HC Deb 26 October 2000 vol 355 cc370-1
4. Mr. Roger Casale (Wimbledon)

What further plans he has to promote the teaching of democracy and citizenship in schools; and if he will make a statement. [132588]

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett)

Citizenship education will become part of the national curriculum for secondary schools from August 2002 in a discrete subject. We are making available £12 million to schools for personal, social and health education development, together with citizenship, £5 million of which will be earmarked for citizenship education and the preparation of materials.

In addition, we are working with long-standing voluntary organisations on the development of schemes of work on a citizenship website and on seminars for teachers at regional level, as well as developing and spreading best practice from schools that are already implementing this in their own syllabuses.

Mr. Casale

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. He will be aware of initiatives such as Scottish Charities Kosovo Appeal and London South-East Direct Aid to Kosovo, which are supported by many Members on both sides of the House. They are working to raise money in schools in this country, including Wimbledon Chase middle school in my constituency, to invest in the rebuilding of schools in Kosovo. In those rebuilt schools, some of the most important items on the curriculum will be the teaching of democracy and respect for human rights.

If we seek to promote an understanding of democracy abroad with some authority, is it not incumbent on us to promote a better understanding of democracy in our own schools? Is it not a matter of regret that the Opposition Front Bench education team failed to turn up yesterday when the statutory instrument that gives rise to some of the measures that my right hon. Friend mentioned earlier was before the House?

Mr. Blunkett

I am sure that there must have been some profound reason why the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) did not make it. It is probably best not to go into that this morning.

These are important issues—the maintenance of our democracy, active citizenship and the encouragement of young people to take seriously their contribution to the community and understand how that fits in with the broader issues of world citizenship. That is why we are giving £50,000 to the Council for Education in World Citizenship to ensure that its continuing work can be developed and disseminated in schools.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

I do not think that anyone would quarrel with citizenship. However, if I may hark back to an earlier question, active citizenship must also involve parents. I was appalled to discover—and it is as much to my shame as anyone's—that at one comprehensive school in my constituency, 17 per cent. of pupils last year left without a single GCSE pass in any subject. At another school, 11 per cent. of pupils left without a GCSE pass in a single subject. When I asked one of the head teachers about this, he said that it was simply because quite a lot of pupils did not turn up because they were playing truant, and that there was a lack of parental support.

Mr. Speaker

I must appeal again to hon. Members to ask a question, not make a mini-speech. The hon. Gentleman has made his point, and the Secretary of State will reply.

Mr. Blunkett

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the measures that the Home Secretary and I announced last week will tackle the problem of truancy and ensure that children go to school. They will continue the programme to reduce the number of children who leave school without any qualification—it has already gone down from 8 per cent. to 5.6 per cent. under this Government. We want to ensure that if we can get children into school, they are taught well and imaginatively. We use vocational education to engage those who had previously been alienated by being unable to engage with the traditional curriculum.