the second. I like the Minister's written declaration. It gives me more confidence than what he said at the end of the debate on 17th April.
This backwardness is not necessarily due to the war years. When anything goes wrong, it is easy to say that it must be the result of the war. In the appendix we find:
The Committee must conclude that there is no evidence that backwardness exists only among the older pupils whose education was upset by wartime conditions. It seems to be as marked throughout the primary schools as the secondary schools in 1948.
If we really want to give the children the best, we must always watch to discover where the weak points are. I am glad that this Committee was set up, and I hope that some action is being taken on their Report because it makes a good many of us wonder whether we are giving the best education we can to the children.
There is no doubt that very often in education, as in everything else, we have the effect of the swing of the pendulum. There was a time when there was too much learning by heart, and too much of the idea that the child went to school to sit down at a desk the whole time with a book in front of him. I am wondering now whether we have not swung a bit too far away from that.
A short time ago a friend of mine asked a child at school how she was getting on with her lessons. The little girl replied "In my school we have very few lessons. We do activities." We find in this Report something about activities, and it says that what are called activities are not enough. It needs the most talented and skilled teacher to get the best out of the activities. I ask the Minister to consider whether we are not now getting too far away from what was called book learning, and whether, with our stress on activities, we are not getting too far away from the books, the pens and the paper.
We want children to have all the advantages possible from education. We want them in the early stages to have the tools. We want them to be able to develop and to be mentally alive and interested. We want them when they go to the secondary school to have those tools and to be able to read and write so that they can take advantage of education. I should like to know whether the Minister, through His Majesty's inspectors, is keeping in touch with the question whether the pendulum has swung too much the other way.
Then we come to the secondary schools. Here we hope that by this time the child will have had what we call the tools of learning. Here we have laid down the tripartite scheme so that the interests and the abilities of each child shall be served as much as possible—the technical, the modern or the grammar. We all know of the difficulties of examinations at the age of 11, but the fact that they are difficult does not necessarily mean that they are wrong. We often read that for a great many children there is a stimulus in leaving one school and going to another school, so that this does a great deal of good. But have we got the best form of test? Would more human or personal tests be as good? Has this question been considered from various angles? Should the headmaster interview the children and learn more about them? I put those ideas forward only because I do not feel that we should necessarily allow ourselves to think that mechanical tests are the best and that they cannot go wrong.
Each child is an individual. Children have got different capabilities and different interests, as we all have. It is said in "Reading Ability":
Nothing is to be gained and much may be lost by turning a blind eye to the wide differences in ability between different people.
It should not be thought that if a boy goes to a technical school or to a secondary modern school he is more clever and more able than a boy who goes to another school. He has a different ability. We have got to stress the existence of that difference between children.
I should like to refer to a statement which I found in "The Policy for Secondary Education." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I found one statement perfectly appalling. It seemed to negative the whole idea which he have been working on.
I am coming to it. It says:
If this is the century of the common man it must he made the century of the common child.
There are no common children. I should like hon. Members to ask parents in this country "Are all your children the same as everybody else's? Are these the common children? Have they a common design?" [Interruption.] I read that statement as meaning that they are common in that they all have the same abilities. To me, the idea of the common child is completely repugnant and contrary to the idea of individuality and personality and different abilities.
Certain things are common to all human beings and it was hardly necessary to have stated that, but from the educational point of view the crucial things are the uncommon things— the different abilities, the different personalities; and if we are to have good education we must look to these differences in abilities and help the child to develop those separate abilities rather than try to get children on to one common ground, as one common child.
I am sure the hon. Member will raise the matter later. I have kept the House rather too long, and I would rather not give way to him. I am sure that many hon. Members will have a chance to speak. That was the main point I wished to put.
Secondly, I turn to the different sorts of secondary education. I want to see more secondary technical education for these children with ability so that they may take advantage of the opportunity. I was interested to see what the Minister said in the debate on 17th April. He said that a school for 500 was a pretty big school. I quite agree, but I wonder what he would call—and perhaps he will tell us when he replies this evening—a school of 2,200. What description would he give to such a school? I think it is neither pretty nor big, nor is it a school; I think it is a monster of mass education, with children on the assembly line. We must try to keep individuality in the school. I suggest that it is absolutely essential that the teacher should know the children.
It is about 1,100, I think. Most public schools are smaller, but I shall come to all those points later. I do not know all the public schools very well, but I think Eton is the biggest. Here I am talking about a school of 2,200— a comprehensive school; and one of the reasons given for the comprehensive school is that we shall be able to do away with the examination at 11 to a certain extent. That is the only reason I have seen advanced, but nevertheless we shall still have to divide the children by some examination at some time into the different streams if they are to advance in accordance with their ability. I think it is wrong to suggest that the only way to find a better system than the choice at 11 of seeing what sort of education the children should have is by placing them under these mass factory arrangements.
I am quite certain that some keen educationalists think it is the best thing to do, and I can see that experiments have to be made, but I urge the Minister to use his influence to see that these experiments are not on a very large scale. We are just starting the new scheme after the 1944 Act. We have that tripartite scheme. Cannot we try that out and see whether it succeeds?
I noticed that in one place the Report —and this is one of the difficulties about it—states that secondary education for all is agreed. "What we are discussing now," they say, "is the subject of the single, bilateral or comprehensive school." I wish the Report had told us something about the discussions. That is what is so tantalising about it. They say they have discussions, but they do not tell us more. If they had outlined the pros and cons it would have been interesting. No doubt the Minister has views on the matter and I hope he will tell us what they are, but in these education debates and in the Report we should like to hear more about these schemes.
In the Labour Party pamphlet which was issued—apart from the subject of the common child—we were told that the schools need not necessarily be large, that we need not have such large comprehensive schools. I think this will be a very difficult problem. I see that in the circular which the Ministry of Education sent out in 1947 the comprehensive school was to be about 1,700, or 1,500 to 1,700, and it was always visualised that the comprehensive school had to be a great deal bigger than the nominal school. I think that is a great pity.
In an article in a daily paper, written by the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) who I believe is Chairman of the Labour Party, she says:
The arrangements of number of classes catering for the specialised bents of the children should not be such as to make unreal demands on staffing and accommodation
Again, I feel we are getting too near the idea of the common child. I want as much space as possible for the child to give the opportunity for what are called these specialised bents, and I think we should lack that in the comprehensive schools. In the article written by the hon. Lady—
In the "Daily Herald," I think of 17th July. In this article on the subject it is interesting to see that in the first paragraph she tells of a very beautiful school where she taught, with a fine gymnasium, laboratories, domestic science room, woodwork, metalwork and all the rest. I am glad to hear that the hon. Lady taught at such a nice school. There was a broadcast made by the hon. Lady in which she gave the impression—
—to a great many people that the schools in which she had taught before the war had been what one might call of a lower standard and rather miserable. She spoke of the condition of the children in contrast to their chances given them since the war. It would perhaps have given the people of this country a clearer idea, and certainly would have given a great deal less worry to Yorkshire, if the hon. Lady had mentioned the school which she now mentions in her article, as well as the others.
I shall quote from the hon. Lady's article.
When looking into the subject of the comprehensive school I wondered if it were thought that children would get a better education. I have looked into the matter very carefully, but more and more I have become convinced that there is something more than that in the minds of some. None of us probably takes much notice of what may be said at party conferences—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]— by somebody proposing a motion which he wants his party to accept. He may exaggerate. I think we can put it quite fairly like that; a member of the party, proposing a motion urging certain action, wanting support and wanting the acceptance of the motion, may exaggerate.
But when I saw what was said on the subject of the comprehensive school at a Labour arty conference I found it was not merely argued from the educational point of view, but that it was suggested that the school would bring about the right Socialist outlook on the State. I began to fear that there was more in this than simply the child's education.
When I read this article by the hon. Lady I came to that conclusion again. We begin by getting these words "class segregation" into our educational discussions. We have used the word "class" in the past meaning a class in school, but I am afraid there seems to be more of what I might call party politics being introduced into the word. The hon. Lady finishes her article on comprehensive schools with these words:
It is not only the children's education that is at stake. It is the whole basis of society.
Of the basis of society we have already heard in a speech made at that conference, and I seriously ask hon. Members opposite: Can they really tell the Committee today that, when they urge having comprehensive schools, they are urging that solely for the benefit of education—[HON. MEMBERS:
"Certainly."]—or do they feel, as has been said, that in that way will be an opportunity of bringing about the Socialist State and of having more uniformity in education?—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—Well, hon. Members opposite do not agree with what was said at the conference.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who said it?"]—It was said at the Labour Party Conference by the mover of a motion. He said:
I believe that in the comprehensive system of education lies the basis of educating the next generation to form a Socialist society.
I shall not be catching the eye of the Chair today, and I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving way and for having warned me that this was coming up. The official speech at the last Labour Party Conference on behalf of the National Executive from the platform was made by myself and not by any other delegate.
With regard to the pamphlet which the right hon. Lady quoted, perhaps I should make one thing clear. This was a pamphlet drawn up by a committee of which I was chairman—a committee of people who were very experienced in all fields of education, many of whom had had many years' experience in schools. Moreover—and, perhaps, the right hon. Lady is not aware of this—at a Conservative teachers' conference a short time ago the examination system at 11 was condemned, but nothing was suggested in its place. Up to now the right hon. Lady has not suggested anything in its place. Some of us on this side of the Committee have had years' experience of teaching children in schools, and know what we are talking about.
Let us be quite certain about this remark I have quoted as being made at the Labour Party Conference. I thought I had made it quite clear. They were words used by a delegate moving a motion. I know the hon. Lady spoke on behalf of the Labour Party Executive, and accepted the motion about the comprehensive schools. The words I have quoted were used in the speech moving the resolution, which was accepted by the hon. Lady.
I do not know—so far as I know, she did not—that she said, in accepting it, that from the educational point of view the comprehensive school was the basis of Socialist society. There was no need for her to say it. I think hon. Members have a perfect right to bring that remark forward as expressing what other hon. Members have in mind as being the basis of a Socialist society.
As for the question of examination, I have already said that I think that it is one of the difficulties. I do not think that it is an answer to set up enormous comprehensive schools, where, I think, education will be worse. That is not the answer, simply to suggest that as one solution of the difficulty of the examination at 11.
I have already spoken, perhaps too long, partly because of the various interruptions with which I have had to deal, and so I would conclude, and I would do so by saying that in considering both our primary and our secondary education in its three streams I think we all want to give the very best chance to the new schemes that have been started; and I think we want to find out more and more as education in our schools goes on, whether it is up to the standard required and how we can improve it.
I am grateful to the Minister for having made inquiry into reading ability. Perhaps other inquiries will take place into other things. I do ask the Committee to consider the administrative machine. We have to consider whether the administrative machine is efficient. We must know more about the system of education and about the children. Then we can judge. It is for that reason that these debates we have each year on the Reports are of extreme value. I hope that by next year we shall have a report that deals more with the year 1950–51. Then we shall be able to see what progress was made in that time for providing the best possible education.
I could not help feeling that the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh) was a little gloomy and pernickety in her opening remarks, and she ended up in the same strain. She was most anxious to know more about 1950. I am sorry that she has not allowed us some sort of celebration. A jubilee celebration is not unnatural after 50 years of progress, with which she agrees. We wished to put the year 1950 into that context of 50 years of progress.
After all, except for the periods of the two wars, there have been annual Reports giving very great detail of the progress made during those 50 years; and I hope that, having devoted approximately 46 full pages out of 132 in the main Report to 1950, and 110 pages to charts and statistics relevant to 1950, we have not been guilty of any shortcoming in reporting on what we have done in the past 12 months.
I wish most sincerely to congratulate those who have been responsible for compiling this most interesting Report of 50 years' work in the educational field, but like the right hon. Lady, and, I am sure, like every Member of this Committee today, I am not concerned with this survey in this debate. What we are anxious to know about are the conditions at the moment and what they are likely to be in the immediate future as far as we can foretell—in the next five to 10 years. To begin with, there is one outstanding fact to which I wish to invite the attention of the Committee.
The right hon. Lady has spoken of the "bulge." Putting it in precise figures, by January of 1954 we shall have in the schools maintained and assisted from public funds one million more children to provide for than we had in January, 1947. Not only that, but we estimate that by January, 1959, the increase will reach 1,380,000. I am sure that the Committee will agree that these are very large figures. I wish to emphasise that they are additional to the extra numbers brought into the schools by the raising of the school leaving age from 14 to 15, which took effect four years ago.
It is this great increase in the school population which inevitably governs the rate of our educational progress today, and it will govern it for many years to come. This is a problem which, I must suggest with all respect, exceeds any of those which confronted our predecessors, and certainly the size of it was not contemplated, I think, during the discussions that produced the Act of 1944.
I am going to try today to deal with what the professional Press and hon. Members of this Committee would call the really urgent problems that face us at the Ministry of Education today. The right hon. Lady, quite properly, has laid considerable emphasis on the question of school building. This tremendous increase in the population of the schools has meant first of all a demand for 1,150,000 new primary and secondary school places in the seven years ending December, 1953.
In other words, we have to increase the stock of school places by about 20 per cent. in spite of all the other claims on the nation's resources, in spite of economic difficulties, and in spite of re-armament. In spite of all these things, I suggest we need not look back upon the seven years from 1947 to 1953 as seven lean years as far as the building programme to date is concerned, and so far as our plans to the end of 1953 have developed.
Let me trouble the Committee with the balance sheet as it is today. By 1st June last we had brought into use 525,000 of the 1,150,000 places required. On that date another 414,000 were already then under construction on the ground. This adds up to 939,000, and leaves us with 211,000 places to be provided either in later projects started after 1st June this year or in minor projects.
Provided the present momentum of the school building programme is maintained —and we see no reason why it should not be substantially maintained—it is within the capacity of the local education authority to bring this balance of over 200,000 places into use by the end of the seven-year period. We are now beginning work on the programme for the three years after the end of 1953 and our present planning is aimed at starting about 180,000 new places each year— from 1953 to 1956, in order to meet demand as the so-called bulge in the school role moves up—from the infants to the junior schools and from the junior to the secondary.
This sounds rather an obvious question, but the Minister has often referred to this question of getting schools in the right places. Can the Minister assure the Committee that those places are being provided where there is a need for them? Quite often we are told that the total number of places will cover the total number of children coming in, but can he guarantee that the places will be provided where they are wanted? We should very much like an assurance on that.
Yes, Sir, I can give that assurance. It is true that there has been some doubt as to whether places were to be spread where, in fact, they were needed, but I can give the assurance that we no longer have that doubt which has been expressed in the past in this House by my right hon. Friend and myself.
There is something else that we must bear in mind apropos the building programme, and that is that up to now four-fifths of all the new schools built or building have been primary schools, and now the balance is beginning to change and the main weight of the programme for the next few years will be on the secondary side.
Now, the right hon. Lady referred to the investment programme recently announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This year's allocation for my Ministry, for all forms of educational investment is £53 million compared with £45 million last year. We hit the investment target in 1950. So far as we can foresee an analysis of progress on every job in the first six months of this year suggests that we shall hit the target in 1951.
The allocation for 1952 is £57½ million. No one would dispute on either side of the Committee that we could not do with more and that we could, in fact, use a bigger allocation. It is true, as my right hon. Friend and myself have said in this House in the last few weeks, that we should have to delay some of the jobs we were hoping to do, but the figures I have given show that so far from being cut the educational building programme is being increased in step with our growing needs.
In the programme for technical education—which again the right hon. Lady most properly emphasised as being of great importance to the future of our country—my right hon. Friend and I share the views of the Committee that facilities for technical education must be expanded and improved to enable the nation to get abreast of technological development and to increase industrial productivity. But here again, up-to-date figures are perhaps some consolation. By 1st June last, nearly £18 million worth of building for technical education was completed or under construction. Another £7 million worth in the 1951–52 programme was being prepared to start in the next six months, and this makes a total to date of £25 million. In the 1952–53 programme jobs commenced will be about the same as the current year's programme.
Apart from new schools and technical colleges there has been a great deal of work done in the less spectacular fields. I would refer to the improvements in the educational stock, as we know it. About £9 million worth of new work has been done and will continue to be done each year in other fields—training colleges, improvements and extensions to existing primary and secondary schools and work done to special schools. So I do not think that the picture calls for the gloomy forebodings that the right hon. Lady expressed from time to time in what I know she intended to be an extremely helpful speech.
Before I leave this aspect of the educational estimates—the question of buildings—I should like to make one other point which is particularly appropriate in Committee of Supply. I wonder whether any Member of the Committee can think of anything which is costing 25 per cent. less this year than in 1949 without any loss of quality. This is true of the new schools that are being planned and built now. In fact, after making allowance for the changes in prices since 1939 we are now building more economically than we were before the war.
That is what I meant to say.
Another of the problems that face my right hon. Friend and myself in the field of technical education is that the demand for it is insatiable, and in spite of the fact that local education authorities have, since the war, started work on provisions estimated to cost the £18 million which I have detailed. It is quite impossible to accommodate all the students without resorting to many kinds of improvised arrangements, which we all admit make teaching extremely difficult.
The right hon. Lady ventured upon a generalisation which I find is very hard to accept, that in the field of technical education practically nothing, or nothing, has been done. May I just give as an indication a few figures of what, in fact, is happening now? In 1939, 5,330 national certificates were awarded. Last year this-number had increased to 15,861—a threefold increase in a most important field in the training of technicians. At the craft level, where the City of London Guilds Institute operate, there were in 1939, 45,000 entries. Last year the figure was 75,600, and these figures do not include the large number of students who sat for the examinations of the regional examining unions. Again looking at the provision for technical education as a whole, the number of full-time students rose from 11,115 to 39,000 in the same period, while the total class entries rose from 2,700,000 to 3,400,000.
One part of further education—further education in its widest sense—that is rarely mentioned in these debates, but to which I want to make a passing reference this afternoon, is the extraordinarily good work being done by our art galleries and museums. Under the Ministry of Educacation Vote there are two, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and I think that hon. Members knowing both those museums would wish to congratulate most warmly those responsible for the remarkable progress made in them, especially since 1945.
In the Victoria and Albert Museum in particular, in which I have a great personal interest the re-organisation of the galleries since the end of the war has been a very considerable achievement. For the first time in a national museum there has come into being a department to look after public and Press information.
We all know what memorable exhibitions have been held there, as well as in the Science Museum, but I should like to refer in particular to how the Victoria and Albert Museum, and of course other galleries in London, have been meeting the unprecedented increase of interest, especially among young people, in the visual arts—for example, the exhibition, in 1947, of miniatures, that glorious exhibition of French tapestries and Danish art treasures, and of course, the memorable contributions that we are witnessing this year to the Festival of Britain.
I cannot believe that there is any capital city in the world, except possibly Paris, that has so much magnificant art to show its people as we have in London at the present time. We have technical education at the one extreme and, at the other, education through the museums, through the libraries and through the art galleries. In that broad field of further education the Ministry are doing everything in their power to foster the greatest national enthusiasm, interest and support.
There is another problem which every Member of the Committee must look upon as an extremely grave one. That is the problem of premature leavers from the grammar schools. I should like briefly to give the Committee the picture as I see it. Nearly 25 per cent. of grammar school boys and girls leave before 16 years of age. Some 65 per cent. are leaving before 17 years of age. The percentage of leavers under 16 is, it is true, better than it was in 1938, when the percentage was 30, but I do not think that is anything to be very complacent about. It is true that 14,500 boys and 13,000 girls were at the grammar schools at the age of 17 in 1950, and those figures represent twice as many as in 1938, but the whole picture is most disquieting and no complacency should be allowed.
I hope that Members of the Committee will help us here. For instance, are children being withdrawn from the grammar schools because of financial inability to keep them there, or because of the powerful effect of full employment and good wages available, particularly for young girls? Again the question can be asked: Is legislation compelling children to stay until they are at least 16 the answer? I know nothing of what that may mean from the point of view of the legal authorities, but I very much doubt whether higher education can be nourished by compulsion. Imagine the upper forms with children there by compulsion and feeling under a sense of grievance. I do not know of any solution to this problem except the patient missionary work of the schools. It would be extremely helpful if in the course of this debate there were an exchange of ideas on this extremely important crisis which faces the grammar schools.
It seems to me that one can link up that problem which faces the educational world today with the discussion which was begun this afternoon by the right hon. Lady upon the subject of the comprehensive school. I am here giving my personal point of view. As one naturally, in the House and in educational circles, meets many who have almost a fixation one way or another, it is necessary to make quite clear where one stands personally, whatever the official view may be. I think that I may be expressing both. I personally welcome plans for building a number of comprehensive schools.
I am rather puzzled about the Parliamentary Secretary giving his personal views on this point. We are not to have the advantage of the Minister opening the debate; we have instead the advantage of the Parliamentary Secretary opening the debate, and I am completely defeated about what it is we are debating if, on the most controversial matter before us, we are told that what is being said from the Front Bench opposite is personal. I think that the Committee should have some explanation of what the Parliamentary Secretary meant by the use of that word.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman need be so academically indignant. One is giving an official view, but, at the same time, painting out that there is a personal view as well. I should have thought that it was to the advantage of the Committee that it should be known quite clearly and honestly where Ministers stand in regard to these problems. If the hon. Member does not like the word "personal" I will put it this way: I welcome plans for building a number of comprehensive schools, always bearing in mind that we want to help the children and the teachers and not simply to satisfy some particular doctrine or some particular plan.
In the development of education in these islands, we have always indulged in educational experiments, and there is no reason why we should not welcome this one, but it must be judged on its educational possibilities and its educational results and not by any other standard. If we do that, I am confident that we will get something new in our educational system, something which will be peculiarly our own, and something which may prove of very great value for future generations of children.
As the "Schoolmaster" said in an eminent article in last week's issue, unless a school is organised with the utmost regard to the differences of the children's personalities, it can mean a fight for existence for the many, the glorification of the few and an undue strain for some. On the other hand, because of the richness and variety of its life, it may give a real chance to each child to feel that he is good at something. It should be borne in mind —and this is something which we very often forget—that the small secondary school is itself under a very great disability. There must be many here who know some of the small rural grammar schools which have had very great difficulty in getting up to grammar school status.
The comprehensive school has nothing to do with the small grammar school. The comprehensive school in the larger district will not be affected by what the hon. Gentleman is now saying about the country grammar school, if I may say so with very great respect.
With equal respect, perhaps the hon. Member will wait until I have linked this up with the grammar school. It seems to me that we should welcome this experiment in the comprehensive school, and it should be given every support on educational grounds alone.
It may be asked: Why is it today—and this is coming to the point which the hon. Member mentioned—so few proposals for comprehensive schools appear in local authority development plans? I know that some people think that it is because of some sinister undermining of democratic education on the part of Ministry officials or His Majesty's inspectors. There are two reasons, in my view.
First, the grammar school in the provincial towns of England and Wales is a much admired local institution. It is held in high esteem and regarded with warm affection. Moreover, it has become, particularly since 1945, a very democratic type of school. In recent years it has been the object of much local pride coming from people in all walks of life. On educational grounds, it makes a vitally important contribution to the professions and it trains, as we have described them, the brainy boy or girl. May I suggest that we tamper with this at its best at our peril, and in saying that I know I am supported by leading personalities of all parties in local affairs up and down the country.
There is the second reason, which is a cause of equal local pride in very many places, and that is the remarkable achievements of the old senior and central schools now operating in what we call the secondary modern school. In many ways they have gone a long way to solve so-called social difficulties, which some people think will disappear with the arrival of the comprehensive school. More important, the majority of secondary modern schools have built up an extraordinary strong esprit de corps, and they would heartily resent being swallowed up in some new pattern of education.
I have been to scores of secondary modern schools, where head teachers and staff have built up their own individual school societies. I am sure that is a cause of gratification to every member of the Committee. It is a new tradition with a proud place in our educational system, and I should be very loth to see it superseded. So in my view the official attitude of the Government to the comprehensive school should remain as it has always been, at any rate in my experience, consistent with our educational traditions. By all means let us experiment with very big schools, with small rural comprehensive schools, with multilateral and bilateral schools and with modern two-teacher village schools for nurseries, juniors and infants wherever that is propitious and where we think this would be of the greatest value, but what I believe is that the Government will never say that uniformity in educational provision is either necessary or remotely desirable in this country.
We have had an example where an authority has emphasised this form of schooling as its main objective, and we want that experiment to go ahead; we wish it good will and hope for its success.
The right hon. Lady referred to another problem which is confronting us at the present time and that is the closure of village schools. From what has been written in the Press and from what has been said this afternoon, one might imagine that my right hon. Friend is about to embark on a slaughter of the innocents. At the outset, therefore, let me say that my right hon. Friend endorses without reservation the view that
the touch stone for the closing of any village school should not be administrative convenience or even cost, but the welfare of the village children.
That is what appeared in "The Times" leader of 12th July. Similarly, in the discharge of statutory function to give approval or otherwise to proposals for the closure of any school, it is my right hon. Friend's invariable practice
to withhold his consent to any proposal for closure which is hasty or unreasonable,
thus supporting the view from an article in the "New Statesman and Nation" written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler).
May I put the present position about the fate of small schools in country areas through a number of county development plans. I would point out that not in great urban areas, but more often than not in quiet country towns they are in immediate touch with rural problems. A number of county development plans provide for closing a number of small schools over a period of years and for the children to go to schools which would be educationally better units. We know the problems especially of the rural school which is the one-teacher school. Can such a school be defended seriously in this Committee? Ought we not to consider the value of the canteen dinner as something of an improvement on the packet of sandwiches which, at any rate since I was at school, has been condemned by educationalists.
Yes, and are we going to suggest with our experience of school meals that it was not the best kind of meal to receive?
There is a shortage of teachers to be taken into account especially a shortage of women teachers. There is the great difficulty of recruiting teachers for small schools. Undoubtedly, there is virtue in the village school at its best, and in the devoted service which so many remarkable men and women have given to those village schools. But we must recognise that the children should come first, and where it is possible to provide them with modern educational provision, which is impossible in the small village school which they are attending, then every effort must be made to give them more up-to-date opportunities. Every proposal to close a school is carefully examined in the light of current conditions before it is approved, and whether it has been contested by the local people affected or not. I think that ought to be a firm enough guarantee for the right hon. Lady, who has raised this most important question.
There are still one or two points which I must refer to arising out of her speech. There is this vast problem of the supply of teachers. I suggest that the crucial question here is what is being done to provide for a continuing increase in the number of teachers, particularly women teachers. Again some figures might be of interest. Before 1939 approximately 4,000 women were admitted each year to the non-university training colleges. In 1948 there were 6,000, and in 1951, 8,000. We estimate that, if we can continue recruitment and training at the present level, the number of teachers in primary and secondary schools will go on increasing at the rate of 4,000 a year, and this we estimate will enable us to contain the staff and standards of 1950.
But what about the filling of the 8,000 places in the colleges at the beginning of the next Michaelmas term? Questions have been asked in the House about this, and I should like to give the latest figures. On 1st June there were 1,000 vacancies still to be filled; today there are just under 700 and the colleges are filling at the rate of 40 to 50 places a week. No doubt the improvement in the grants available to students for training will help to fill the remaining places in good time and before the next academic year begins.
Another problem is that of the recruitment of graduate teachers, especially in mathematics and science, a problem which must be of considerable worry to those interested in education. Recruitment at the present time is not satisfactory. Again, this applies especially to women mathematics and science teachers. It is all the more serious when we look ahead at the increasing needs of the next few years. We are not satisfied with the present position, nor can we be until we can foresee a supply of graduates in these subjects adequate to meet the needs of teaching and other essential provisions. Doubtless the influence of salaries in this matter can often be exaggerated but I should like to give it as my view that if the provisions of the new Burnham Report are wisely administered by local authorities, as I am sure they will be, the salary level should be no bar to proper recruitment to this or to any other branch of the profession.
We might as well ask ourselves what value we are getting for all these improvements in education. Here is an estimated expenditure of £200,223,858 for the year 1951–52. I am confident that our children have never been healthier in body and in mind and have never been happier at school than they are today. Some particularly vocal Jeremiahs continue to raise the bogey of the illiterate 15-year-olds who are leaving school—children "who have had this expensive education out of the rates and taxes"—and are unable to add up simple sums or to spell correctly. I think that a lot of adults who were brought up in the good old days are still pretty bad at spelling, because the English language is not easy.
We elders tend to exaggerate the follies and the ignorance of modern youth and to put an aura round our own past that depicts us all as little saints and scholars when we were at school. What matters most at 15 is a child's excitement and curiosity about life. If it has an exuberant vitality, a sense of humour and a sense of service, it can surely go a very long way in adult life.
I should like to refer the Committee to an essay which one of His Majesty's inspectors happened to pick up in a school in the Midlands. There are spelling mistakes in this essay but I suggest that there is a vitality and a sense of humour which show that though the writer may be illiterate, as far as spelling is concerned, this little boy of 11 years of age has certainly got a pretty broadened mind already. He is writing in his essay about Christmas gifts, and he says:
This Christmas I hardly know how I am going to get enough money to buy presents for everybody. I estimate, that I shall need at least one and six, but I shall only be able to save one shilling. I should never dream of only spending four-pence per person therefore only if my auntie sends (as she sometimes does) a bit of money (to be spent on presents) as a Christmas box, it is the only way out.
Still, to get on to something a bit more pleasant (to me) i.e. what I should like for Christmas. I should like, Although I dought wether I shall get it, (because that blank blank blank mirror cord decided to break i.e. a smashed clock an a busted mirror) an electric set, the reason why I should like that is quite simple, I go in for the electical line as you know" —
this, to the teacher—
(or should do if you read the compositions as well as marking them) and with this set I could (perhaps) make electric motors, buzzers, hells, induction coils and electromagnets"—
all spelt correctly—
which I could fix to a crane made by me with Meccano. I could also light up modles i.e. cars and planes.
Now to come back to earth i.e. what (I'm) i'm likley to get there is something I have got fall back on (thank goodness) namely an 'efty' owizer the reason for me tusing that is, err well it is, that all there is to it, see, Last Christmas was just the same, only then, it was the wireless that worked on the go bust principle. Back in the bygone days, otherwise last Christmas, I had my steam engine, hair glue (Brilcreme), a few (ton) books, a penknife etc.
There must be Members of the Committee who have read a great many essays written in school. This essay was from a junior school and by a boy of 11. It is easy to criticise the work done by a schoolboy, and to point to phonetic spelling—which would be approved by some Members of the House of Commons. It is easy to look at some exercise books and simple sums and to find that many of the sums are wrong. In my view, a lad of 11 who can write an essay like this, in spite of its spelling mistakes, has benefited from a modern education.
I hope that the Committee will, in the course of its deliberations, bring its collective mind to bear, especially upon some of these really serious problems which face us in the educational field today.
I listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman's speech, particularly to his remarks about the small boy whose essay he read out. I do not find myself filled with the same admiration about it but, in order that I shall not receive offensive letters from his parents, I shall not comment upon the essay. In the course of the few observations that I wish to make, I should like to take up some of the points which the hon. Gentleman has made in a somewhat optimistic canter over the educational field, which has included some of the museums and art galleries.
One of the most optimistic things he said, which I was glad to hear the Minister of Education confirm, was that the Ministry are now quite satisfied that they can meet the problem of the "bulge." Serving, as I do, on one of the largest local authorities, I know that we are not sure that we can solve the problem or that the Ministry can, either. The assurances from the hon. Gentleman will be very encouraging to that authority and to others also.
I should like to say something about the principle of equality of opportunity, which is basic to all the proposals which have been considered in relation to education as it applies to our democratic society. I would say this at the outset, that we have to consider: Opportunity for what? We are very inclined, when we consider the whole society with which we are intimately concerned, to fail to realise that we may, in some of our endeavours to achieve an overall standard of education, sacrifice the very best. We are determined that the highest achievements in education which have been attained shall not be reduced in any circumstances.
I believe that three of the things which we must consider this afternoon are: first the atmosphere of our schools; secondly, the professional standard and the training of our teachers; thirdly, our curriculum. The one thing which is going to face this Government, and any Government that should follow them—it is not likely to be a Government with the same outlook—is the question of the financial demands that education makes upon us.
It is in the field of education that we can least afford to make economies. I speak as an educationalist. I realise that the Minister has to face demands for economies and that he will have to make economies, but I am certain that in the future planning of our educational structure we have to resist direct demands to reduce educational expenditure. I am certain that where economies have to be made, so far as the administration of education is concerned, they fit into a much larger survey of the reduction of expenditure on local government. I hope that survey will be undertaken in the near future.
Let me turn first, therefore, to the atmosphere of the schools. Again, I thought the hon. Gentleman was a little optimistic and painted rather a rosy picture of the building programme which the Government are undertaking. We all realise the problems with which the Government are confronted. I am glad the hon. Gentleman referred to the improvements of educational facilities which now exist, and that in many counties specific attention is being paid to the colour schemes of classrooms and the elimination of the drab and depressing atmosphere which exists in many of our schools. I have always been pressed by the educational pamphlet of the W.E.A. which said that:
The buildings are not merely the shell of the school, they arc an educational factor in themselves for good or ill; and they cannot he left out of account in any assessment of the quality of education either in the practical or in its emotional and social influence.
That is of the greatest importance,
especially as it applies to the organisation of the school.
The hon. Gentleman entered into a somewhat complex argument with my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) on whether he was making a personal or official statement. I entirely endorse the demand made by my hon. Friend that what was said by the hon. Gentleman should be regarded for the purposes of this debate as an official statement. I thought what he said about the comprehensive schools was an extremely sound statement. I do not suffer from those fixations to which he referred, which I find have entered into our educational sphere from both sides.
One of the weaknesses and dangers today is that some of the more violent political tides have been flowing in upon education—
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I can assure him there is no justification for doing so. Political bitterness has entered into the consideration of educational policy, and it is doing no good to anyone in education, least of all to the children.
The London County Council is one of the major authorities which is proposing, and has already undertaken, the experiment of the comprehensive school. If the London County Council were undertaking that experiment in the spirit of the Parliamentary Secretary, I would give my wholehearted support to what is being done. But we have had a statement from the Chairman of the Education Committee of the London County Council, as recently as the last debate at County Hall, that the policy of instituting comprehensive schools is, in the opinion of the majority party on the L.C.C.—which comes from the same side of the House as the hon. Gentleman—the only possible way of implementing the 1944 Act. To begin with, that is an irresponsible statement for anybody holding so high a position, because no one can say without experience whether it is sound.
Now let us take an example of what is being done in one specific case. The London County Council is laying hands on the Strand School, one of our finest grammar schools. Whether the hon. Gentleman and his friends like it or not, I say again that it is a deplorable thing that there is animosity against a grammar school tradition emanating from the political circles with which the hon. Gentleman is indissolubly linked. The Strand School is a fine grammar school. The L.C.C. are to set up a large comprehensive school and, because there is no room on the ground, it will be nine storeys high. It is true that this problem will be overcome by lifts. I suppose the pupils will ring a bell—fourth floor for geography, fifth floor for history—and when we have the inevitable power cuts the class concerned will do history all day until the lift gets working again.
In order to establish this school, they will eliminate the playing fields. So in one stroke they start off a new experiment with all the conditions of success eliminated from the beginning. The things that will make this experiment succeed are primarily the spirit of community which must be basic in future generations. They will destroy that. Under those conditions also they will not be able to establish the house system. It is on the playing of games and taking part in community activities that success depends just as much as on the curriculum of the class-room.
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, he will realise that there are grave site difficulties in London, and as far as the school to which he is referring is concerned, the children will have playing field facilities elsewhere.
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. Of course we realise there are site difficulties. But he is saying, "Let us experiment." The essence of an experiment is to ensure that the conditions under which one is experimenting are satisfactory because, if they are not, the experiment will fail and will be discredited. Speaking from the point of view of the hon. Gentleman, not from my own, that is just what the friends of the hon. Gentleman do not want to happen. It is a policy of disaster. Why experiment there? Why not experiment somewhere else?
I am aware of it. But why have a bad experiment? However, I do not want to draw the Committee into a detailed controversy over one issue, although it is indicative of a short-sighted attitude which is regrettable and indicates a political attitude to this situation which is not helpful and which cannot produce satisfactory results.
Now let me deal with the numerical issue. I heard hon. Members opposite murmur, as I have heard them murmur before, "Eton, 1,200." The conditions under which Eton operates are entirely different from the conditions under which it is proposed to operate these comprehensive schools. To begin with, Eton is a residential establishment. By having people lying together, by having them in satisfactory playing field conditions— though not altogether satisfactory housing conditions—it is possible at the same time to engender the very community spirit which will make for success. Therefore it is no good saying "Eton" as if that were the ultimate answer to the numerical question.
Would the hon. Gentleman compare like with like and give Manchester Grammar School, a day school in the heart of an industrial town with more than 1,400 pupils, with playing fields outside the urban centre? That is a much more fair and honest comparison if he wishes to reach a nonpolitical decision.
I pursued that case because it was the first one referred to. Now, I will refer to Manchester. I agree that there is there a highly satisfactory situation, but are we satisfied, from what the hon. Gentleman has said and from the proposals that were being made, that the 2,200 children will receive the same type of tuition and under the same conditions as Manchester has? The answer is that we are not satisfied. Until we can have comparatively sound conditions, it is dangerous to embark wholesale upon experiments of this sort, which are experiments with the lives and futures of the children concerned. That is what is so serious.
Since we have got on to the subject of Eton, I should like to pass to the next matter, about which we should like to hear a little more from the Minister when he replies to the debate. What is the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Government to public schools? It is important that we should know. We know what our own attitude is. We believe that they have served the country well, that much that is best in our traditions has come from them, that they can be developed, and that the principles and ideals and methods which have been learned in their development can be infused with success into the major State system of education.
But today the public schools are facing a crisis. The headmaster of one of our leading public schools, who has some connection with me, has recently been accused of being a "pedagogic trojan horse"—a highly indigestible state to be in—because he said that economically the public schools were in very grave danger: first, because the running costs were too high for them to maintain, and secondly, because the fees were automatically going too high for parents to meet.
That is true. It is no good merely calling people "pedagogic trojan horses "—"Cassandra." I think, would be a more appropriate term. What we have to do is to decide what is to be our attitude to this system. Are we going to provide proper facilities for these schools to continue and to enable more people to get advantages from their system, or are the Government going to make a straight attack and to pursue a policy of attrition which will undermine their future existence? It is highly necessary that the Government should state clearly and firmly their policy with regard to this type of school, so that we on this side know where we stand.
Now, I turn briefly to the question of teachers. I do not think that there is a more highly skilled body of people who are more disproportionately paid for their skill. This is a subject with which both sides of the Committee must deal, and deal with fairly, because unless we give the proper rewards for skill we will not get recruitment. I am a little surprised, as are many others on both sides of the Committee, at what happened when the new Burnham awards were made, because although we did not expect that equal pay would immediately be forthcoming, we did expect that the differential between the pay of men and women teachers would begin to be reduced if the policy for equal pay eventually was to be established. We should like to know what inspired the Minister in agreeing to these scales.
It is true that in a very large number of cases schoolmastering is a vocation. But vocation is not enough. A man cannot live purely on his vocation. I have the very greatest sympathy with the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, who have the utmost difficulty in living under modern conditions and standards of living.
The hon. Member will appreciate, of course, that whilst we welcome his remarks, the only Government that ever reduced the salaries of teachers was from his side of the Committee.
It is regrettable that so intelligent a man as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), should seek to make purely political capital out of this debate—[Interruption.] —because he should have learned from experience. We on this side are looking to the future—and I am told that that is a very popular phrase with hon. Members opposite at election time.
I particularly welcome the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh), who led the debate from this side, on the subject of methods of instruction. There is, I feel, a very genuine tendency on the part of many teachers to assume that these so-called "activities" can be put in the place of straightforward education. But that is not the case. I realise that under modern conditions and problems of training it very often is much easier to teach children "activities," but at the same time, from the point of view of the children, it is more important that they should be educated in basic subjects. This tendency to which I have referred is due partly to the problem of training with which young teachers today have to deal.
I should like to refer now to the curriculum. There has been a decline in the classical tradition. There has been a change in our attitude to the three R's. I believe that that is thoroughly sound, but when we depart from old methods of approach, from old systems which have not been found entirely lacking in success, we have to make quite certain that what we do in their place is equally satisfactory. That is one of the tests which the modern educational system has yet to face.
I do not believe that at present we can escape the conclusion that in its principles the 1944 Act is right, but that in its general practice there is a real danger that the whole broad standard of education may decline. That is something which all educationalists must face, and they must do so fairly and squarely, without a great many political arguments, which, frankly, have nothing to do with the case.
Secondly—and this goes with the question of the size of classes, which, of course, is tied up with the building question—if we believe in the development of our citizens, we must get down sanely and intelligently to the early analysis of the problems of children. A great deal of nonsense is talked—I use the word advisedly—about psychiatry and psychoanalysis, but it is a fact that many lives have been warped, embittered and ruined through misunderstanding at an early age.
We all know that one of the greatest desires of a child in its early days is to-be normal, like other children. If children suspect some abnormality or difference— little points, about having, for example, a differently coloured raincoat or differences in conduct or behaviour; little physical defects, and nervous defects in particular, which could easily be remedied—children become worried and concerned. If these things are misunderstood or mishandled, or if, for instance, a child is held up to derision, this sort of thing leads to incalculable damage. The teachers must be trained to deal with these problems, but they cannot possibly be expected to deal with them if they have too many children in any one class.
I was glad that the right hon. Lady referred to further education, because education never stops. The idea that once the doors of the school have closed education is over, is a fallacy which cannot be accepted by any party.
If we are to see that our educational system measures up to the democratic standards which I am certain we all intend it should reach, we must first accept in its fullest implications the importance of the individual. That is why I have doubted very seriously the methods in which the comprehensive schools have been set up, and why I have doubted some of the attitudes which have been applied to the mass forms of education during the past years.
Secondly, we have to ensure that what is best is the standard towards which we are always aiming and not try to drag everything down to a general moderate level, because if we do that we shall find that we as a country, who have to compete so hard for our daily bread with the other nations of the world, will soon find ourselves bad competitors and then there will be little opportunity for which to have equality.
Thirdly, we have to concentrate, I am certain, on raising the professional status and standard of our teachers. Finally, we have to endeavour in the whole range of our education to breed to the fullest extent a sense of community and to ensure that in our educational system we are indeed training our children to become useful citizens of a free democracy.
I welcome the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey). He seemed rather shocked when I made a political intervention, which I freely acknowledge to have been political, but the whole course of his speech was shot through with rather shoddy political points. He will forgive me if the word "shoddy" is a little hard, but I wanted to indicate that they were not very good points and not up to the standard we expect to hear when someone is going all out to give a smack at the other side.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh) raised many interesting questions when she addressed the Committee this afternoon, and we were all grateful for the obvious care she had taken to wade through the Report. I was sorry she had not finished reading the Report with the same enthusiasm as I did, for I find in the chronicle of progress during these past years a great message of encouragement for the years that are before us.
As one who has been a practical schoolmaster, I believe that there is a dual aim running like a golden thread throughout the service of education. Firstly, there is character training. In that there is no political issue. We are all agreed that character training is of the first importance in the schools of this country. That will be pursued by the indirect method, more by what the teacher is than by what he says, more by his personal conduct— which is watched very carefully by the children—than by any of the lessons he might give. Secondly, there is the question of instruction, which will be pursued by' the direct method.
It is well for us to pause every now and then and to remember with gratitude the teachers of the country who so patiently and steadfastly are seeking to influence the character of the rising generation. I shall always remember an experience of mine when I was in Greece four years ago talking to an old Greek patriarch. The Greeks are so polite, almost like the Welsh, and, in trying to pay a compliment to the people of this country, this old Greek patriarch said to me, "Mr. Thomas, when we make a promise which we consider really binding we say 'On an Englishman's word of honour.' "Nothing could be a finer tribute to the people of this country, unless he had said, "A Welshman's word of honour."
I am trying to make the point that it is the character of our people that has, made this country great and that what we believe makes us what we are. It is therefore clear that the importance of the schoolmaster or schoolmistress cannot be overestimated. I agree with the hon. Member for Harrow, East, that we cannot over emphasise the importance of the quality of our teachers; we dare not overlook the necessity to see that we have them forthcoming in adequate numbers, or our responsibility to see that the teachers have the tools with which to get on with the job—not in a squalid fashion, but in dignity and with the best results.
I think my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was rather complacent in saying we could maintain the staffing figures of 1950. It is true that we went on to look at the wider vista, but the staffing figures for 1950 are not very good and, with the size of classes the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side revealed, we cannot but be profoundly disturbed. It is with these matters in mind that I ask the Committee to consider certain disturbing features.
First, there is the question of the supply of the right type of teacher. Anyone will not do for a teacher. The man who finds himself a teacher but is obviously unfitted for that task is not only in a miserable position himself, but is a dire burden on the education service, and we are concerned that the right type of person shall come into the profession.
This afternoon my hon. Friend referred to the number of children who leave school at the age of 16. More than half the children of the country leave school before they reach the age of 16. I believe that only 32,000 children stay in our secondary grammar schools until they reach the age of 18–32,000 to supply the needs of all the commercial, industrial and professional claims there are in this country. The teaching profession alone will require between 8,000 and 9,000 of these youngsters a year, and it is quite clear that if the needs of the country are to be met, we must have more children staying in the secondary grammar schools over a longer period.
My hon. Friend posed certain questions. He asked whether maintenance grants had anything to do with it, or whether the question of full employment was the deciding factor in those children leaving school. I am of the opinion that it would be an undoubted help if there were an improvement in the number and in the amount of maintenance allowances for pupils remaining at school above the statutory school leaving age.
Then there was this question of the encouragement of students to go to college. Hon. Members on all sides who are fair minded—and we all claim that for ourselves—will agree that my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary have every reason to be proud of what they have succeeded in doing with regard to grants to students going into colleges. There has been a tremendous and remarkable improvement in this direction. But there are local authorities who are still very reactionary. I quote the example of Somerset.
Somerset have decided that 33 awards only shall be given for boys going to university this year. That is not even the number of secondary grammar schools in the county. A child unfortunate enough to be born in Somerset when he might have been born in Glamorganshire— despite the other natural advantages that would accrue—will suffer in Somerset in a way which is a slur upon our good name as a community. I believe that an authority like Somerset is failing to make proper educational provision for its young people, and that action ought to be taken by the Minister.
With regard to recruitment for the profession, I wish also to refer to the question of equal pay. It is monstrous that we still have to argue this question in respect of women teachers. Everyone who has been in the profession acknowledges that the women are if anything more conscientious than the men. The women certainly go all out in their work. People ought to be paid not because they are married or single but for the work that they do. If we start paying people because they are married or single we shall have to start paying them according to the size of the family, and we shall never know where salary rates are to be decided.
There is also the question of the teacher at his job. Every Member knows that the cost of the school books and school equipment has increased substantially during the past few years. It has increased with the general rise in the cost of living. But the capitation grants by local authorities to the schools have not increased accordingly. Indeed, they have in many cases been reduced in the past 12 months. The Parliamentary Secretary will know that in the case of many authorities there is a wide gap or distinction between the capitation grants of their secondary modern schools and their secondary grammar schools.
What humbug it is to talk of parity of esteem between the secondary modern school and the secondary grammar school if only half as much is to be given for the child in the secondary modern school as for the child in the secondary grammar school. I know that this is a question which is largely decided by the local authorities, but my hon. Friend might help us by drawing their attention to our feeling on this question.
In the few moments remaining to me, I wish to ask the Committee to give attention to the question of education in the Principality of Wales. Here, indeed, is an encouraging picture, for we have had more schools built since the war than we had built in the 20 years between the wars —either more schools or major extensions to the schools. This reflects great credit on the local authorities concerned; it has not been easy for them. Some of that credit is also reflected on my hon. Friend.
The most useful development in postwar Wales has been the establishment of the Joint Education Committee, and there is every evidence that in that little country we are now on the threshold of a new progressive era. This Joint Education Committee has tackled problems on the basis of co-operation between local authorities, problems that could not have been tackled adequately by the individual small authorities of the Principality.
For instance, the first school in Wales for maladjusted children has been opened at Chepstow. We have tackled the problem of the handicapped child—the deaf and the partially deaf—with a new school at Llandrindod Wells. Educationally sub-normal children are being catered for at the first wholly Welsh speaking boarding school at Treborth Hall in Bangor. This is also a tribute to the work of the Committee. The Joint Committee has, I believe, also accepted responsibility for the maintenance of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. All this is a tribute to the co-operative efforts of these Welsh authorities, and it holds out great hope for the future.
I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to convey this query to the Minister who is to reply to the debate: In view of the substantial autonomy given to the Welsh Department, in view of the progress being made by the Joint Education Committee, what conceivable reason is there for the Welsh Department still to be stationed in Whitehall? Why should it not be transferred to the Principality?
The autonomy of the Welsh Department is substantial, its sympathetic understanding is real but its location is just crazy. There is no reason why it must stay in London, and it would be a very graceful gesture on the part of the Ministry to transfer that Department to the Prin- cipality and let it carry on its work from there.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend; he never fails to give a wise lead to the House.
I conclude by saying that in this age of mass propaganda, television, radio, the cheap daily newspaper and the cinema, the prospect for the educationist is frightening. The emphasis for the educationist must always and forever be upon the individual, upon the development of individual personality, upon the contribution which the individual will make to the community.
I earnestly trust that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will bear in mind that the teachers cannot do the job we rightly ask them to do unless they are given smaller classes, more efficient equipment and better capitation grants and encouragement is given to the right type of young person from our secondary grammar schools, and, indeed, from other schools, to enter into what is for me, and always will be, one of the finest professions in which any person can have the privilege to serve.
It would be helpful if the Minister, when he winds up the debate, could clear up one point on the subject of the comprehensive school. I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say that he favoured variety but that if a local education authority adopted the policy of building comprehensive schools as an experiment he would welcome it. What was not quite clear to me was whether, if a considerable number of education authorities adopted the same policy as a result of a bias in favour of that type of school and not merely as an experiment, the hon. Gentleman would still hold the same view.
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to make this point. Comprehensive schools are not necessarily all of the same kind or of the same size. It would be possible for one autho- rity, for example, in a rural area, to propose one kind of comprehensive school as an experiment which would be quite different from the kind which would be proposed, for example, by the L.C.C.
I hope that the overriding view is that which has been expressed, namely, that the Government are in favour of variety of schools in our educational system.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh) referred in her opening remarks to the Report. I agree with her comments. It would have been better if we had had a survey of the first half of the century, and a separate shorter Report for the year 1950. I do not suggest that this is a major criticism. No doubt a great deal of trouble has been taken to produce this excellent Report, and those responsible are to be congratulated.
The right hon. Lady also stated that we must consider the point of view of the child. We all agree with that statement. I would add that we must also consider the point of view of the parent. I should like to make special reference to certain problems of particular concern to parents. I do not suggest that there is any clash between the interests of the parent and the child on the one hand and the interests of the teacher on the other. Obviously, there may sometimes be a clash between parent and child; but the supply of an adequate number of teachers with fair and adequate remuneration is of benefit to the child and, indirectly, to the parents.
I think that fair-minded parents of all classes appreciate and welcome the great strides which have been made during the last 50 years, as indicated in this Report. I think that most fair-minded parents welcome the steps towards greater equality of opportunity. While it is natural that parents should be concerned about the prospects of their own children, I think they would subscribe to the ideal of greater equality of opportunity. Obviously, there can be no complete equality of opportunity. The right hon. Lady referred to the Report "The Adolescent Delinquent Boy." which states:
In many cases the parents of delinquents are of poor intelligence and behave extremely foolishly. Many, through either ignorance or poor mentality, are quite incapable of rearing
their children wisely. Boys, from such homes have 'dragged themselves up,' their social education has been obtained largely in the streets, and they have had undesirable standards set for them in the home. Many parents set such a poor example in honesty and truthfulness, in self-restraint and in perseverance, that the surprise is not that the boys have such low standards, but that their standards are as high as they are.
All hon. Members will agree that the children of such parents have not the same opportunity as the children of some other parents. The children of parents of high character and intelligence have an advantage over the children of parents who do not possess the same qualities. The most the community can do is to try to remove those "material environmental handicaps" referred to in the Report and to provide as much equality of opportunity as is possible.
What I fear, and what I think many parents fear, is that in striving towards this ideal of equality of opportunity we may create new anomalies and new inequalities. The path towards equality of opportunity is strewn with difficulties. For example, we have not escaped from the enslavement of the examination system. Especially in the higher ranges of education, as the numbers trying to get places increase, the competitive aspect of the examination increases. I cannot claim to have the honour of being a member of the teaching profession, although I have been an examiner for a number of years as well as an examinee, and now, as a father of four children, I am learning to appreciate the point of view of the parents.
The examination system is, at best, a necessary evil. There are more children and parents today than ever before who are worried about examinations and the consequences of success or failure. This worry about examinations and tests starts when the child is at an early age—namely, 11. I am well aware that these selective tests for the purpose of deciding which children shall pass to a secondary school are not supposed to be examinations in the strict sense of the term. They are something in the nature of intelligence tests for the purpose of selecting certain children, but it is very difficult to make parents understand that they are not just examinations.
Many parents are very worried about this question, and some children are worried also. I know of a child who has failed and, as far as I can judge, her failure was very largely due to nervousness. The effect, after she had become aware of her failure to pass the test, has been to make her quite ill. She has nightmares every night. That may be an exceptional case. I do not know how many incidents of that nature there are, but it suggests that these tests may have a harmful psychological effect on children. Judging by the report from the school, she was a child of intelligence.
I do not propose to make a frontal attack on this system of the test at the age of 11, because I know that it is much easier to criticise than to suggest an alternative. I should like to know, however, to what extent reliance is placed on reports from the school. Does the result depend solely upon the test? To what extent, if any, is account taken of the opinion of the master or mistress of the school from which the child comes? In the case I mentioned, the report on the child suggests that she was fit to pass to a secondary school.
I wish to mention a further anomaly which may not affect the parents of so many children, but it is a problem which has increased in the last few years. There are parents who, by virtue of the father's job, have to move about from place to place. I suggest that, in some cases at any rate, the children of such parents could best be provided for at boarding schools. Quite apart from the cases of children of broken homes and unsuitable parents, there are children who would get considerable benefit from education at a boarding school.
I believe that greater use could be made of the existing facilities for taking up free places at independent public schools. Perhaps I ought to declare an interest. I am a governor of a small independent public school. Like many of these schools, it was created for a specific purpose—for the benefit of sons of Non-conformist ministers. The difficulty today, owing to the increased costs of education and increased salaries, to which we do not object for one moment, is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide the places for sons of ministers at a very small fee.
What is one to do? I do not think that it would be right to take only fee-paying children or, on the other hand, to abolish the independent schools. The independent schools have a valuable part to play in our educational system. I do not make a special claim for the sons of ministers, but I suggest that this is the type of case where education authorities might make grants for the children to go to boarding school. Unfortunately, if my information is correct, some education authorities seem to assume that it is only the children from broken homes or with unsuitable parents who should be considered for grants to enable them to go to boarding school.
My third illustration is taken from a higher stage—the university. There would appear to be a great variety and diversity in the amount of the grants which are made to students. I am all in favour of variety, diversity and scope for originality in our educational system, but it does not follow that there need be variety and diversity in the amount of the grants to students, many of whom are working together in the same university and having to face the same problem of the high cost of living and the expense of books.
Under the Further Educational Training Scheme for ex-Service men, that does not arise, but I understand that that scheme is coming to an end. It is true that there is an increasing number of State scholarships, and I understand that in the case of open scholarships the Ministry are making up the amount to the level of State scholarships, but there are still many students who depend upon the generosity of the local education authorities.
As I understand it, there are very great variations in the amount of the grants, according to the district in which the student happens to live, and I am wondering whether there could not be some modification of the Further Educational Training Scheme in order to extend it for the benefit of students other than ex-Service men, so that there might be some levelling up of these grants. Furthermore, there are, at most of the universities, trained staffs qualified to deal with the question of the amount of the grants to students, and possibly they might be used in applying this modified scheme which I propose.
There is a good deal of feeling amongst students on this subject, and I am only passing forward to the hon. Gentleman the information given to me, when I say that a number of potential teachers are deterred from going to the universities because of this inequality and inadequacy of the grants in the case of those who do not receive State scholarships.
In conclusion, I am only too well aware that many of these problems would be solved if there were more money available from the Treasury, if there were more materials for the building of schools and extending universities, and if there were more manpower available to the teaching profession.
If 'ifs' and 'ans' were pots and pans, There'd be no use for tinkers' hands.
I will not go so far as to suggest that if we had all the money, materials and manpower required, there would be no use for a Minister of Education. I have no doubt that he would have other problems to deal with, but his task would be much the easier. I acknowledge that fact, but I do urge that, in advancing towards greater equality of opportunity, we should endeavour to eliminate all avoidable hardships and inequalities, and that, as far as is humanly practicable, we should strive to see that the benefits of our educational system are spread not only widely but with the greatest possible fairness and recognisable justice.
Everybody understands education, which is no doubt the reason why we always have such large audiences for these debates. I hope I may be forgiven, as one who has been professionally, and still is, concerned in that trade, if I make some disjointed remarks—disjointed because I hope to be shorter if I do not try to make a composition of the notes which I have taken of earlier speakers.
I should like to begin by taking pleasure in being in agreement with the unanimous Liberal Party today. Since I had coined that phrase in my subconscious, the Liberal Party has doubled in strength, and I do not know now whether it is still unanimous upon this point. I should like to agree with the Liberal spokesman, anyhow, in some of the things he said, and I entirely agree with him about the role of parents. It is common form in these debates to say that the child is what matters most, but, of course, "the child" in that sense does not exist, and it is very easy to say that what you are caring about is the child when what you are really caring about is what the teacher, or, infinitely worse in my judgment, what the education secretary, tells you about the child.
On the other hand, I believe that all the best scientists and philanthropists now are coming back to the view held by my own grandmother and my old nurse and all the other stupid and illiterate people 60 years ago, that any family, it is almost true to say, any family, however bad, is a better background for any child than anything else can be, so long as it is his own family. If that is so, those of us who say that what matters in education is the child ought to remember that what we are really saying is that the parents are the people who ought to have the most say, and I hope we all do take that view.
I agree also with the Liberal spokesman about examination worries. I hope hon. Members will not think I am being partisan or trying to be funny in this, but when I am going to be partisan I will tell the House, and when I do not tell them. I hope they will not think that I am being partisan. Worrying about examinations is a horrible thing. One of the few bits of learning in the sense of knowing things off by heart which I have, and which I would bet I know two other hon. Members have got, is that I do know which are the seven deadly sins.
I can never remember exactly which are the seven principal virtues, although I once learned a rhyme for that purpose. The worst of the deadly sins, I know well by experience—whereas I believe it is not theologically considered to be extremist or the most primary, it really is the worst in the sense of punishing you all the time, in this world and the next—the worst sin is an untranslatable one, which may perhaps be a tribute to the English: it may be so rare in England that we have never had a word for it, but in Latin it is called accede which is often translated "sloth" but more nearly means" defeatism."
Defeatism comes into the consciousness through one thing almost more than by any other method—and I am not being at all funny when I say that in my judgment one of the main reasons why France has not been so great a country, especially militarily, of recent years, as she once was—though I hope and pray she soon will be again—I am not being at all funny, nor in my judgment exaggerating, when I say that a large part of that has been examination worry, because they have been in this matter a generation or so ahead of us—if that is the word to use, in progress in this matter; almost every French family is doomed to frightful worry as to whether little Toto or little Jojo is going to get over the next hurdle.
The wretched child goes through its childhood continually hag ridden with this horrible obsession, that perhaps it will ruin the whole family. I beg hon. Gentlemen when they are talking about equality of opportunity to consider the very great intellectual and logical difficulties. It is easy for me to contemplate without envy the superiority and comparative wealth of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, so long as I know it is due to an accident of birth, but if I knew that all their manifest superiorities over me were wholly due to merit, I might find it beginning to be a little difficult to bean.
They talk about children who do not get into the most fashionable type of school being resentfully conscious of inferiority to other children. But the more we make everything turn on school competition—that must be by way of examination of one sort or another however we change the name of examination— and the more we make that the only test, the more we run the risk of resentment.
Do not think I am talking against equality of opportunity. Nobody could believe in it more firmly than I do or owe more to it than I do. All my life, since 13 years of age, I have lived however fraudulently, on examination successes; and I am not boasting, I think I have had more opportunity than anybody here, I do not think anybody has tried harder than I have to help children of all ages from 13 upwards to scholarships. Do not think I am running down equality of opportunity, but it wants a lot of thinking about.
I think there ought to be equality of opportunity in the sense that every child ought equally to have opportunity and we ought to try to see that that is so. But I do not think we can give every child an equal chunk of opportunity as one might give them an equal quantity of milk or an equal 2½ ounces of cheese, or whatever it might be. I do not believe it is possible to do that, and in that connection I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider something which I am going to say now.
Almost everyone so far has spoken about the terrifying increase in the amount of money spent both centrally and locally on education. It is quite right that we should speak about that because we all know now that the phrase "meaningless symbol" is worthless nonsense, and we should know that money is not a meaningless symbol, if there could be such a thing, but means taking the attention, the effort, of people. That is what it means in the last analysis.
Therefore, we must ask ourselves whether it is right for education to take so much of the attention of so many people as it does at present. I do not want to argue against that, but I want to ask hon. Members opposite to make an effort to get into the habit of imagination which we have all got into, over such matters as re-armament. We have got into the habit of imagination of saying it is not a matter of saying we will have £5,000 million—besides a monetary budget, we must have a manpower budget, a timber budget, a steel budget. We have, got into that habit in some things, but we are still a long way from getting into it in education matters.
It is perfectly plain that we cannot have equality of opportunity in the sense that every child shall have an equally large opportunity of doing equally well in both senses of doing well unless we can have equally good teachers, and plenty of them, say, one per 20 children in every school. That is a most frightening thought, because it makes almost all the arguments I have heard, from both sides of the Committee, in the last 15 or 16 years about what is the purpose of public education logically and intellectually disreputable.
There are a few figures in this connection which we ought to think about. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman if they are wrong. These figures I hastily picked up where I could and I will, of course, take his word for if he tells me they are wrong. I am told that in the last few years that there has been among teachers in training a decrease of from 66 to 55 per cent, in the number of those who got firsts or seconds in honours in the universities. That looks a bit as if the tendency were going the wrong way.
If we are to keep the present percentage of 77 percent. of graduate grammar school teachers and are to get an average of one teacher to every 20 pupils in secondary schools then, I am told, we shall need another 10,000 graduate teachers before 1960. I am also told that that means that the graduate teachers in training at any one time ought to be something over 3,000 and that one-third or rather more of that lot ought to be mathematicians or scientists, and that more than 70 per cent. of the whole lot ought to have got firsts or seconds in honours.
I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to put this question to themselves. Suppose that budget in teacher manpower which I have just very roughly indicated is to be achieved in 1960, from where shall we get the intelligent chaps whom we want to be stockbrokers, average adjusters, and all the rest of it? Where are they to come from? It is usual to ride off at that moment and to say, "So you see we want a lot more universities and university graduates." But we are not going to get those very quickly, and it is pure assumption that if we got them, we should get graduates as good as we ever got before.
We cannot increase the undergraduate population, at the brain and character level to which we are used, unless we increase the don population in the same proportion, and whether there are enough people to be got for either purpose, without a very disadvantageous weakening of other professions is a great question. I do not know the answer to this, but it is a great question, and I hope that I have put it accurately and fairly.
When sitting on the opposite side of the Committee as well as when sitting on this side, I have more than once begged the Ministers responsible to make a thorough study of the matter at some time, and to let us have the benefit of their researches. But so far my prayers, as, unfortunately, my prayers when addressed to higher quarters, have not had the success which, I will not say I deserve, but which at any rate I desire. The Parliamentary Secretary said one or two things about which I should like to comment. We had the phrase "problem and crisis of early leavers." I wish we could get out of using the words "problem" and "crisis," because they are always misused. "Problem" always gives the impression that there is a defined problem, and what is more, that when one gets hold of the teacher's copy of the book one will find the answer at the back of it. "Crisis" is almost always used as a continuing thing, and the "early leaver" is not a crisis. We have got to think about this.
I had a brother—hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may be sorry to know that, but they need not worry because he is no more, and since so long that I can bear to think of it without any pain to myself —who was quite as intelligent as I, and in every other respect much better. He was very good at games and a very good athlete, at all of which I was frightfully bad. But he was absolutely determined, round about his 15th birthday, that nothing on earth would induce him to stay at school, and that if he had to stay he would make everybody jolly sorry, in much the same way as Queen Elizabeth said when we begged her to marry.
Hon. Gentlemen will remember that she said that if she did marry somebody she would make us all sorry for it. My mother, very sensibly, let him stop going to school. I am sure that no amount of worry by civil servants, Ministers, or schoolmasters about making it agreeable and attractive for boys to stay at school after their 15th birthday will do us much good, when they do not want to. There is neither social nor political controversy in this, although some people sometimes try unnecessarily to make such controversy.
Here there is controversy, I admit— about salary being no bar to recruitment. We have had that, I think, from the Minister, and unless a better answer can be put to the question I proposed, about the proportion of population fit to be teachers, than has yet been put, then no salary, therefore, can really get enough schoolmasters. I think that is a true and fair answer and that education will be always in large measure a sweepstake and most children will be very lucky if they run across one or two teachers that suit them in the course of their education.
We ought to see whether we can find the administrative means and special salary levels to get as high a proportion of ability into teaching as other professions can afford to let us have. I ask hon. and right hon. Members opposite to consider carefully whether it is not necessary for that purpose to get a wider spread between the not very successful schoolmaster and the very successful one. I had occasion some years ago to inquire, and I got the best information that then could be got, what was the average income, after paying expenses, of a practising solicitor in London, and I was amazed to be told it was something under £400 a year. I may have been told wrong or I may be remembering it wrong, but it was certainly something very low.
The average income of a practising barrister, I imagine, is not very high, but what takes men of first-rate abilities into a profession is—partly of course— a sense of vocation. A man feels, "I am sure I can do that particular job very well." It is partly that and the two things overlap and are not generally distinguishable between each other—the prospect of reward. In so far as this second is concerned, one buys much more ability into the profession by putting one or two big prizes into it than by raising everybody all round who go into it.
I am not saying whether it is a good or bad thing it should be so. All I am saying, and I say it dogmatically because I am sure no honest man will deny it, is that one buys more ability for the money in that way than in any other. Again, I do not know. It is a thing we ought to drag to the top and consider carefully in public, whether there is enough ability in the schoolmastering profession, and if not whether more could not be got by more prizes nearer the top.
That brings me to a matter very much connected with it and that is the relation between different local education authorities. It is very remarkable how they vary in this matter of reward. It seems to stick in my head that Essex, for long my own county and still next to my own, is particularly generous—but I may have that wrong. Some counties are treating men generously and some are not. That makes very difficult movement from one place to another.
I have often said to pupils of mine who have thought of schoolmastering not to go to public schools but to secondary schools, in the usual sense of secondary schools. I thought they would do better. They would get a headmastership quicker, and it is sometimes more fun: but the thing sometimes happens to go wrong. Sometimes it happens because of politics, and sometimes it happens because the chap is in some respect no good. If he sticks too long in one county, no other county will take him. That is more complicated by this variation in rewards, though I do not want to abolish a degree of local independence in this matter.
Along with that goes a lack of reciprocity treaties between local education authorities about their treatment of scholars. I have fought this over and over again for 30 years, and the position is now better than it was. I have written literally 40 to 50 letters in order to get money for a boy that he was not going to get, for some footling reason such as that his father had moved 300 or 400 yards across some imaginary line.
It has been put more or less right in the course of the last few years. But it is not right yet, and a very considerable amount of human unhappiness happens; either of human unhappiness for the boy and parents if the tutor is not actively conscientious or if he is, misery and unhappiness to him, because he spends half August writing unnecessary letters to find money. I hope the Minister will look again into that matter fully; because it really wants much more looking into.
I come now to three points of controversy, and I must hurry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Members below the Gangway wish to make rude noises, I will pause now and let them get them over. These three are going to be controversial. First, adult education. I wish people would not say, I am afraid that my hon. admired and indeed revered Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) said it, that education goes on from cradle to grave. If one means by education all the formative and well-tending things that happen to one when one uses the word education that is what it means, but then education is useless to me. I wish people would not say that.
How much of adult education is education in the honest sense? I was happening to lunch with somebody who knew a great deal about this. I asked whether it would be a wild exaggeration to say that 90 per cent., more or less, of education had a strong party-political tinge. He said it would be a wild exaggeration. I said, "Seventy per cent.?" He said, "I think that would be an exaggeration." I said, "Fifty per cent.?" He said, "You would be quite safe at 50 per cent." I think one would and the Parliamentary Secretary, who laughs, knows perfectly well one would, none better. We get these continual complacent speeches about adult education. It is a very difficult thing to go into it and everybody who knows anything about it considers it is high time we had a deep look into that.
I notice that the Blue Book had an amusing phrase—I do not think it was intended to be amusing. It is a badly written book, if I may say so, since I have been defending the examination system. It is about the bodies that manage adult education. The Blue Book says they are
… (technically known as 'responsible bodies') …
That means they have no responsibility at all. Nobody really inquires into exactly what they are doing, and nobody knows. To the things about which I am being offensive, add U.N.E.S.C.O. We are long overdue for some real explanation of what U.N.E.S.C.O. has done. All the Blue Book tells is about a desert being made to blossom like the rose somewhere, but nothing at all about education.
The next thing is comprehensive schools. I was delighted to hear that the Minister was interested in them without any political inference. It may be the prejudice for comprehensive schools had nothing political in it. That moves the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) a long way from his party, but if he will read the party pamphlet about it he will see that there is a lot in it that is political. It does make the Blue Book look rather curious. Still more, the party pamphlet says that we hope that the result of the comprehensive schools will be that the private enterprise schools will cease to exist. I am not quoting quite fairly, but I am being hurried, and I think I am not being very unfair. Since we are none of us interested in this matter politically, I would ask hon. Members whether they are sure that the comprehensive school is desirable from the equalitarian point of view.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) will forgive me if I tell him—because it was I who taught him how to compose in the English language, so that when he makes mistakes I must take the blame—that the phrase "parity of esteem" is unusually meaningless, even for statesmen. So far as what we are trying to get is there, is there not a risk that the comprehensive school may not get headmasters really as keen and excited about "modern" education as the headmasters of modern schools are? I may be mistaken in this, but I assure the Committee that I am not being hypocritical. One of my objections, though not the major objection, to the comprehensive schools is that I think they may definitely be against the interests of the modern schools, and against their hope to be classed in the public mind along with the grammar schools.
I had a third matter upon which I wished to be controversial and, indeed, I hoped even to be offensive, but I have forgotten that one. I think I have said as much as the right hon. Gentleman can be expected to digest and I will, therefore, bring my remarks to an end.
The hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn), has addressed the Committee in a very genial manner, and in quite a different fashion from the academic lectures which he usually delivers to this Assembly.
I join issue with the hon. Member on one of the remarks he has just made. I do not believe that it would be an attraction to entrants into the teaching profession if there were a few large plums. When a young man is considering whether he should enter the teaching profession he does not consider it from the point of view of the possibilty of becoming a headmaster of one of the larger schools, but from the point of view, first of all, what he will get as his minimum salary when he starts teaching and, secondly, what he is likely to get as his maximum salary as a form master or a class teacher. The prospects of being a headmaster at a large school on a high salary are so remote for the average young man that they form no attraction to him at all in deciding whether he will or will not enter the teaching profession.
In the course of this debate there have been many references to the comprehensive school. Hon. Members opposite have spoken as if the comprehensive school were a deep laid plot by the Labour Party against society as it exists at present. As a matter of fact, I do not think that the idea of the comprehensive school originated with the Labour Party. It is true that the Labour Party has adopted as its official policy the idea of comprehensive schools, but it originated in the first place in the minds of a number of educationists in this country who were somewhat alarmed at what would be the social and educational trends of the present tripartite division of secondary education into grammar schools, technical schools and modern schools. There was the widespread feeling that this tripartite division of secondary education might lead to the stratafication of society, something on the lines mentioned by Aldous Huxley in his book "Brave New World."
Then there is the great difficulty of finding a foolproof method of selection of children at the age of 11 to go to one of these three types of secondary schools. The hon. Member for Carlton himself referred to the fear of examinations and the nervous tension which that fear may bring in early boyhood or youth. With this tripartite system in the modern grammar schools and technical schools, this examination fear is brought home to the child at a very early age indeed—as early as nine years of age. Some of the bad effects that have flowed from the over-examination of French youths during the past 40 or 50 years may also flow from the early fear of examinations which comes to our children when they know that their whole fate, so far as their future education and perhaps their future career is concerned, is to be decided by one examination at the age of between 10 and 11 years.
It is very difficult to find a system of selection at the age of 11 which is absolutely foolproof. It is true that we have widened the method of selection and we no longer have merely an examination in English or arithmetic as we used to have. An intelligence test has been added. The opinion of the head teacher is taken into account. Those matters are weighed one with the other in making a final decision whether a child shall go to a grammar school or to a modern secondary school. But even with that we cannot be quite certain that we are going to make an absolutely correct selection at that early age. The selection causes a great deal of heartburning, jealousy and trouble between parents.
Moreover, when the selection has finally been made and some children have gone to a grammar school and others to a modern secondary school, it is fairly easy to transfer a child from a modern secondary school to a grammar school, but it is practically impossible to transfer a child from a grammar school to a modern secondary school if the child has shown that he is not fit to profit by the type of instruction given in the grammar school. It is practically impossible to transfer him to a modern secondary school because of the strong opposition which would ensue.
It is felt that the comprehensive school gets rid of all those educational difficulties. There will be no examination at the age of 10 or 11. All the children will go to the same comprehensive school and will be drafted into parallel classes according to their abilities and their records in the primary school from which they have come.
Into parallel classes according to their age and abilities. It will be extremely easy to transfer a child from one stream to another stream. If a child shows that, having been placed in the grammar school stream, he has not sufficient ability or the right type of temperament to profit in the grammar school stream, it will be extremely easy to transfer him to another stream with another kind of instruction and syllabus. The difficulties we now have of transferring a child from a grammar school to a modern secondary school will not occur.
From the educational point of view the comprehensive school has very great advantages, and surely from the social point of view it will be of great advantage to children during the impressionable ages of 11 to 17 or 18 to be together in one school —both the clever children and the children who are not so clever; all to be in one school, mixing with one another and learning to understand one another. It is as much from educational reasons as from social reasons that the Labour Party is now espousing the cause of the comprehensive school.
I did not rise to deal with that subject, however; I was provoked to make those observations by some of the statements which have been made by hon. Members opposite. It seems to me that the greatest problem we have to face in the development of education in this country during the next decade is that of securing a sufficient supply of teachers. We are not doing so badly as far as buildings are concerned. This year we shall be spending £50 million on buildings and next year, according to what the Parliamentary Secretary said earlier in the debate, we shall be spending something like £52 million on buildings.
If we take into consideration the many other uses to which building labour and building materials have to be put at present I think we shall see that we are getting our fair share of building labour and building materials in education and that a reasonable degree of progress—as much progress as can be expected—is being made in the building of new schools.
In any event, it is always possible to improvise some accommodation for pupils by using church halls and buildings of that kind, whereas, of course, it is not possible to improvise teachers. I think everybody will agree that it would be to the advantage of educational progress and of social solidarity in this country if people in all income groups sent their children of primary school age to our primary schools.
That, of course, is not the case today. There are even hon. Members on this side of the Committee who have children of primary school age, but who do not send them to our primary schools. They send them to boarding schools or to private schools. When asked the reason for that somewhat reprehensible and anti-Socialist conduct, they always reply that it is because the classes in the primary schools are far too large. They say, "I am send- ing my child to a private school or a preparatory school, because there the classes are much smaller and he will get more individual attention."
That, of course, is perfectly true. In our schools today we have more than 35,000 classes of between 40 and 50 pupils each, and some 1,500 classes with over 50. It is quite clear that we cannot reduce the size of those classes unless we increase fairly considerably the supply of teachers. I freely admit that since 1945 the Ministry have done their best to increase the supply of teachers in the country. In fact, they have done more to increase the supply of teachers than any previous Ministry and we now have something like 40,000 more teachers in our schools than we had five years ago.
But although they have used every possible means to increase the supply, they are increasing the numbers only sufficently to meet the needs of the additional one million children we shall have in our schools in 1953, and they are not increasing the numbers sufficiently both to meet the needs of those additional children and also to reduce the size of the classes. It seems to me that the solution of this problem is to be found mainly in our grammar schools.
At present, we have a considerable shortage of women teachers. We have been told this evening that there are still 700 places for women in the two-year training colleges—places which have not yet been taken up for this year; but although there is at the moment not a very grave shortage of men teachers, I believe there is likely to be a shortage of men teachers in a few years' time. That will arise as the bulge due to the increased birth rate in 1945, 1946 and 1947 goes up through the schools. About 1960 that bulge will have reached the modern secondary school. It will have passed through the primary schools and have reached the secondary schools, and then there will be a need for a considerably greater supply of men teachers.
It seems to me, too, that not enough notice is taken of the effect of military training upon the future supply of men teachers. If a young man's birthday falls on the right day, he takes up his military training at the age of 18, does his two years' training, enters the training college at the age of 20 and is 22 before he leaves college and begins to earn his living. If his birthday does not fall on the right day he may be 23 or 24 before he leaves the training college and starts teaching and earning a salary.
For two years that young man has been leading a man's life to a large extent and has been drawing at least some pay from the Army. Then he has to go to college and more or less to be dependent upon his parents for two years—dependent on them, at any rate, for clothes, for pocket money for fares and books. I think that will deter many young men in the future from entering the teaching profession.
Thus, it is not only that there is a shortage of women teachers but also that in a very few years' time, unless steps are taken to meet it, we may face a grave shortage of men teachers as well. As I said just now, it seems to me that the solution to this problem is to be found in our grammar schools. At present, nearly 80 per cent. of our grammar school boys and girls leave school before the ages of 17 or 18 and do not complete a full grammar school course.
In 1949, 85,000 boys and girls succeeded in passing the School Certificate, but in the same year only 32,000 of them took the Higher School Certificate. I think we could reasonably assume that of those 85,000 boys and girls who succeeded in passing the School Certificate, at least 50,000 of them would have been successful in passing the Higher School Certificate if they had remained at school for another two or three years.
It is from the sixth forms of our grammar schools that we draw not only our future teachers, but the future members of other professions—of the medical profession, of the dental profession, our future administrators, to a considerable extent our future technologists and scientists as well. We have, therefore, to consider what means we can adopt to encourage children to stay at the grammar schools to the age of 17 or the age of 18 and to encourage parents to urge their children to stay at the grammar schools up to those ages.
We want to get into the public mind the fact that the grammar school age is not from 11 to 16, but from 11 to 18. We cannot, of course, be surprised that a number of boys and girls leave the grammar schools today at the age of 16 when we consider that a boy or girl at that age can leave school, after obtaining School Certificate, or what will now be the General Certificate examination, and enter commerce or industry, earning anything from £4 to £6 a week. It is very tempting, both to the children and to the parents, when the children can leave school and earn wages of that magnitude, for them to go to do so.
The Parliamentary Secretary asked for suggestions as to how we could deal with this problem, and it does seem to me that we have got to treat these children in the same way we treat entrants into the university. We have got to give the boys and girls from 16 to 18 in our grammar schools maintenance allowances of sufficient value to encourage them to stay for the full grammar school course. I know, of course, that many local education authorities today have the power to grant such maintenance allowances, but I think they use that power generally rather sparingly and somewhat grudgingly.
The Ministry, a short time ago, sent a circular to the local education authorities asking them to consider this question of maintenance allowances for boys and girls from 16 to 18 in our grammar schools, but it appears that the Ministry and the local authorities are engaged in playing their old and favourite game of passing the buck from one to another, because the local authorities are complaining that when they attempt to do something in the way of increasing these maintenance allowances they are thwarted by the action of the Ministry. At all events, it does seem that this is about the only way in which we can hope to get in the future a sufficient number of entrants not only to the teaching profession but into the other major professions as well.
Now I should also like to touch very briefly upon a cognate subject, the question of the number of students at the universities. Last year we had 19,850 students at our universities. One must acknowledge that, thanks to the more generous treatment by the Treasury, and thanks to the interest that has been taken by the Ministry of Education, there has been since the war a very considerable increase in the number of undergraduates in the universities of England and Wales. In 1950 we had 19,850 students at our universities, of whom 1,000 were State scholars, 1,000 had university awards, 1,000 had F.E.T. grants, and 8,850 were in receipt of scholarships from local authorities. The National Union of Students and the Workers' Educational Association and the National Union of Teachers have all sent me correspondence in which they doubt whether that number of 19,850 will be able to be maintained this year.
This year the pattern seems to be something like this. There will be only about 100 F.E.T. grants as compared with 1,000 F.E.T. grants last year. The number of State scholarships has been doubled from 1,000 to 2,000, and university awards are 1,100. Some pressure, I think, ought to be brought on the universities in respect of their university awards, because the Working Party on the future of university education advocated that the university awards should be increased to the number of 2,000, and they are still at the level of 1,100.
With 2,000 State scholarships and 1,100 university awards and 100 F.E.T. grants it seems that the local authorities' grants will have to be increased from 8,850 to 9,650, by another 800, if we are to keep the number of students at our universities at the figure of last year, which, everybody agrees, was the desirable figure of 19,850.
The right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh), who opened the debate, referred to the pressure of finance upon the local authorities and the necessity, if possible, of finding some way of relieving that pressure. She will realise, and the Committee generally will realise, that the local authorities are now, in view of the increase in education rates, very reluctantly going to increase their expenditure on education, and it may be that the local authorities will not be willing this year to make the additional 800 awards that will be necessary to bring the total number of university students up to 19,850.
I am wondering whether my right hon. Friend could increase the State scholarships a little this year. I know that it is a very considerable achievement on his part to have got the increase from 1,000 to 2,000, and I expect that he had very considerable difficulty in doing even that, but I am wondering whether, in view of these figures, he will increase them a little more this year by, say, about another 800; or, if he cannot do that, if there is any possibility of his making some additional finance available to the local authorities to encourage them to give more university scholarships to keep up the numbers at the universities.
Finally, I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us what he proposes to do so far as the future of higher technological education is concerned. The Report of the Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce was published, I think, at the very beginning of this year. Some of its recommendations have been welcomed. Everybody agrees that more finance, better staffing, better equipment should be provided for the technical colleges in this country so that they can do their job of providing much better technologists.
There was another recommendation of the Advisory Council, and that was that a faculty of technology should be set up with power to grant awards at varying levels. I have had a good deal of correspondence with teachers in technical institutes and I have seen a number of them personally, and I find that there are very varying opinions among the teachers in technical institutes themselves about the recommendation about the setting up of a Royal College of Technology. A few of them favour it, but the majority of them say that the students in technical colleges and institutions do not want awards; they do not want to be members or associates or even fellows of a Royal College of Technology.
What they want are degrees. They want to be bachelors of technology or masters of technology or doctors of technology. They are of the opinion that a body merely granting awards which have not the status of degrees, and will not be regarded by the general public as having the same prestige as degrees, or as proofs as good as degrees that there holders carry the same knowledge as holders of degrees—the mere granting of such awards—will not attract a sufficient number of students to take up the study of the various technologies. They are in favour of promoting some of the chief technical colleges into institutes of technology of university status with power to grant degrees in technology.
Everybody is agreed that we must improve technological training. Everybody agrees it is absolutely essential for the expansion of our industries and trade, and the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side herself referred to it as being a very important matter. I should think that by this time my right hon. Friend has had consultations with the various interests involved, and I hope that, when he replies to the debate, he will be able to tell the Committee of the decision he has taken on this important matter.
The hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) referred earlier in his remarks to the difficulty and importance of the sifting or assessment process at the age of 11. My only excuse for intervening in the ranks of the regulars and experts in these education debates is to speak very briefly on problems arising as a result of that sifting process.
I think hon. Members will agree that there is a great deal of anxiety in the minds of parents today, partly because they do not realise what the character of the sifting process is, partly because of their natural pride in the believed ability of their own progeny, but partly, I believe, because in certain areas the sifting process is not being sufficiently well done.
On the one hand, with the better kind of education authority the process has many stages: the report of the headmaster of the primary school; the examination paper, including some arithmetic and an essay—bearing in mind the verbal felicity which is necessary and important for grammar school education; there is the intelligence test; there is an interview by the headmaster of the grammar school; and in some cases, after that series of investigations at the age of 11, there is a term by term report from the headmaster of the primary school to secure any transfers whenever they seem to be appropriate.
On the other hand, in some areas there is a form of assessment in which the psychological test plays the predominant part. I want to make it perfectly plain that I am not one of those who criticise the modern methods of investigation. In the organisation with which I was associated until a couple of years ago every candidate for clerical employment was astonished by being confronted with the papers involved in an intelligence test.
There is an impression abroad—and it is not without some foundation—that in some areas too much emphasis is being laid upon that mechanical assessment of intelligence which is the intelligence test. The intelligence test affords us some important information about the child. But it affords us precious little information about other important aspects of the child; precious little about its character and its staying power, precious little about other elements which are important in this decision.
I was surprised to find no mention of such subjects in this Report. A page was devoted to the no doubt magnificent piece of sculpture that was presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum, of "Neptune and Glaucus." I wish there had been more about education, and more about some of these problems that are disturbing the minds of parents, even at the expense of some of the magnificent illustrations and the literary joys to which other hon. Members have referred.
As to the psychological tests—although I imagine they are almost covered by the Official Secrets Act, for obvious reasons—it is necessary to be perfectly clear about the limited information that can be got from asking children such questions as to
Underline the correct answer to each of the following questions: Clear is to muddy as light is to—milky, water, sunny, dark, day, lamp.
In each of the following questions all hut one of the things are alike in some way. Underline the different one: herring, cod, haddock, crab, sole, plaice; or hoot, sleep, squeak, hiss, shout, squeal; or sponge, soap, bathroom, towel, nail-brush.
That kind of test affords important information about one part of the child's brain. But I am pretty certain that they are wrong in those local education authority areas where predominant stress is laid upon the intelligence test. In one area, only those who can achieve the level of an intelligence quotient of 115 can ever hope to get into a grammar school, whereas in fact in the past a great deal of first-class grammar school material—if I may use the term, human material—had an intelligence quotient of between 100 and 115.
This decision now reached at the age of 11 and subsequently is of tremendous importance, and the parents of this country know it. In many areas it is a decision as to whether the child is to achieve a school certificate. In many areas the alternative is the old senior school re-named "modern secondary." It is no more than that. We speak of "secondary modern education"; we hope that we shall reach a much higher level, but the fact of the situation today is that for many parents that decision is one between the possibility of entering a profession or a skilled occupation, and on the other hand attaining such an educational level as would make that impossible.
That being so, I do suggest it is important that the Ministry should continuously study this method of assessment; that the Minister—who, if I may say so, is a man more calculated than most to distrust the advice of experts in narrow fields—should interest himself particularly in the various methods that are being used, in order to ensure that a composite decision likely to reveal the child as a whole is the basis of every such assessment at the age of 11.
Of course, the answer often given is: the comprehensive school. I think it is a great pity that so much party politics has been injected into this conception. There are many of us who have tried to approach it with an open mind, but to find that it is being claimed that comprehensive schools will manufacture more and more little Socialists for the community—[HON. MEMBERS:
"No."] Well, earlier on those hon. Members who were here heard the quotation from the Labour Party Conference at Margate. A Mr. Woodall said:
I believe that in the comprehensive system of education lies the basis of educating the next generation to form a Socialist society.
Surely the Conservative Party would not let it go out to the world that their pronouncements on party policy are made by the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). I do not suggest that the parallel is quite a fair one; I do not know who Mr. Woodall is; but my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon), who is Chairman of the Labour Party, or my right hon. Friend the Minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary, are surely better exponents of what is our party policy than a maybe irresponsible, or earnest, delegate at a party conference.
I am glad to hear that disavowal; there is the fact that a political partly has thought it necessary to define a party line upon an essentially educational topic. It is the official policy of the Labour Party. I believe that the attitude expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary was the right one, that we need to see some carefully controlled experiments in this field.
There is one consideration to which reference has not been made, and with that I shall conclude. As matters stand, what the Ministry are seeking to do in the tripartite system is to eliminate class or social differences. For heaven's sake, in our desire to avoid educational segregation on grounds of class, let us not forget the importance of educational segregation in the interests of education. It is clearly desirable that those who are admittedly of a higher standard of intellectual ability should receive different treatment by way of education. They should rub their minds on others equally good or better. It is also clearly desirable that those who do not fall into the grammar school class should not feel themselves to be always the "Number Two's" in the school. A kind of perpetual "second eleven" in many fields.
I would ask the Minister to allay a great deal of public apprehension about the sorting of children by what may seem to be the oddest collection of questions —they are not so odd as they look—and on what seems to be a mechanical basis that makes the profoundest difference to a child. Many a mother is in the position that when her child is rejected at 11 years of age she is not able to afford the independent school that might offer an alternative. I urge the Minister to seek to satisfy himself that in all areas this matter is being intelligently watched and with no unnecessary emphasis upon a mechanistic conception of these problems of human assessment.
I am sorry to find myself in complete disagreement with the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh), who opened the debate this afternoon. The progress of education in the last 50 years makes one of the most interesting stories that we have been allowed to discuss for quite a long time. It shows quite clearly that much of the progress which is made is dependent upon the co-ordination of three very important factors.
First of all, is the central Government, which we have here, I presume, represented on the Government Front Bench? Secondly, we have the local education authorities. One of the great progresses of these many years is the extent to which local education authorities have shouldered the very difficult task of carrying out the recommendations which they receive periodically, I presume, from the central Government.
Then there are the teachers, who have developed an entirely new attitude towards education. We have read of teachers who in the old days were engaged in pursuing a very limited conception of education, but the conception has been considerably widened, with the result that today we have a single system made up of the various elements, allowing for a considerable degree of freedom for local authorities and making for considerable variety in all parts of the country.
I was interested in the historical story of development from the period of the Board of Education to the establishment of the Ministry of Education, as we call it at the present time, and to find that the Board of Education in the old days used to select some of its members and its higher servants by a process which resulted in bringing to the Board some of the most eminent scholars that we have had during the last 50 years.
The names are in the Report and it is well that we should recognise the great service that has been rendered to education by men like Chambers, Selby-Bigge and others. It is very good for the Ministry of Education to have among its most distinguished servants people of really keen intellectual interests who have enriched the scholarship of our country, because it adds considerable lustre to the Ministry. That kind of thing could be continued. The names of those scholars who have served the Ministry so well will remain long in the history of our education and culture.
I was also interested to realise that the conception of a really national system of education is the creation of the last 50 years. I need hardly say that there was an educational system before that, but we had not conceived the idea of one comprehensive national system. It is interesting for those of us who remember something of the fights that took place to recall that the foundation was laid by the Balfour Act of 1902, which was more violently contested than almost any Act that has passed through the House. We all remember the great attacks that used to be delivered on it by Mr. Lloyd George, and the calm replies to him by the late Lord Balfour. There were undoubtedly heroes in those days, which was a very exciting time, indeed.
That was the foundation of our educational development and it is true to say, after nearly 50 years, that the Balfour Act transformed education in this country. It is easy to understand the violent opposition that arose when the Act was introduced. By the Act of 1870, the school boards had been established in almost every parish in the land. Some of them, like the London School Board, were very powerful institutions. They were allowed to levy rates for primary or elementary education. Those schools that had the benefit of rates forged ahead, possibly to the disadvantage of the voluntary schools which had no such source of revenue available for them.
In 1902 when Mr. Balfour introduced his Bill one thing he did was to abolish the old board school system and to place all the schools, both the board school type and the voluntary schools, in the custody of the county council. Here came in the rub which aroused a tremendous amount of passion at the time. The voluntary schools for the first time became available for the rates, and hon. Members will remember the great outcry about denominational teaching being put upon the rates.
The fight was carried on for quite a number of years, and the result was an entirely new conception of the administration of education. The county councils were now empowered to take charge of the schools and they were further empowered, if they cared to do so, to go in for secondary education. If I may say so humbly to your presence, Mr. Lang, here is one of the points in which Wales was well ahead of England. Because Welsh Members in this House, as far back as 1889, had managed to pass an Intermediate Education Act which applied to Wales and Monmouth. The result was that secondary schools sprang up everywhere throughout the Principality, and by 1902 every county in Wales was well covered by secondary county schools.
It was some time before the English counties took advantage of the provision in the 1902 Act though, once they started building schools, England became as well covered with county secondary schools as Wales before 1902. The Intermediate Education Act of 1889 laid the foundation of modern Welsh culture. It had a tremendous influence and resulted eventually in the establishment of a university in Wales.
Welsh education can be said to have changed the character of the country almost entirely. Here was a Welsh peasantry denied in many cases the benefits of the grammar schools so popular in England. With the coming of the Act, however, with secondary education, with the establishment of the University, it is no exaggeration to say that Wales has led in secondary and higher education.
The Report stresses the fact that education is a widening conception. Formerly, the State was only concerned with the establishment and the encouragement of primary education. Gradually, that extended to the provision of secondary education. Despite what has been said by an hon. Member opposite, I am glad to find that the Report recognises the great service rendered to this country by adult education. We ought not to expect that the adult education movement will provide graduates for the various universities. That is exactly what it does not. It takes the form of something like a modern renaissance of education.
Anyone who has been associated with this movement at close quarters must be tremendously impressed by the fact that, for the first time, the ordinary men and women during their short leisure hours have had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with education in the real sense of the term. Some of the most distinguished scholars in this country have been associated with this work. I know from my own experience what an amount of joy and comfort it has brought to a hard-working man to find that the pleasures of education are not confined to one class. It is one of the most powerful movements of our time. The right hon. Lady said that Ruskin College was founded in 1903 and she seemed to imply that this was the beginning of the movement.
I am sorry if I misunderstood the right hon. Lady, but she seemed to imply that Ruskin College was the beginning of it, which is not true. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Neither is it set forth in that way in the Report. I am glad that the Report has remembered the pioneers of this wonderful educational movement and has preserved the names of people like Mansbridge and Temple.
I want to refer to one who is a Member of this House, the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood). He was for many years a Vice-President of the Workers' Educational Association, and he and Temple, working together, did much to expound the principles of the movement and to expand it in various parts of the country. The Report is a clear index of the development that has taken place in education from the primary school right up to the university, and I congratulate the Minister heartily on its production.
The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) has gone through a great deal of the history of education as set out in the Jubilee Report and I think he now agrees with us that adult education did not start with Ruskin College. I imagine it may have started when Eve first went into the Garden of Eden.
I was interested in what the hon. Gentleman said about the Balfour Act and in his many other references to advances in education which were put on the Statute Book by the Conservative Party. One point which I thought was interesting was his reference to the fact that the voluntary schools then in 1902 came on to the rates. That is true as regards their revenue costs, but of course, in respect of their capital costs, loan charges which, as the Minister knows, form a very great part of our costs today were not included. All these voluntary schools—I believe that there are still some 11,000—are only costing revenue charges, and in respect of loan charges they are a free gift to the country.
To return for a moment to the Report, I feel that the Minister rather fell between two stools: that, statutorily, he must sit on one of them—that is, his Annual Report. In regard to the other—the Jubilee Report—I should have thought it might have been better to have it separately. There are, of course, an immense number of statistical tables—no fewer than 100, which is 11 more than last year; and I suppose I should congratulate the Minister on his century. But for the sake of getting the picture clearly in the minds of the Committee, I should like just to refer to some of the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary concerning the building programme.
I refer to Table 67 on page 218: "Approval of Building Work." For 1949 the total amount approved for primary and secondary schools was £54,981,000. For 1950, the comparable figure is £35,051,000. I gather that what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary was that that did not result in any drop in the number of places to be provided in primary and secondary schools, and that, further, there was no drop in the standards of those places.
The Minister nods. If what I have said is the case, I think that two steps have come about. First, the cost of a place in the primary schools, irrespective of land and playing fields, went down from £195 to £170, and now, in this year only, to £140—that was not in 1950, but in 1951. Furthermore, in secondary schools the cost, which was originally £325, similarly went down, to £290, and now, in 1951, it has gone down to £240. In addition, the overall picture of the same Table shows that in 1949 the total figure for building, for all forms of educational activities, was £70,501,000, and in 1950 was £44,164,000. It would seem on those figures, which, I think, I have quoted rightly, that there would be some difficulty if there is really no drop either in educational buildings or in the standards. I am not drawing any conclusions, but am merely asking for information.
I should like to refer next to paragraph 47 on page 46, in Chapter IV on Schools, where reference is made to "Manual of Guidance for Schools, No. 1," dated 23rd August, 1950. This has reference to Sections 76 and 81 of the Education Act, to which reference has already been made by various hon. Members, who, clearly, have had similar troubles to mine in my own county in that the interpretation of those two sections is done differently in the different L.E.A.'s, of which the Minister once complained that there were 146 and that he could not carry all their activities and the figures concerning them in his head.
I should like to come back to the paragraph which deals with the independent and private public schools, a subject which has been touched upon this afternoon. I was at a dinner last Friday to celebrate the 400th anniversary of King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford. The headmaster, in the course of what I thought was a very wise speech, said that he hoped that education would not be the plaything of party politicians.
Our debates here on education are as a rule objective, but we have today had references to the statement of policy for secondary education, and earlier in the day the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), made a contribution to the debate. I remember that in a debate on education, which I had the privilege of opening, on 17th April this year, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, said that:
Education is a political issue in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 1708.]
Furthermore, on 4th May, 1950, the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said:
…we shall have to tackle the public school system one day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1950; Vol. 474. c. 2010.]
by the word "tackle," it seemed to me that he was meaning the kind of tackle which is made in Wales—they bring them down. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hear hon. Members opposite saying "Hear, hear."
I come now to the pamphlet "A policy for secondary education," on page 13 of which is written:
The desired end of a comprehensive school is that all children from an area, irrespective of class or wealth, should attend the same school. Clearly it is not possible to achieve this by the statutory abolition of fee-paying schools. These schools will probably vanish by a gradual process of attrition as parents increasingly send their children to the comprehensive schools.
I want to say, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, that if we are to judge things by educational results, if we are to judge by the attitude, when it comes to their own children, of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, who realise in all seriousness that these schools provide opportunities for excellent education—it may be that they are not always taken advantage of but, as has been implied in the debate, they provide a magnificent background for character—then I should have thought that we do not want to have these schools destroyed, but that the parents who often endure great self-sacrifice to keep their children there should be encouraged so to do. It is perfectly true that Members on both sides send their children to these schools to try to get what they think are the best facilities, and that they take every opportunity, and rightly so, of getting whatever financial assistance there is from whatever source may be available.
The objections to these schools have been spoken of today, and they are touched upon in the pamphlet to which I have referred: the questions of privilege and of class distinction. During the debate we have heard constantly about the equality of opportunity. I was interested to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that he was not in favour of uniformity in schools. I should have thought that equality of opportunity, a subject to which my hon. Friend the Member of Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) referred, is not always easy of achievement, and that perhaps the best circumstances in which these conditions might exist would be in time of war.
After all, at such a time it is possible for anyone in the final issue to volunteer and to lose his life. I am well aware that many people who may have been anxious to act in this way were prevented from doing so, but by and large, against whatever background one likes to select I should have thought that the products of these independent schools have nobly justified themselves.
Having, I hope, convinced the Committee on both sides that, educationally, we want these schools to continue, I should like to refer again to my quotation from Chapter IV of the Report. I am sure the Minister will agree that there are a number of anomalies in the interpretation of
these Sections. If I may read from the Act, the criterion in Section 76 is that the
authorities shall have regard to the general principle that, so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.
As I understand it, read in conjunction with the paragraph, that is, however, subject to there not being sufficient places available in the maintained schools. Let us assume it, I do not know whether it is right or wrong, as I find it a little difficult to follow the interpretation, but on those premises it is clear that there will not be for many years sufficient public places available for all the pupils at these independent preparatory or public schools.
If they are to be provided even on the reduced basis of cost of which we have heard this afternoon the actual cost to the public purse will be very considerable. I believe there is a Committee which has just reported called the Pearson Committee which, for the purpose of arrangements between the local authorities—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton referred—proposes that the actual cost of primary places shall be £26. I think the Minister said in reply to a Question last week that the cost was £27. In the secondary school, up to the age of 15, it would be £41 per annum and above 15 in the grammar schools it would be £66 per annum.
I would seriously suggest that the question of this assistance, which the authorities interpret up to as much as £75 per annum—but again very differently throughout the 146 authorities—should be gone into. A good approach would be to say that we want to encourage these schools and encourage these parents, who, on top of paying the additional costs involved, are also paying full rates and taxes to provide public places for other people's children. Until such time as there are not public places available for them, they should be given assistance. Personally, I hope these always will be independent schools.
I wish to say a word on boarding fees. Here, I think, the system in my county of Essex, to which reference has been made, is a good one. It is very difficult to arrive at what the income of parents should be for this purpose. Take, for example, parents who say they will invest some money or take out an educational policy for their children. Another parent prefers to buy a motor car. I am not apportioning blame, but one might think that, educationally the former parent who has invested money and forgone things for an educational policy, is the more proper person to whom help should be given.
I know that the one who has taken out an educational policy gets special help from the Treasury, up to about 3s. 6d. in the £, but this counts against the man who has been thrifty, while the man who has nothing, possibly because it is his own fault, gets all the assistance from the local authority. I think this one more instance of how, today, thrift is penalised and those with an easy way of life are able to sponge on the State.
I have put forward these views in all seriousness. I realise that perhaps in regard to this matter I have been fortunate. I was a great deal more fortunate than my father, who was taken from school at 14 to go to work in a Lancashire mill. I realise that in these matters, as in many others, there may be a certain amount of bitterness, but I should hate to feel that our approach to this problem, or indeed, to any other, was "If everyone cannot have it, no one shall."
Recently I was reading a book, which was widely reviewed, by Douglas Hyde, called "I Believe," in which there was a passage which struck me very much. It described how he changed from Communism to become a Roman Catholic and he said that Stalin, whom he thought an idealist, had from his own mouth more or less said, "I know I cannot raise the standard of living of my own people to that of Western Europe, but what I can do is to reduce that standard to that of our own country."
I hope the Minister, having regard to the fact that these schools are desirable, will agree that the parents, who, often at great self-sacrifice, send their children there and have to pay the same rates and taxes as others, will give careful consideration to my suggestions. My proposals are simple and straightforward and. I hope will help to iron out a number of anomalies which exist and to which reference has been made on both sides of the Committee. I hope that we shall not, through party political prejudice in matters of education, cut off our noses to spite our faces.
I should like to echo the last statement made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton) that party political prejudice should not enter education.
I am particularly pleased that the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh), who opened the debate, is still present. I heard her speech and listened with great attention, and I felt she was endeavouring to be completely fair. Because of that, I could not understand why she seemed to be so partisan about the use of the phrase "the common man." I can only assume that the right hon. Lady, and I think some hon. Members opposite, see a different meaning in that phrase from many hon. Members on this side of the Committee.
I was under the impression that the words, "The century of the common man" were first used by President Roosevelt, and have always taken it to mean that the ordinary person was at last to have a chance. That is how I have always read "the common man" and "the common child."
I could not see how the right hon. Lady, who nods her head in agreement, could object to us on this side of the Committee talking of the present age as that of the common man or of the common child.
I speak from experience. I taught for 11 years in what we used to call the elementary school where I came into contact with the less fortunate, financially, of the people of this country. What I say tonight must obviously be coloured by that experience. I hope I shall be fair, but my viewpoint and judgment are whether or not the children of this country, taken all round, are now getting a better opportunity in education than they had in the past.
Before going on to give what I think is very justifiable credit to this Government for what they have done, I wish to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) for what he did and to say that his speeches in this House tended to be solely for the benefit of the child. I believe the right aim and object of education is to build a single, but not a uniform, system of education. In other words, I do wish to see the same educational opportunities available to all children, irrespective of the finances of their parents, as was not the case in the past. We accept completely, I hope, that children are not the same, any more than grown-ups are the same, but I believe they should have that opportunity.
We have heard a good deal about this Report—which I have read—and we all know that in 1900 the leaving age was 12, while today it is the end of the term after the 15th birthday, with 16 years of age as the goal. I think that credit should be given to the Government for that, although I know it was mooted before they came into power. It was this Government that carried the reform through in the face of opposition in the country and from some hon. Members in this House.
That is the first point that I would make. The credit which I should like to give to this Government, and which makes me very proud, is that the greatest advance in the provision of new primary and secondary schools has been under this Government, from 1945 to 1950. In that period we had twice as many built as in any other similar time. I think that today both sides of the Committee can take great pride in the fact that Britain's new schools are among the finest in the world.
I say that with great feeling because on 10th January this year the Minister of Education came to Coventry and opened there the largest prefabricated aluminium school in Britain. Three sides of that school are built almost completely of glass, and it holds 840 children. I do not know what would have been the reactions of hon. Members who have not been teachers. The reaction of one who was a teacher, not in the dim and distant past but from 1924 to 1935, on going into that school was, "My goodness. I wish I could have had the pleasure of teaching in a school like that or that the children I taught could have had the pleasure of attending such a school." The colouring of our old schools leaves much to be desired. One remembers the dark brown and green walls. How drab they were. I think that great credit should be paid to the Ministry for the schools which are being opened today.
I wish to turn briefly to the matter of comprehensive schools. There are divided opinions on this matter, and I think they are divided irrespective of party. On both sides of the Committee there are misgivings about it. I have today's copy of "The Times," which feels that a limited experiment would be justified, and today's copy of the "Daily Herald," which contains three letters against it and none in favour of it.
Having given those examples, I would say that I believe that we should make an experiment in this type of school. I quite agree with the critics who say that equality in education ought not to mean the limiting of opportunity for those children who are more able than the others, but I have taught in schools in the past where there was a decided limiting of opportunity for such children either because of the largeness of the classes or inadequate accommodation.
I do not accept it as a fact that comprehensive schools must necessarily provide this limitation. I expect other Members of the Committee have probably had comments made to them similar to those which various head teachers of modern schools have made to me during the past few months, to the effect that there is a feeling among parents of the children attending their schools and among the children themselves that those who go to a grammar or technical school are a little brighter or more intelligent or that the school is better. Those head teachers have been very concerned to break down that feeling. I hope that the comprehensive school may help to do so.
In Coventry last week the Education Committee approved preliminary plans for our first comprehensive school. The proposals were put up jointly by an architect from the Ministry of Education and the Coventry city architect. It is one of the few occasions on which such co-operation has been possible. I should like—and I think the Minister would agree—to pay tribute to the good sense of the Coventry local authority in accepting the co-operation of my right hon. Friend's architect.
This new school is to be in our Tile Hill Neighbourhood Unit. It will accommodate 1·700 children and it is to be made of aluminium. If Members are interested they may like to know that it, is the Bristol Aeroplane Company which will provide the aluminium. This is a form of construction that has still not been finally explored in this country and the co-operation with the Ministry is to continue. This school marks a new venture in aluminium construction in that it is to consist in part of three storeys. The aluminium school which we have in Coventry at present consist only of one.
The first instalment of this scheme is to provide for 900 pupils. People who are expert in teaching will be interested to know that the accommodation is to be about 70 square feet per pupil in comparison with the normal 80 square feet, and the cost per pupil is to be £240. I would here say that I think that in Coventry they have been very sensible in deciding that this comprehensive school shall be divided into three houses. It was felt that it was quite impossible for the headmaster or the headmistress of a school of 1,700 to maintain the contact built up by the head of a smaller school, but that the heads of three separate houses might establish the contact which was lacking previously. It was thought that that would divide the school into manageable units each forming a cross-section of the school.
I turn to the question of the recreation of young people. The 1944 Act, and page 60 of the Report, recognise the partnership between the Ministry and the local education authority for the Youth Service. We know that the Minister and the local authority together can provide facilities for sport and recreation. In the House, on 15th December, we had a debate about the provision of playing fields. Mention was made in that debate of the question of floodlighting playing fields and playgrounds for use at night.
I feel—perhaps I am wrong—that the Minister had to be convinced of the advantages of that. He felt that the attraction might be the floodlighting and not the playing of games in it. I was supported by the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus), who said that he had done training on a ground at night when he was a young man and had trained by himself, but that when the ground was floodlit every member of his club came along and made use of it. I should like to ask the Minister whether, in view of the shortage of accommodation—both playing fields and playgrounds—he will press the local authorities to examine the possibility of floodlighting for use at night, and that he himself will examine it.
In that debate, the Minister said, in c. 1522 of HANSARD of 15th December, that it was essential that in the provision of playing fields women and girls should get a fair share of the facilities provided. It had not occurred to me that they did not, but I regret to say that the Minister was quite correct because from the Report of the National Playing Fields Association of May this year I note that they have provided to date 1,240 football pitches, 660 cricket pitches, 145 hockey pitches and 226 netball pitches. I should like to ask the Minister if he would note that 1,240 football pitches compared with 145 hockey pitches is not an adequate comparison. As he is obviously aware of that dangerous trend, I hope that he will impress on local authorities the necessity for seeing that the girls are as well provided for as the boys.
I wish to ask the Minister whether he feels that the Ministry, the local authorities, and it may be voluntary organisations, can do anything about the specialised training of our young boys and girls who have considerable prowess in the field of athletics. Last week we had the national schools athletic championships, sponsored, I think, by the "News Chronicle." I believe the "News Chronicle" have also had films made of various well-known athletes demonstrating their particular sports for showing to children. The Central Council for Physical Recreation have also done their share. These youngsters are good. Some records were broken on Saturday. But in this country it is quite impossible under the present system for our young people to have a chance of training to championship standard as is done in other countries.
I hope that the Minister will consider that matter. I am referring particularly to athletics, swimming and tennis. I think that cricket and football are catered for because the clubs look out for the young people of ability in those games. I feel that in this other matter something requires to be done. If one has not a great deal of money it is practically impossible to attain first-class standard in athletics, tennis or swimming one needs to train. That is done in America and, I think, in the Scandinavian countries. I hope that something will be done about that.
In conclusion, referring back to the question of playing fields, the Central Office of Information, on 12th July last, published a book called, "Children out of School." In that book it was stated that nearly half the school children between the ages of five and 15 had no park to play in and more than half had not got a playground.
Our new schools are among the finest in the world. I suggest that our record for playing fields is not only not among the finest, but is disgraceful. In this Festival year, might it not be possible that some of the fetes or carnivals which are organised could provide money to supply playing fields for the children? I should like to pay tribute to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for the work they are doing, and to recognise the great respect in which they are held throughout the country.
The hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton), spoke in the earlier part of her speech about comprehensive schools. I was much interested in what she said because she took a different line from that taken by the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) who spoke earlier in the afternoon. He said without any doubt and in a straightforward manner—and as far as I know, he was not interrupted by any hon. Member opposite—that the comprehensive school was the official policy of the Labour Party. We should like to know about that. It is a matter of considerable importance. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity as Minister of Education, can answer the question. Perhaps some other hon. Member will reply to that rather ticklish point.
The other part of the hon. Lady's speech in which I was interested was that when she spoke about the provision of playing fields. I cannot think of any nicer way of spending money than to spend it in the provision of playing fields. But the trouble is that we have not very much money to spend. It is to that point, because it is fundamental, that I want to devote some of my remarks. There is no doubt that recently the ratepayers have been extremely worried about the very heavy costs of education.
This has been said before several times during this debate. I make no excuse for repeating it. Although the weight of the rate was heavier during the year under discussion, and there was a greater increase than ever before in a single year, I think it probable that the rate will make an even greater stride in the year ahead. It is only natural in these circumstances that the ratepayers should be worried and anxious about what they are getting for their money. I was chided when I made this point in a recent debate and talked about getting something for one's money. That is a very human and proper thing to want to do.
The Report on Education in 1949, and the recent Report on Reading Ability published by the Ministry, do not satisfy the ordinary ratepayer that he is getting what he ought to get for his money. It is no good calling us Jeremiahs because we refer to anxiety about reading ability. It is stated in these two Reports that we have not advanced. That, surely, is very bad.
The pressure of the rates varies to a large extent between different local authorities. There is a tendency to create discrepancies between local authorities in the way in which they are able to perform their duties. One of these points has already been mentioned in connection with those local authorities who feel that they can provide places in fee-paying schools for children in their locality when it is necessary that that should be done. Treatment in that respect varies enormously between different local authorities.
We have all seen the recent up-to-date summary of the various ways in which local authorities have dealt with the Burnham Committee's award. Most authorities have handled it differently. The result is that we have a situation in which some authorities hold out greater opportunities to teachers than other authorities can offer. I think that we are gradually, by no deliberate step, creating a set of circumstances in which children fortunate enough to be born in some places will have better opportunities for education than children born in other places. I ask the Minister to consider that matter carefully. This difference in educational opportunity seems to be growing in our educational system, and it really is not tolerable that such a state of affairs should exist.
I feel most anxious about the fact that in the Report under discussion there is no real answer to this great problem of financial stringency which is endangering the development of education today. I agree with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh) when she complained that all that there was in the Report was the comment at the very end that "the solution of this problem could not be dealt with in this Report." I would press on the Minister the point that this question must be dealt with, even though it is difficult.
We on this side of the House—not only us but the National Union of Teachers and others—have drawn attention to this problem. It is bound up with the whole question of the finances of local Government as they are fitted into the general scheme of our national finances. We believe that steps should be taken now to consider this matter. We have suggested that a Royal Commission should be set up as one method of examining the whole question. It cannot be said that the whole expenditure of local government is something which we can properly discuss today; but the Minister of Education is the biggest spender today in local government, and I think that he will become a bigger spender still.
Therefore, it is right and natural that he should take the lead in initiating some inquiry into ways and means of bringing this difficult position to an end. In this stringent position, it is obvious that we should pay the closest attention to priorities. That is why I was very surprised when, in answer to a Question by me asking for an explanation of the statement by the Chancellor on coming economies, we were told that there would be reductions in future in national expenditure on technical and technological education.
To some extent, the Parliamentary Secretary has tried to explain the situation, and he has said that, in any case, we are going to spend the same amount next year. I cannot regard that as being an answer, because almost in the same breath he said that the demands for technicians who had been properly trained and those who had been technologically trained were absolutely unlimited in industry. Surely in these circumstances, and in our great economic difficulties, it is astonishingly stupid for the Chancellor and the Minister to hold back on something which we have all at some time asked to be further developed.
The hon. Gentleman says there is delay in reaching the maximum, but that, in effect, means a cut. The provision of technical and technological education in this country is not a problem which is solved by delay. Things get worse as time goes on, and the longer the Minister and the Government take to get on with developing technological education the worse it will be for industry. It is not a problem which can solve itself simply by waiting. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is waiting for another Government, which I admit would be a very good answer.
I will now try to make some suggestions in regard to this question. I hope that tonight the Minister will let us into the secret of what is holding up a statement in regard to technological education and taking action on the recent Report. Now for the suggestion. I have not seen any great drive by the Government to get the maximum amount of assistance from industry in the provision of technical and technological education. I know that there are many industries which help a great deal, but I also know there are many which do not.
I hear hon. Members opposite say that industries are making too much profit. If that is so, surely there is a most excellent way of milking off some of that profit. Why not give an inducement to manufacturing firms and industries, in their own interests, to invest some of their money in technical and technological institutions in the way that many already do? The possibility of a remission of taxation might also be offered, and I wonder whether something like this could not be devised so that we could really get on with this very difficult but necessary part of our educational life.
In my opinion, however, the question of money is the lesser of the two great menaces which education is facing today. The other is the question of manpower, which has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Itchen and by other hon. Members. In this country today, with all the various demands on available trained manpower, there are simply not enough people to provide the quality and class of teachers that we require in education without taking people from other vital services.
When we take an excellent girl and make her into a teacher, we may find that we are depriving the nursing service. When we take a school dentist, we take him away from the main dental service of the country, and the same thing is true of other professional services. Teachers are often born, sometimes other types of people can never be teachers but the fact remains that a really intelligent teacher can do other things besides teaching, and could even become a Member of the House of Commons, although when he got here he might find it very difficult to make a speech. This particular problem is even more difficult to solve than the problem of not having enough money. Money will not solve this problem. It is something which has to be solved inside the country, and it is going to be extremely difficult to do it.
I wish to make to the Minister one very simple suggestion which I believe may help. I remember that I once before referred to it in a speech in the House. It is the further development of technical and visual aids in education. Everybody must realise that the best way of educating a child is by the personal touch—I do not mean that in two senses—by having a personal interest in the child. That is what we want, but we may not be able to have it.
Technical and visual aids at their best are probably only a second best, but we may have to go for them. That may be the only way in which we can relieve ourselves of this pressure, because nothing would be worse than to man up the whole of the education services and not to have the quality we need. I suggest to the Minister that it would be well worth while his asking his main Advisory Committee —I know he has a special committee which deals with technical aids—to consider the matter in relation to the whole problem of man and woman power available to the teaching profession in this country.
In conclusion, I want to refer to another matter. The Minister said that a visitor to this country would not find many of the things he expected to find; he would not find anything very much about curricula and the actual laying down of what was to be taught. I agree; that is our British system of education. But there is one thing he would not find and one thing which I believe he would expect to find, and that is any reference at all to our great independent school system in this country.
The independent schools have been taken into the orbit of the Minister of Education under the 1944 Act. They have their own problems—and very difficult ones they are. It seems astonishing to me that they should be left right out of this document and relegated to party pamphleteers who say that they are gradually going to be destroyed by inanition. That was in the pamphlet to which the hon. Member for Itchen referred when he talked about comprehensive schools being Labour Party policy.
Therefore, I think that in the interest of the public schools—and we on this side admire them and believe that they still provide the finest education in the world—the Minister of Education should say what his feelings are towards them. Are they to die of inanition, or is he going to help them? I hope that when we on this side of the Committee get into power—as we soon shall; possibly before the year is out—we shall by one means or another see that people still have the opportunity to educate their children at public or independent schools.
It is quite true that we have created in this country a most anomalous state of affairs in regard to the independent schools. We have, as it were, provided a queen's cell for education and, in the equalitarian face of it that seems absolutely wrong. But it produces the finest results in the world and when we try to level down and do away with quality and worship equality, it will be the worse for education in this country and for the country itself.
Briefly I want to say one or two things about the problem revealed by the Minister's answer to recent Questions to the effect that 20 per cent. of grammar school boys and 25 per cent. of grammar school girls left the grammar schools last year in their 15th year. Education to 16 years is the meagre minimum for grammar schools and we hope that grammar school education will, in time, continue for most children up to the age of 18 years.
One of the main causes of early school-leaving is economic. The high cost of living, the high wages paid to children between 15 and 16 years by a labour market clamouring for bright juvenile labour, and the joy of being no longer a financial burden, to one's parents and, most of all, the sad effect of bereavement taking the bread-winner from the home—all these are tempting young children away from grammar school tragically too soon.
Employers like to have their young employees as soon as possible to train them in the way of the firm, but I believe employers can help themselves as well as the children if they will realise that they are better off even from a business point of view if they let the children remain at the grammar schools to obtain a good general education before going on to special training. The better the foundations the more successfully can special skills be built upon them.
The most exciting part of education, the really critical and vital part, begins with adolescence. That is why the giving of secondary education to all children up to the age of 15 has been one of the greatest things this country has done since the war. That is why the grammar schools do not want to lose the potential leaders of the next generation when grammar school education is reaching its most vital stage in the adolescent years. Children give to a school as well as take away from it, and I think they give most and in doing so receive most in their later rather than their earlier years.
I therefore plead with all the earnestness I possess with parents whose children are in grammar schools and who find the financial burden a heavy one, to make all the financial sacrifices involved and to resist the attraction of an extra wage coming into the house, for the sake of the child's long-term interests. I urge education authorities to increase their maintenance and clothing grants to help poor parents to keep their children in grammar schools, and particularly to help the widow's children.
The second great cause of early school-leaving from the grammar schools lies in the fact that we have not yet found the best way of choosing children who are to go there. We decide a child's future educational career at the age of 11 plus. It may be true that the nation's 5 per cent. most able children reveal their ability at that age, although I doubt it. Julius Caesar certainly did not. It was not until he was 40 that he got out of the "backward class" into the "A stream."
Some children develop late and go a long way further, even though they mature after the date prescribed by local educational authorities. Many of the children who leave grammar school early are children who have developed rather precociously and then find the going too heavy. One of our problems, and a very mighty one, is to see that the "late developer" on the one hand gets the kind of education for which he or she is fitted and that the precocious child, on the hand, is not left stranded in an atmosphere which is too exacting for it. The heavy demands of grammar school syllabuses call for tremendous moral qualities—qualities of character as well as intelligence. No selection tests can measure these moral qualities which are so vitally important and have a bearing upon what a child will do at the grammar school.
Intelligence tests have recently come under fire. I would agree that such tests are not infallible. I believe that the real enemy of the intelligence test is the man who, having established an I.Q., believes it has got an absolute value. The intelligence test is a useful instrument. It tries to measure what the child is capable of doing rather than what he really knows, because what he knows depends upon the accident of his home surroundings and so many other things. But neither intelligence tests nor the old tests in English and arithmetic can measure the moral qualities.
Moreover, the nervous reaction of a child to examinations, particularly in these days when parents inflict their anxiety on their children, makes it important that the various tests to which a child is submitted should be taken as casually as possible. They should be in the child's own classroom, with his own teacher, without the terrifying apparatus which accompanied the old scholarship examinations. They should be spaced over a long period. It is extremely wrong to decide a child's fate by his behaviour on a single day which might easily be one of his off days.
Above all, it is important that examinations, no matter how scientifically administered, no matter how skilfully concealed, should be supplemented by some other method of selection. Weight should be given to the reports and the knowledge possessed by the teachers of the child in the junior school, and the final lists of children who go to the grammar school should be vetted by committees of head teachers who should discuss all the borderline cases very carefully indeed.
I have spoken very briefly on what I think is a very important subject. I think we ought to give teachers in our junior schools a much greater part in the grave task of selecting which children are to go to the grammar schools. I would urge the Minister to investigate the wastage which is taking place from grammar schools, to see that bereavement or financial hardship does not take the good child away from the grammar school, and, above all, to investigate the methods by which various authorities are selecting children for grammar school places.
I should like to start by apologising to the Committee, and especially to the Parliamentary Secretary, for the fact that I was prevented from attending the first part of this debate through attendance on a Select Committee of this House which sat for a prodigious length of time.
Though I shall promise to be extremely brief, I could not find it in my conscience to allow one of these rare education debates to pass without saying a little more on the question of finance, which has been touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh). I hope that hon. Members who have heard me speak on the subject of education before will do me the favour of believing that my concern in this matter is not primarily one of the pocket of the taxpayer or the ratepayer, but is primarily that of the future of education.
So far as I can see, looking at the figures of the present and imminent cost of education in this country, and removing from the Estimates the cost of universities, museums and other such matters, the cost borne by the rates in this country has risen since 1945–46 from approximately £61 million to about £114 million, which is very nearly double. The cost to the Exchequer in the same period has risen from over £82 million to nearly £205 million, which is very much more than double.
The increase during last year in rate-borne expenditure was larger than it has ever been. As I have said, I am not here concerned to make an appeal in defence of the ratepayer's pocket. The ratepayer elects representatives who are charged with doing that duty for him. I believe that in the last resort the ratepayer will defend himself, if pressed far enough. All I am concerned with is to try to implore the Committee not to make what I regard as the very great mistake of trying to push this disagreeable subject out of their sight into the future, not to bury their heads in the sand and think that the problem will solve itself, because I believe, very forcibly, that here we have the main problem of education at the moment.
However much we may be concerned with the desirability of improving the standard of education, of dealing better with more children, of providing amenities, of providing better salaries and better teachers, fundamentally the limiting factor is finance, and I cannot see how anybody looking at the financial figures, looking at the number of children for whom places have to be found in our schools over the next two or three years, can fail to see the approach of what looks like an immense and serious crisis in educational finance—and that means in everything to do with education.
It is only too easy to say that we have enough problems this year, so let us leave the problems of next year to look after themselves and let us not be so pessimistic about them. I do not think anybody who deals with finance in this country can afford for a moment to allow the problems of two years ahead to look after themselves.
What does this boil down to? It means that if we are to leave present policies precisely unchanged, if we are to try to provide the statutory services for the extra number of children who are bound to pass through the schools, then the cost of education inevitably will rise considerably, and primarily the cost will fall upon the rates. Unless the national income increases by an amount considerably larger than at present seems possible over the next few years—which would mean that the buoyancy of the revenue would be larger than seems probable—the probable extra cost of education will not be met by increased revenue—that is to say, as I see it, the Minister will be forced to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and try to extract from him a larger proportion of the revenue which the Chancellor collects.
In the Chancellor's Budget speech this year, there were fairly strong indications that that sort of approach would not be received with open arms at the Treasury. As I see it, we have only two possibilities; either we have to see that certain things are cut or we have to acknowledge the necessity of doing everything which we are doing a little less well than we are doing it at present. I have very little doubt which is the right angle from which to approach the problem. It seems to me inescapable that if we want to try to give the essential basis of primary education, without which no other form of education can ever be successful, if we want to try to provide a good secondary education, and a good technical and technological education, then we have some very disagreeable choices to face.
I do not think we can get away from this problem by trying to deal with it on the basis of exchanges of responsibility between the Exchequer and the local authority. We may want to try to reform local government finance, but the total amount of money to be found will not be altered by changing the pocket from which one takes it.
Sooner or later, we have to face the problem of the total cost of education and of the things we do. I believe that it is possible to make certain administrative economies; and, indeed, by certain authorities they have already been made, largely by attacking the administrative costs of the divisional executives and at other comparable levels. I do not think that those economies can ever be very large, viewed over the whole country. I think that there are still a certain number of what, faced with the hard necessity of finance, we would regard as frills in education on which economies can be made.
Again, I do not think that those economies can be very large.
I am forced to the conclusion that in this field, as in almost every other field of public finance, we cannot secure economies which nobody is going to notice and by which nobody is going to be hurt. That is the disagreeable fact which we always have to face in economies in the social services. I am enormously afraid of what may happen in education if this problem is left to look after itself, if we keep on postponing decisions and never have plans made in our own minds and agreed, if possible, on both sides of the Chamber, as to what we are going to do when the real crisis comes.
I know well that everybody would like to feel that he could leave it to the other side to make the first proposals. I know that, because these are unpopular things. But I am quite sure that we ought to ask the Minister at this stage whether he believes that there is a reasonable chance that the present policies under the 1944 Act can be carried out with the probable revenue which will be at his disposal over the next—let us say, to limit it—two or three years without a serious decline in the standards of the education which is being given at all levels.
If he cannot give us that assurance, then I think it is the duty of everybody on both sides of this Committee to try to agree on a list of priorities in which we can see at the bottom certain things on which we may be prepared to economise; otherwise I fear that we are going to have the alternatives, either of a panic, emergency, unselective use of the axe of the Treasury which will fall on those things in education some of us may value most, or a progressive deterioration in educational standards which will benefit nobody and will make a mockery of the whole system on which we are spending so much money.
That, I know, is not a very happy thing to say. Again, I ask the Committee to believe that it is only my desire to prevent these calamities that makes me bring such disagreeable matters again to the notice of the Committee. But I should think—and I say this finally, because I have promised to sit down before 9 o'clock—that if we can educate the children with the available money from the ages from five to 15 only at the cost of a progressive deterioration in quality over the whole range, then, in the interests of the children, in the interests of society, in the interests of our economic position, as well — because the education which children have up to the age of 15 does affect the productivity of industry throughout the country and the proficiency of the professions, as well—we shall be forced to consider whether we should not raise the entry age to five and a half at least. We may be forced to do that anyway, without admitting that we are doing it.
I should hate to see that 10-year compulsory school period reduced by even six months, but having gone through the list of expenditure on education over and over again, I cannot see how by cutting individual items here and there we shall make a substantial inroad into the educational budget. If it is a question of over-sized classes and inadequate primary preparation in education all the way, then I can see no alternative to taking the bold decision at some time and saying, "This is what we shall have to do." I am only putting these forward as questions which I should like to ask the Minister. If he can reassure us, well and good. I hope that he can, but I am very much afraid he will find it difficult.
It is customary in these debates to congratulate one another that education at any rate is not a party issue. Indeed, that is true, and none of us would have it otherwise. Nevertheless, as I once said in a previous debate, though that is a good thing there is a certain danger in it, because there are certain causes for alarm in the educational world, and we should do no great service to our constituents or to the nation if we did not take this opportunity to voice those causes for alarm. In this debate a number of pertinent questions have been asked by hon. Members on both sides, to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reply in a few minutes; and I propose to ask a number of further questions before I sit down.
As we know, we are supposed to be debating the Report of the Ministry of Education for 1950. In spite of the gallantry of the defence of the Parliamentary Secretary, I think there is no answer to the main criticism of the Report, that it says very little about education and very little about 1950. Neither I nor, I am sure, anybody else has the least objection to the Ministry taking this opportunity to produce a jubilee volume on the history of education in the first 50 years of this century. Our only objection is that that should be done at the expense of the Report at which we are looking.
As to the history itself, much of it is interesting; some of it is wittily written, and some of it is curious. For instance, there is the passage about the foundation of Ruskin College, as if human beings hardly walked the earth in any recognisable form before that gigantic event took place. Turning to page 72, where the recreations of boys are discussed, I read that
in the space of some 50 years, physical education in this country has passed through the stages of 'drill,' 'physical exercises' and 'physical training' to reach its modern concept, embracing not only physical training in the narrow sense, but also games, athletics, swimming and dancing, together with many such recreations as walking, cycling and camping, and ranging in scope from a subject of the curriculum to many recreational and adventurous activities.
According to my memory, I seem to recollect that boys swam and dived, went birds-nesting, and even indeed walked before the Labour Government came into power.
However that may be, the more important criticism of this Report is that it tells us so very little about education. Readers from this country will not apparently expect any more, but "readers from overseas," we are told, "may be expected to look first for a substantial chapter on educational methods and the curriculums in the schools. They will not find it." Indeed, all that we are told about education as opposed to the administration of education is the somewhat unguarded remark that
school inspectors spread abroad sweetness and light wherever they go.
I recognise, of course, the high origin of that quotation, but it seems to my taste a trifle "gooey." It is rather like saying that the games mistress is a little ray of sunshine. I appreciate perfectly the argument that it is not the business of the Ministry of Education to interfere with the freedom of either the schools or the local education authorities, but I cannot see what that argument has to do with
this particular point; I cannot see why we should not be told, as a matter of fact, what it is that the schools are teaching, and whether anybody is learning it. It is to those two problems that I wish to address a few questions.
There is the very basic question of literacy; whether people can, in fact, read and write. I cannot pass this over as easily as the Parliamentary Secretary would wish us to pass it over, by calling those who are concerned about it Jeremiahs. Indeed, I am afraid that the Parliamentary Secretary will get into trouble with his boss, if he talks like that. For it was the right hon. Gentleman who, very courageously, called attention to the fact of a drop in literacy. The Parliamentary Secretary cannot, in face of that, pretend that there is no problem.
When we raised this question of the drop in literacy, which has not been recovered since the war, the Minister of Education pointed out:
I would not take it as tragic if…the youngsters of today were not quite as good readers as children were 10 years ago. If they are not quite as literate in that scholastic sense, maybe in other directions they were far more capable of entering into the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 1728.]
Maybe they are, or maybe they are not, but that does not quite meet the point. The point is that we are paying two-and-a-half times as much for education as 10 years ago.
There is something to be said for people being educated and there is something to be said for people not being educated. But there is nothing to be said for paying through the nose for people not to be educated. Let us address our minds to the subject why the present position exists, and to the remedies. Is it simply that children are receiving less education today? They are receiving less education. It is true that we have raised the school-leaving age but we have also lengthened the school holidays. Rightly or wrongly, the children now spend less time in school than they did before the war.
There is obviously a very serious problem.
The second question that we should like to ask the Minister is whether the trouble is that we are not getting sufficient good teachers. We have heard a good deal about quantity of teachers, but we are much more concerned about the quality of the teachers. Are we moving into a situation where sixth forms will be fuller than they ever were before, while there will not be sufficient people capable of teaching them? How is the method of pool remuneration working out? Is the Minister satisfied that there should be no allowance for the class of degree which the university graduates have taken? My hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn), told me that before the war 66 per cent. of graduate teachers were of first or second class, whereas only 55 per cent. today are of first or second class. That seem a very alarming statistic. These are questions which I shall be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would answer.
Third, about the new examination. We have already had an argument about the age regulation and I will not go into that point again. But is the Minister satisfied that it is a good thing that there should be no distinction mark in this new examination? The more I think about this new examination the odder it seems to be. On the one hand the "Daily Herald" tells us that it is an examination in which no boy can fail. On the other, the Ministry of Education tells us that it is an examination in which no boy can win distinction. I am not quite sure, between the two, what exactly is the purpose of the examination. I know there are some people who have a great prejudice against examinations. The prejudice is found particularly among parents who were not very good at them themselves in their own young days. It is a great mistake to submit too tamely to what I might call the "Ploughed Parents' League."
I believe that it cannot be a good thing that there should be no way by which a boy or girl can gain any distinction by working better than his neighbour. I doubt if cricket would be a more exciting or a more popular game if one gentleman in Whitehall were to decree that all the members of both cricket teams must be credited with the same number of runs, so that there would be fair shares for all.
The way that this examination system is working out is really egalitarianism of the insane. A more competitive element in that examination would be a good thing.
The fourth point on which I should like a comment from the right hon. Gentleman is that which has been raised assiduously, both today and on other occasions, by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King), and to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred—the question of getting boys and girls to stay on at school. It is a large question and I have little to add to what has been said already, but it is important that we should be able to get quite clear on what is the policy of the Minister of Education on that point.
When he was first questioned about it he said:
I do not think, however, that it is one which can profitably be dealt with by legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1951; Vol. 487, c. 2141–2.]
I have no quarrel with that answer. My concern at the moment is not whether I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but whether he agrees with himself. When he was away, for reasons which we all regret, the Parliamentary Secretary said, on 21st June, that nine private Acts had been passed which enforced legislative penalties for withdrawal from school. When asked, later, whether any of these Acts had ever been enforced the right hon. Gentleman said:
There was only one case, I think in Huddersfield, which was upheld by the court. I do not know what was upheld.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1951; Vol. 490, c. 610.]
It is not very definite, but it seems, at any rate, that there were what my friend Mr. Ben Travers called in one of his plays "goings on" in Huddersfield. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could tell us what special sweetness and light there is in the air of Huddersfield which makes it possible to do these things there which cannot be done in, shall we say, Luton. Did the suggestion work out well at Huddersfield or did it not?
Now I come to ask the right hon. Gentleman a fifth question which has been running through the debate, the question of the comprehensive school. I do not want to re-travel all the ground which hon. Members have been traversing during the afternoon, but I want to be quite certain of the view of the Minister and the Government on the comprehensive school, and the view of the Socialist Party. They all seem somewhat confused with one another. In particular, does the right hon. Gentleman still stand where he stood on 7th January, 1949, when he wrote his letter to the Middlesex Education Committee in which it was quite apparent that he thought there were greater difficulties about the problem of the sixth form in the comprehensive school than his hon. Friends who produced this pamphlet apparently think today?
The Parliamentary Secretary invited us to give our opinions about the comprehensive school. I am quite ready to give mine. My opinion is very much that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), I am not converted to it. I entirely accept the sincerity of what hon. Members have said today about it being supported by them on purely educational grounds. It is idle to pretend, however, that it is defended on those grounds. It is often defended on political grounds. That is a matter of fact, and I do not think it is a good thing that educational experiments should be undertaken on political grounds.
But I am not impenitently opposed to the scheme of the comprehensive school if someone can produce a scheme. What seems to be perfectly clear is that if we are to have a comprehensive school, there are certain questions which have to be answered: the sort of questions that were set out by Mr. Jacks in his letter to "The Times" last week. We have to explain how we are to get a reasonably sized sixth form without having an inordinately large total school.
We have to explain how, in a school where some of the children leave at 18 and others at 15, we are to give to the children of 15 that share in responsibilities of school life which is so important a part of education. We have to explain how we are to make this transfer from stream to stream without causing that ill-feeling which, we are so often told, is caused when there is a transfer from school to school. There are these practical questions to which answers must be found.
It seems to be quite obvious, whether we read the pamphlets of hon. Members or the debates in the London County Council, that no serious attempt has yet been made to face up to these problems or to find the answers to them. Until we have the answers to those questions in our minds, the comprehensive school, it seems to me, is not an experiment but is just a blind swipe. I have the greatest objection to having these blind swipes carried out at the expense of the children and at the expense of schools which have a proud and valuable tradition.
We do not wish to convert anyone on the Opposition benches. All we say is this: in the tradition of English educational history, let us have an experiment. Coventry, Southend, the London County Council and many other go-ahead L.E.A.'s have schemes and are beginning to build their schools. Let us, with an open mind, see how they succeed.
Until the answers to these question are sorted out, it does not deserve to be dignified by the name of an experiment.
I listened with very great interest, as I always do, to the speech of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley), who showed us very clearly that there are very great difficulties about the problem of the selection of boys at the age of 11. But he did not show any glimmering of reason why the comprehensive school was the solution to that problem. The last thing I want to do is to throw any discord amongst the educational experts of Southampton, but it seemed to me that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, approached this problem in a much more realistic spirit than did the hon. Member for Itchen.
Both of them are well aware of the problem. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test, had some most valuable suggestions to make as to how it could be solved, quite irrespective of comprehensive schools or grammar schools, whereas the argument of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen, seemed to me to be a non sequitur.
Let me try to show the hon. Member my difficulty. A few months ago, two pamphlets were brought out, one by the Ministry of Education called "Reading Ability," and the other by some hon. Members of the House, or whoever else brought it out, called "A policy for secondary education." It is very interesting that in the Ministry of Education's pamphlet there is a very exact statistical computation of what sort of schools are performing the most fundamental of all educational tasks most efficiently.
In the Socialist Party pamphlet, there is an account of the sort of schools that they want to abolish. I need hardly tell hon. Members that those two lists exactly coincide. The pamphlet of the Ministry of Education has the sub-title, "Some suggestions for helping the backward." The Socialist Party's pamphlet might well have the sub-title, "Some suggestions for handicapping the forward." I must confess that I prefer the policy of the Ministry of Education on that point.
The whole point is, let us see how the two tally up to one another. We open the Socialist Party's pamphlet and read:
On the contrary, we hold that school becomes colourful, rich and rewarding just in proportion as the boy who reads Homer, the boy who makes wireless sets and the boy without marked aptitude for either, are within its living unity and a constant stimulus and supplement one to another.
We open the Ministry of Education's pamphlet and read:
Duller children are liable to discouragements in any kind of school where they are in company with those who are much more able.
Which is right, and under which flag does the right hon. Gentleman stand? Does he stand with the Socialist Party, or does he stand with the Ministry of Education? I do think it most important that we should know and I greatly hope that he stands with the Ministry of Education on this point, because, with the greatest respect to the hon. Member who with some rashness claimed the authorship of the pamphlet it seems the most complete farrago of flapdoodle which I have ever read in my life.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) is not in his place. He is always telling us to look at the comparison with Eton. The fact of the matter is that Eton is very much too big. It has other advantages, but in itself it is too big and, indeed, I am surprised that the hon. Member should wish to submit other children of the nation to similar disadvantages simply so that they might be handicapped in competing with old Etonians. That seems a levelling down of the worst sort. My point about the comprehensive school is not that someone can say they are right or they are wrong, but that they demand the working out of certain problems which up to the present have not been worked out and answered.
To these five questions I shall be grateful for an answer. There is a sixth question of a somewhat different nature and I fully appreciate that it may not be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to give an immediate answer today. If it is possible I shall be delighted. That is the question of the voluntary schools, upon which I would like to say a word. I think no one in any quarter of the Committee is not anxious to make any contribution that he or she may be able to make to prevent the recrudescence of that sectarian strife which has been such a great enemy to the cause of religion and of education.
I think everyone will agree that the 1944 settlement said, broadly, three things. It said, much more clearly than had been said before, that education ought to have a religious basis; secondly, it laid down certain financial arrangements, inevitably of a compromise nature, for dealing with that difficult problem of different sorts of schools and, thirdly, it gave a promise that the voluntary schools should not be administered out of existence.
As we all know, unforeseen problems have laid a burden on the voluntary schools a great deal heavier than was foreseen at the time of the 1944 settlement. It is also obvious, whether we like it to be so or not, that it is not practical politics in the immediate future, or in such a Parliament as this, entirely to overthrow the whole system of religious education in this country and practical politics only allow us to hope to get through a solution which is within the spirit of the 1944 settlement.
Is there a line upon which that problem can hopefully be approached within the spirit of the settlement? I believe there is. The general principle of denominational education in this country is that a denomination had to find the cost of building their own buildings and gets 50 per cent. for their maintenance. But it was recognised, even in 1944, that there would be a special problem of the displaced pupils in the years after the war.
In point of fact that problem has proved a much graver one than had been foreseen. Nearly all the building that will be done for the next 15 years will be for displaced pupils. In order to give special treatment there Parliament introduced Section 104 into the 1944 Act by which special grants were to be made to schools that could show that they had a substantial number of displaced pupils. The Home Secretary was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education when that section was introduced, and he will remember that it was accepted unanimously by the House at that time.
In the form in which it was first introduced in the House it was almost exactly suited to what the voluntary schools want to have today. Then an Amendment was introduced, in another place, calling itself a clarifying Amendment, not in any way changing the sense of the definition, but in fact changing it very considerably. It meant that a displaced pupil's grant could not be obtained unless there were not only a number of displaced pupils in the new school, but that there was an old school which had lost a large number of those pupils, which made the provision a great deal less valuable.
This is not the occasion to dictate what the precise wording should be, but there could not be a point on which the voluntary schools could more justly say that what they are asking for is in the spirit of the 1944 settlement because what would suit them perfectly would be for the Section to be put back exactly as Parliament considered it rather than, by what is little more than an accident of wording, for it to be as it now runs in the present Act.
If that could be done—I am not prepared to say what precise wording should be used, the Minister could not take a decision until he has consulted all the interests concerned—I believe that the sectarian issue could be taken out of politics for 15 years, and if it is taken out for that length of time I sincerely hope it can be taken out of politics for good. If we were able to do that, whatever verdict history may pass upon this Parliament for any of our other activities we should, for that at any rate, be remembered with gratitude.
Quite a large number of questions have been asked and I will do my best to answer them. I had better begin by answering, or attempting to answer, those that were first asked by the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Miss Horsbrugh) because there has been a tendency for them to be duplicated. The same question has been asked time and again and the only way in which it will be possible to deal with the numerous questions by 10 o'clock will probably be by lumping the answers to specific questions together.
With regard to the production of the Report providing a 50 years' survey, I am a little surprised that Members should take it upon themselves to criticise the fact that we have taken this opportunity of reviewing 50 years' progress in education. It was not that the Ministry were seeking any plaudits for it; it was that it appeared as though the time was ripe Fifty years is a decent length of time over which to present what has taken place. Someone suggested there is nothing in the Report about 1950. If that is so whence have come all the questions that have been asked?
I am blamed either way. If we put so much in the Report about what is being done, we are criticised because there are no questions to ask; but when we leave the position so that there is an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers, that is wrong, too.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) paid special attention to those few chapters about those who have been interested in education during the whole of the 50 years and who have taken part in the fights and work together. I think that this Report is worth while. I am glad that the story is on record, even if it meant that we could not say quite as much as some hon. Members wanted us to say about 1950. The year 1950 is one of the 50 years, and some of the things referred to are brought right up to that time.
There was a suggestion that there had been an increased call on the rates and this year that the increase was greater even than the increase in taxes. That is explained by the fact that the reduction in expenditure which has taken place relates primarily to tax-borne expenditure and the increase—mainly in teachers' salaries —relates to rate-borne expenditure. I should like to make a few comments without being considered facetious.
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) in facetiousness. I do not think that I could compete tonight. I am not feeling up to it, in the competitive sense. But I should like to ask a question of hon. Members who have been interested in educational administration for a long time, as I have. Whenever was there a time in the last 50 years when the rates were not too high? Has there ever been a time in the last 50 years when some education committee did not think that we were spending a lot too much money on education? Has there ever been a time when there was not discrimination and distinction between different local authorities?
I had the privilege recently of visiting a grand little authority. For the first time in my life I went to the Scilly Isles. Some hon. Members are worried about the troubles they are having. In the Scilly Isles a Id. rate brings in £25. It would not send some hon. Members to a conference; yet in the Scilly Isles they are facing the responsibility of attempting to implement the 1944 Act, and they are producing a development plan.
I do not want to suggest that there are not some Jeremiahs in education, but hon. Members should not imagine that we are always up against a crisis simply because education is costing a little more money than it used to do. It was bound to cost more money. The question whether it should be rate-borne or tax-borne is one which will have to be faced in the future. But hon. Members should make no mistake about it. It is linked up not simply with education but with the whole of local government finance.
The local education authority is the local authority and not the education committee It is not for me to take the initiative, as one hon. Member suggested. In reply to the hon. Member who asked whether I could give an assurance that the programme as laid down for the next two years could go ahead without danger of crisis, I would say that I think it can.
I think that we should be foolish to begin to think in terms either of raising the age at which children enter school or reducing the leaving age. As a matter of fact, I should have to see a crisis right on top of me before I contemplated doing a thing of that sort.
Furthermore, I will say that if, in deciding whether or not the age ought to be raised, we had taken the view that was expressed by the hon. Gentleman tonight, I question whether the age would have been raised, and if the problems that have presented themselves in the last four years had been presented to the right hon. Gentleman opposite when he introduced the Education Bill of 1944, I question very much whether that Act would ever have been placed on the Statute Book.
We have to remember the increase in the birth rate, and the problems of buildings and teachers which that increase has created, which has brought about a situation in which the implementation of the 1944 Act has had of necessity to take second place. It must take second place because of the fact of the provision of places; this is not a laughing matter, and one does not need to be a Cambridge don in order to appreciate it; it requires only common sense to see that this amounts to the setting up of a new system of education for at least a million people.
Therefore, I say that, in thinking in terms of the increase in rates, and while I admit the point that they have increased, because of the recent increase in the numbers to be provided for and the buildings that have to be provided, I do not think we need to be down in the mouth about it or imagine that our educational system is coming to an end.
The next question that was asked by the right hon. Lady was about what is being done in regard to technological education. She asked whether I had made up my mind to do anything or not. Her question relates to one Report, and she asked me whether I have made up my mind what to do about one particular recommendation in that Report. I want to say, that at the moment I have not yet definitely made up my mind on what I am going to do on that. I do not want the Committee to be under any misapprehension that, because one has not made up one's mind on what to do in a particular direction, no developments are taking place in technical and technological education. They are going on all the time.
There are some people who are more interested in what is going on in America than in what is happening in this country. They talk of what is taking place over there, because they have had the privilege of going to see. Massachusetts College has been mentioned, and I am not saying that it is not a fine college, but I do say that they are not turning out any better people there than we are in this country. Maybe we could do with more buildings, and we will get more buildings.
What I want to say is that the numbers for whom provision is being made are going up every year, but the response on the part of industry has been very good. I pay my tribute to the employers in industry for the way in which they have responded to the appeals that have been made, and for the co-operation which we have received, in connection with the number of National Colleges which we have been able to start, as the result of the interest and the willingness to pay on the part of industry.
I shall come to a definite conclusion before long on what the line should be, but I can say that we have consulted many important organisations and bodies, all of which have a different way of solving this problem, and therefore I do not think it is asking too much that the Minister should at least make sure that he is right, rather than that he should be in a hurry to come to a decision.
Another question that was asked related to the dental service.
I do not think we need worry unduly about the alleged cut in technical college buildings. I have been asked on several occasions to be more precise about the cuts in the programme which will result from the increasing pressure of re-armament. The simple answer is that there are not going to be any cuts, except in the sense that the size of the programme will not increase quite as rapidly as we would have liked. I cannot say exactly what projects we should have carried out if all had gone as we hoped, nor in just what areas the impact of building for defence purposes will be most severely felt; but I can say that we are going on with a building programme of roughly the same size as the present year's programme, and that this will enable us to provide for most of the urgent needs of technical education at all levels. We are also taking steps to obtain better value for money in this form of educational building.
With regard to this question of school building, there was what appeared to me, at any rate, to be some doubt on the part of one or two hon. Members about the figures because of the economies that had been made in the provision of school buildings and the price at which they were being planned or obtained today compared with the price at which they were built in 1947–48.
I am not going to say that there may not have been some extravagance on the part of some authorities in the early days after the war when we were beginning to get school building under way. The costs began to mount, and three years ago what might be described as a research department at the Ministry was established with a view, not only to working out the building of new schools, but to bringing together and planning for the first time for the purpose of education a school building itself.
Up to then all schools had been built by the local authority's architect according to his own ideas. The result has been that for the last three years, and with the co-operation of the local authorities, we have been able to produce plans, and by new methods and in some instances by building different types we have been able, first of all, to reduce the cost—last year by 12½ per cent. and this year by 25 per cent.—of school building compared with 1948.
It does not need a mathematician to realise that we are getting 25 per cent. more places for the same money, and that therefore the school places that will be available will be available as a consequence of the change that has taken place in the methods adopted. I wish to thank the local authorities for their co-operation and our own architects and the people at headquarters who have been responsible for this research and for making it a practical proposition.
With regard to the question of dental and other treatment, it is perfectly true that when the National Health Service was introduced it had the effect of interfering with the school dental service which had been built up over the years. It was bound to have that effect. I, personally, am sorry about it, but when we add a large comprehensive scheme, and when, as has been said, there are not sufficient dentists to cover the whole country, then dentists, being human, go to the best jobs. That is what it amounts to. We have lost something like 250 school dentists, and to the 717 who remain I want to say publicly tonight, "Thank you for having remained with the children." We have now got an agreement under which better salaries are being paid. I hope we shall be able to build up that service again, but it depends entirely upon the response to the appeals being made based on the new salary rates.
I now come to the question of school nurses. The right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side asked about school nurses. So far as we are concerned the rest of the school medical services have gone on almost unimpaired. That is not a strange thing because the dental service was in such a different position from the general medical service. It is perfectly true that school nurses do a great job and what might be described as a peculiar type of job. In this country one can tell a mother that a child is suffering from art incurable disease and will not last more-than six months and she will take it without a flinch, but if one tells here that the child has nits—that is a dirty head—she will go off the deep end.
It is for that reason more than any other that school nurses, particularly in some districts, are doing a good job. I remember quite well from my own experience as Chairman of a Committee one incident which has always stayed with me when this question was being discussed. I was asked by a director of education one afternoon to attend a meeting. I went into the room and found the medical officer sitting on one side and the director of education on the other. I was in the chair. I did not realise until I was there that we were going to interview women about children with dirty heads. The first lady who came in weighed about 14 stone and with a ges- ture of rolling up her sleeves she asked, "Who said my child was dirty?" I was the only one who replied and I said, "Well, I did not." My admiration for the school nurses has never died from that day to this, because I know some of their difficulties.
Another question asked during this debate was about voluntary absenteeism on the part of children. This is a new name for running away from school. I could never understand it when it is called truancy. I assure the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side that it is very small. We have made inquiries at quite a number of places and strangely enough the age she gave is not the age at which it is general. At any rate in Birmingham, one of the places where a great deal of research has taken place on this question, the age at which there is any of this—and it is very small—is something between nine and 10 years and not the later age.
Several hon. Members mentioned voluntary schools and the hon. Member for Devizes referred to them. I pretty well agree with what was said on this question of the denominations having to find large sums of money over a period of years. I think that to re-open the general settlement of 1944 would lead to a situation which no party in this country could really face. But—and I cannot say more than this at this moment—I have before me certain proposals for meeting some of the particular difficulties which are being most acutely felt by the denominations at the present time.
I am considering these proposals very carefully and, of course, sympathetically. I cannot yet say what my decision will be and hon. Members therefore will not expect me at this stage to make any statement about it. Further, I should like to make it clear that in any case I should not contemplate any changes that would interfere with the general settlement. I think the Committee will appreciate that when we can find a basis upon which some alleviation can take place, it will be to the advantage of education generally in this country.
The question of village schools was raised. I appreciate what has been said about the value of the village schools to the community of which they form an important part. Not only is the village school to be considered as an entity, but its value to the individual child, as well as to the community and to the denomination of which it is part, has to be taken into consideration. I do not think we are entitled to retain the small village schools at the expense of the opportunity of the children who attend them. If two or three can be grouped together so that the educational facilities can be given without involving too much travelling for the children, I am all in favour of this, but simply to retain a village school for the sake of retaining it at the educational expense of the children would be a mistake.
Before the Minister leaves the question of village schools, I should like to ask him a question. I have taken some part in this controversy. Would he give an assurance that this contemplated programme of the closure of 1,800 village schools will be regarded by him with great hesitation and that he will exercise his power, if necessary, to stop the closure of, at any rate, a large number of these schools?
These proposals have been put forward by the local education authorities. In every instance when a proposal has come forward for the closing of village schools up to now, I have personally considered the matter myself, and unless I have thought there was justification for it I have objected to it. I should do the same in the future because I know the feeling in this matter.
The question of the size of classes is linked up of necessity with the question of the provision of buildings and of teachers. Unless and until we can increase the number of teachers to the extent required, there can be no real inroads made into the problem of larger classes. As to the value of the smaller class, I think everybody is convinced, but the build-up of the teaching profession in order to meet this problem is not as simple as would appear on the surface.
Generally speaking, we have met the claims of the schools in respect of the raising of the school-leaving age and the additional 380,000 children which that involved, by the emergency training programme. But we cannot have two emergency training programmes in one generation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because the emergency does not arise, and the people to whom the appeal can be made and who would be needed for training, are not there.
As a matter of fact, we are attempting to find candidates for the permanent colleges and are offering facilities to those who would be in the position of emergency trained teachers had an emergency taken place during the last few years. The progress that has been made, in that we have doubled the number of women, for instance, who can be trained each year, is an indication of the way in which this question has been tackled.
There is only time for two or three other questions. May I first of all say a word on the secondary schools? I was interested in the questions that were asked about the tests which are made at the age of 11-plus. Nobody can determine the future of a child of 11 years of age. I question whether we can determine it at 13; I question whether we can determine at any age what will be the ultimate future of a child.
What I do say is that a change has taken place in the last few years because of the passing of the 1944 Act. Prior to 1944—and this was brought out in a speech from the opposite benches today—children could obtain places in secondary schools not only by merit, by examinations—which incidentally were not talked about nearly so much as they are now—but, if they did not pass the examination, they could buy a place. It is because the places are not now available to be bought that we are in trouble —and I realise the trouble.
As to how it can be overcome, I am one of those who believe that there should be a review at 13. In many of the places a review is taking place at 13. Surrey have put a proposal in their development plan to begin on a common basis and make the change at 13, but the parent whose child at the age of 13 does not get into the secondary school will think it just as big a swindle as he thinks the present system is. Make no mistake about it: we cannot change human nature in that sense. Any mother believes her child is as good as the child next door and, if her child fails, she will believe there was something wrong with the paper or that those who marked the papers did something which ought not to have been done.
I agree that it should be on a different basis than just whether the intelligence test is passed or not. I remember fighting for years in order to get away from the oral examination, because I was strongly under the impression in my younger days that when a lad had been brought up in a poor home and had not been taught to speak correctly he was at a great disadvantage when he came to answer questions before the headmaster of a grammar school.
Generally speaking, the intelligence test took the place of the oral examination. Whether we have gone from the frying pan into the fire, I do not know. Comments have been made about some of the questions which are asked. I once put an intelligence paper before the whole of my education committee at home. Only one passed, and he was not the chairman. By and large the authorities do not rely on the test alone, and I am glad that that is so.
I turn in the last three or four minutes to the comprehensive school. I am one of those who believe that it is impossible to be dogmatic about this question. I do not think we should dogmatise and say that either one method is the best or that another is the best. What we have to do is as we have done all along—experiment, but not throw away the things which have proved themselves before we begin our experiment; carry on the experiment at the same time. That is the objective and—make no mistake about this—it is not what either the Conservative Party or the Labour Party in their policies suggest shall happen in this field which will determine the issue. Those local authorities responsible for the development plans and the re-organisation of their education will decide.
Each local education authority must decide how its secondary education and its secondary schools shall be organised. I want to see them started in the best conditions, both comprehensive schools and other schools. I rely upon them—upon the grammar schools and upon the secondary modern schools—to provide the additional number of people not only to meet the requirements of the professions but to meet our requirements for more teachers.
As one who visits schools practically every week, I would say, in spite of anything said in the Committee, that the children of this country are not only the bonniest but the best children I have come across at any time. If the hon. Member opposite, who is a little pessimistic because he happens to be sitting in this House of Commons and looking at his pals regularly, will come with me some day—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is looking at hon. Members opposite."]—well, even if he is looking at hon. Members on these benches, I invite him to visit the schools and to come back refreshed.
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Mr. Sparks]—put, and agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.