HC Deb 17 October 1989 vol 158 cc11-2
9. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether the national curriculum will include personal and social education courses; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Alan Howarth)

Personal and social education will be part of the whole curriculum.

Mr. Thurnham

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend to his new responsibilities. Given the growing problem of drug and alcohol abuse, will my hon. Friend require all schools to give appropriate education on the dangers involved?

Mr. Howarth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. He has made representations to me on behalf of his constituents and the House knows of his commitment to the interests of disabled people and children with special education needs. I am happy to give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks. The place of personal and social education, which embraces education on drug abuse and alcohol misuse, is safeguarded by section 1 of the Education Reform Act 1988, which requires the school curriculum to prepare pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

I welcome good social education, but is my hon. Friend aware that in many schools it is used as a substitute for religious education, as required under the Education Act 1944, to the extent that religious education seems to have disappeared altogether from many schools? Is he also aware that although the Education Reform Act 1988 requires religious education in schools to be predominantly Christian, many local education authorities are producing syllabuses which do not even mention the word Christian? Will he investigate those authorities and make sure that they fulfil their statutory responsibilities?

Mr. Howarth

There is a distinct requirement that schools should provide religious education and that requirement was reaffirmed in the Education Reform Act 1988 which reiterated and strengthened the provision in the 1944 Act. If my hon. Friend can give me any instances or evidence of what he says, I shall be happy to look into it.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Minister put paid to the rumour that was circulated at the Tory party conference that Bernard Ingham and one or two others are demanding——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question must have something to do with the national curriculum, not Bernard Ingham.

Mr. Skinner

Bang on, Mr. Speaker. You have hit the nail on the head.

—that one of the subjects in the national curriculum must be the history of the Tory party?

Mr. Howarth

As is right, one of the requirements of personal and social education under the national curriculum is education in citizenship. Surely both sides of the House should welcome the obligation placed on schools to educate children to participate in our democratic process.