REPORT [22nd July]

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th July 1954.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Charles Doughty Mr Charles Doughty , East Surrey 12:00 am, 26th July 1954

If the hon. Gentleman interrupts much more I shall be unable to sit down in time, and he will then get into trouble with his own Front Bench.

The Government of the day, whatever its political colour, must look after education, which is one of the very important social services; but the first social service that any Government owe to their people is to keep them alive and free. If they do not do that, the other questions just do not arise. In allocating the amount of money that can be spent upon additional social services it is not always possible to give everybody everything he wants. We are engaged upon the task, under the 1944 Act, of rebuilding and improving the educational system. That is not a matter which can be done by one Government or by two Governments in a short time. It will certainly be a generation before it can be finished.

The present Government can well be proud of their trusteeship of the educational system during the three short years in which they have been in power. I have no time now t o give the full figures, but I would refer to Circular 242, which has already been mentioned. It was brought out at a time when, because of the activities and the mistakes of the late Government, we were in a financial crisis and everything had to be looked at from the financial point of view. Since then, conditions have very much improved. Now, the Education Estimates, together with the local authority rate-borne charge for education, are more than £244 million for 1954–55 whereas for 1951–52 they were only just £200 million. Nobody can truthfully say that we have not spent on education the full amount that could possibly be spent, and far more than any other Government.

In 1953, 250,000 new primary and secondary school-places were provided in England and Wales, or twice as many as in 1950. There may be overcrowding, because of the so-called "bulge" in the number of school children—I do not know why it should be called a "bulge." To say "an increase in numbers" would be much better English and would say just what we mean. The increase in the number of teachers averages 6,000. We therefore have not only more children but more teachers as well.

Unfortunately, time does not permit of my speaking fully about comprehensive schools. I am certainly not in favour of abolishing grammar schools in order to put in their place comprehensive schools which are, at best, an experiment. I am against them, because they are too big. We do not want young children to be taught in big establishments of about 2,000 scholars. Reference has been made to Eton College as being a comprehensive school, but the position is completely different because boys at Eton are in houses of about 30 or 40 scholars each, whereas in the comprehensive schools the children are all together in the same building.

The Government may well be proud of their record in education. The political attack which has been made on the Minister today will rebound on those who made it, and it ought never to have been made. We ought to keep education out of politics just in the same way as we ought to keep politics out of education.