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Unemployment and the Schools

Nature volume 131, page 578 (22 April 1933) | Download Citation



AT the National Union of Teachers' annual conference on April 15 the new president, Mr. H. N. Penlington, of Hemsworth, Yorkshire, opened his address with the declaration that unemployment is the outstanding problem of our age; and this leitmotif dominated the rest of his discourse under the headings of school objectives, school buildings and school staffs. With the ever-increasing displacement of human labour by machinery, leisure seems destined to bulk more and more largely in human life, and it follows that preparation for life must increasingly include equipment for commendable uses of leisure. Unemployment in the building trade could be substantially relieved by carrying into effect school building programmes in respect of more than fourteen hundred schools which are admittedly insanitary or in other ways totally unfit for their purpose. Not less urgent is the need of relief of overcrowding of classes, in nearly eight thousand of which the enrolment exceeds fifty pupils. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed teachers grows and is expected to reach between two and three thoiisand by September next. If the school-leaving age should remain unchanged, the number of ‘school-leavers’ this year will be about half a million—an exceptionally large number—and a large proportion of these must go to swell the numbers of the unemployed. The time is opportune, Mr. Penlington suggested, for raising the school-leaving age, and he emphasised the dangers of an unenlightened and reactionary policy spreading discontent, already rife, on account of the ‘cuts’ in the Burnham scales.

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