HC Deb 13 November 1996 vol 285 cc344-5
7. Mr. Alan Howarth

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if she will make a statement on her plans for the development of personal and social education. [2076]

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

Personal and social education is firmly established in schools and backed by statute. The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority is consulting on ways of supporting schools and teachers in that work.

Mr. Howarth

While in no way depreciating the importance of academic excellence, may I put it to the Secretary of State that the national curriculum, as it has developed, is now designed almost soley to equip young people for the competitive rat race? Does she accept that other values also matter in education, and does she regret, as I do, that the Government did not previously make personal and social education a statutory requirement? Does she agree that all schools should have at the heart of their mission the education of young people in personal and social responsibility?

Mrs. Shephard

To reassure the hon. Gentleman, I can tell him that schools do a great deal of good work in personal, social and health education. To reassure him further, I point out that that work is subject to regular inspection by the Office for Standards in Education. The standard of work done by schools can be made known to parents, and to people in the wider community. Ofsted inspectors must report on pupils' behaviour in and around schools, and consider whether they form constructive relationships with one another and with teachers and other adults.

The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority is undertaking consultation—of which we all know—to see whether those aspects of education could be strengthened in the national curriculum, which is currently being revised.

Mr. Bellingham

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, had the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) had a more fulfilling personal and social education, he might not have had the mid-life crisis that has led to the eccentricity that he has displayed in the past year?

Madam Speaker

Order. That is not the right form of parliamentary question. Questions should deal with Government policy.

Mr. Gunnell

What will it do for children's personal and social development if the Secretary of State's colleagues, with her apparent support, introduce into schools legalised physical violence, which I regard as physical child abuse?

Mrs. Shephard

The provisions on discipline that the Government have included in the Education Bill are what teachers have asked for. I have made it clear to the House on a number of occasions that teachers have not asked for the return of corporal punishment, and the Government do not propose to include that in the Bill.