16 JUNE 1950, Page 17

The Derbyshire Hostel

SIR,—The Derbyshire Education Committee's decision to establish, as part of their provision for the service of. youth, a centre for open country pursuits, has been criticised in your columns as extravagant and as singular. I do not know on what authority Janus quotes £17,000 as the cost of acquiring the building only. In round figures White Hall, which is a good deal less than a mansion, cost f6,000; we have had to spend £1,500 on eradicating dry rot, and the Ministry of Education has approved the spending of £2,500 on repairs and conversion ; new furni- ture and equipment will cost a further £1,000. The total initial cost is thus £11,000—about half the cost of a gymnasium for a small secondary school. Of its running costs it is sufficient to say that it will work on the gener'al lines of a first-rate Youth Hostel. A minimal domestic staff will provide the students with one cooked meal a day ; for the rest, they will make their beds, their breakfasts and their sandwiches.

But this is no time to devise strange new ways of spending five-figure sums. What of the project's " singularity " ? The doctrine that the training of the human spirit is incomplete without the kind of physical discipline that is offered by hills and by the sea is not a new one. It is as old as Wordsworth. It is as old as Plato. The education of the Republic is aristocratic ; I will, therefore, recall Bertrand Russell's argument that we shall not achieve a truly egalitarian society until all children are given the training for courage traditionally reserved for the ruling classes.

Nor is our proposal out of step with this generation. Mr. Eager, who has most nobly stated much of our case for us, has reminded you of the sea school at Aberdovey and the mountain school in Eskdale. The. background against which Aberdovey and Eskdale and White Hall are all to be seen, the foundation on which they are surely based, is much broader. It has found its expression in the snowball growth of the Youth Hostels movement, the clamant demand for access to moun- tains, the establishment of National Parks. White Hall stands in one of these parks ; it is no small matter that this generation should learn their proper use and full enjoyment. • Janus's comment on May 26th raises an issue of principle. "A rock-climbing school," he says, " may be an excellent thing in its way, but I should have thought its provision was the business of some national body, voluntary or official, not of a single county Education Committee." Now the development of pioneer ideas has always been the province of local education authorities. It is, perhaps, their most significant national contribution. In this sense they are national bodies. Neither White Hall nor the ideas which it embodies will be reserved to the young people of this county.—Yours faithfully, J. L. LONGLAND.

County Education Office, St. Mary's Gate, Derby.