HL Deb 17 April 1986 vol 473 cc759-79

3.25 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Swinton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 18 [Aided and special agreement schools]:

The Lord Bishop of Ely moved Amendment No. 51ZA:

Page 21, line 21, at end insert— ("for all powers and functions not allocated to the local education authority, the governing body or the head teacher by this Act or any other enactment to be a power and a function respectively to be discharged by the governing body and").

The right reverend Prelate said: I move this amendment in the unavoidable absence of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, chairman of the General Synod Board of Education, and later today I shall move other amendments that have been tabled already in his name. The right reverend Prelate has asked that I should first express his appreciation of his recent meeting with the Bishop of Menevia and the Secretary of State, to which, as a meeting which was then shortly to happen, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, alluded in the first day of this Committee, when the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London withdrew an amendment to Clause 1 in view of that forthcoming meeting.

The present amendment touches the prerogatives of governing bodies of aided and special agreement schools. The Committee will recall that on the second day of the Committee the noble Baroness the Minister resisted an amendment to Clause 16, as drafted, in part because it involved in the Government's view an inappropriate reduction in the independence of aided school governors, so disturbing, "the division of powers on which the dual system of education has been based since 1944". This was a point that was readily taken as requiring amendment of the drafting of the amendment.

The words of this present amendment are close to the amendment to Clause 1 which was proposed by the right reverend Prelate on the first day of the Committee stage, and by leave withdrawn. I move this amendment in the hope that it might offer an opportunity for clarification of this point. The impression gained by colleagues during the discussion at official level, to which I have referred, is that where the word "conduct" is used in this Bill—for instance, at the beginning of Clause 15, when it is said that articles of government shall provide for the conduct of the school to be under the direction of the governing body of an aided school—that word "conduct" embraces more than ethos, spirit, attitudes, as in the Notes of Clauses, and is meant to refer to powers and functions.

I feel sure that this is consonant with what the noble Baroness the Minister observed about the independence of governing bodies of aided schools as in the 1944 Education Act. I was grateful at the time for her observations. I am moving this amendment as so important a principle is involved, and in the hope that if assurance were given on that interpretation of the word "conduct" it would not be necessary to press this amendment or indeed to seek such clarification by a later amendment at Report stage. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

I was rather surprised to see this amendment. The Committee will recognise it as being almost identical to Amendment No. 2 which was tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London in the light of a meeting which had been arranged between my right honourable friend and the right reverend Prelate on 10th April. This issue, raised by the previous amendment and repeated in this one, was fully discussed at that meeting, when it was understood that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London accepted that his withdrawn amendment was not entirely appropriate.

Perhaps I can rehearse again the Government's point of view. The amendment proposed purports to deal with those matters not covered by the primary legislation. I suggest that it does have serious weaknesses. There is already a substantial prescription on the allocation of functions, particularly as regards controlled schools, in existing legislation and this will be extended by the present Bill. The Government believe that the allocation of functions not covered by the primary legislation should be made according to what is appropriate to the particular case.

This Bill has been carefully drafted to ensure that these options are appropriately open. Of course, we recognise that one of the Churches' concerns is to ensure that the LEAs cannot take to themselves unspecified and unassigned functions through a blanket provision in articles of government. Where voluntary schools are concerned, the governing body could object to that and, if agreement was not reached with the LEA, could refer the question to the Secretary of State. While each individual case must be considered on its merits, if the facts were as bald as those in the example that I have just cited, I think I can safely assure your Lordships that the Secretary of State would agree with the governing body. Indeed, for all schools the Government believe that the provisions of Clause 15(1) would rule out such a blanket provision for local education authorities.

I understand that at the meeting to which the right reverend Prelate has referred my right honourable friend agreed that the Government would look again at this clause and see whether it could be further clarified. I believe that arrangements have already been made for officials to discuss the question, and if necessary my right honourable friend stands ready to have a further meeting with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Menevia. I would therefore ask the right reverend Prelate whether he would be good enough to withdraw his amendment, letting the action that I have described complete its coarse and allowing the Government to honour their undertakings to reflect the expected agreement in this matter by an appropriate amendment at a later stage in the Bill.

Baroness Phillips

Before the right reverend Prelate withdraws the amendment, I am not quite certain that he would agree that the noble Earl has given him a complete answer. If this is going to happen, or indeed if this is already possible within the Bill, I am not quite clear why the amendment would not add to an existing situation. In other words, if the Government have nothing to fear from the amendment, surely they could gracefully accept it and then come back with one of their own at the next stage of the Bill. Meetings between individuals at any stage of a Bill are really no answer to your Lordships when dealing with the Committee stage of the Bill. I do not know what the right reverend Prelate feels about this; but, as chairman of the governors of an aided school, I am very concerned that there should be no interference at all with their existing control and powers. This we must watch very carefully throughout the passage of the Bill.

The Earl of Swinton

If I may answer the noble Baroness, I think there is absolutely nothing between us on this matter. The point I was trying to make was in connection with Amendment No. 2, which we discussed, where the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London was very happy that this should be the subject of a meeting, and the Government undertook to come back with appropriate amendments later on. There are a number of amendments which will be proposed by the right reverend Prelate later, and I think that there is really nothing between the Government and the Church on any of the amendments. We have given an undertaking to do it that way and I believe that a change at this stage would be counter-productive.

The Lord Bishop of Ely

With the assurances given by the noble Earl, which I am very grateful to receive, following upon the meeting which I reported, I am very ready to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 51A, 51B and 51C not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of Ely moved Amendment No. 52: Page 21, line 31, leve out ("determine and ").

The right reverend Prelate said: I beg to move the amendment standing in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. During the Second Reading, I think the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester referred to the Bill as not in all terms achieving the clarification which was the desire of the Bill. The particular clause in question here states that the governors will have control of the curriculum: yet a few lines later it says that the head teacher will determine it. I think there is a problem here of definition certainly, and perhaps one of substance, on how a particular body can control something if somebody else is able to determine it. I move this amendment without in any way intending to be negative, but solely to achieve the further clarification the Bill sets out to achieve. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

The very special role of the governing body of an aided or special agreement school is one which the Government fully recognise. That is why they have taken the opportunity afforded by this Bill to extend control of the curriculum, already vested in the governing bodies of aided secondary schools by the 1944 Act, to the governing bodies of all aided and special agreement schools. I know that this is something which has been widely welcomed by the Churches and those involved in voluntary education.

I am sure that the Committee will also agree that arrangements for the detailed organisation and delivery of the curriculum must in practice be left to the professional discretion of the headteacher—who will of course, in aided and special agreement schools, have been chosen and appointed by the governing body itself. The head's role must go further than would be covered by the term "organisation" alone, as the governors will not have defined the curriculum in detail for every class and every course in the school—that is the activity which will be carried out under the head's power to "determine" the curriculum. But the control of the curriculum will clearly rest with the governing body and in any dispute over the content of that curriculum the governors would be able to exercise that overriding control to ensure that their wishes were met.

Perhaps I may take this opportunity to answer the right reverend Prelate who asked me when moving the last amendment, to confirm that "conduct" has a wide meaning to include all functions and powers to do with the running of a school. I would most gladly confirm that. I hope that having heard the explanation, the right reverend Prelate will feel able to withdraw this amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Ely

I am most grateful to the noble Earl the Minister for his clarification of where control lies and of conduct. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 52A not moved.]

Clause 18 agreed to.

Lord Harris of Greenwich moved Amendment No. 53: After Clause 18, insert the following new clause—

("Crime prevention and road safety.

. The articles of government for every school shall provide that courses on crime prevention and road safety are provided by any constable appointed for the purpose by a chief officer of police.")

The noble Lord said: The question I want to raise this afternoon concerns the relationship between the education system and the police service. At the moment I do not propose to press the amendment today, almost irrespective of what the Minister may say. I want to know, and I suspect that a number of other noble Lords will want to know, what the Minister proposes to say about the general range of issues raised in the amendment.

In the overwhelming majority of local education areas there is no problem. There is a cordial relationship between schools and the police service. That cordial relationship exists in virtually every shire county and in many cities as well. Sometimes a local beat officer may call regularly at a local school to talk to primary and secondary school children about the general problems of crime prevention and road safety, the two issues which are mentioned in the amendment. Sometimes the chief constable may decide to have a specialist constable who is trained to talk to school children make the visit rather than the local beat officer.

I shall give a brief illustration of the way in which the problem is approached in some areas of the country. I shall quote briefly from an article by Superintendent Terry Anley who is head of the community liasion department of the Thames Valley Police. He pointed out in the article that as part of a progamme to achieve better relations between schools and the local police a local headmaster was seconded to the Thames Valley Police for a year. They jointly evaluated the then police involvement in the schools.

In the article the superintendent said: What we have developed is a ten year plan of action to cover each school year from 5 to 16 years, in the form of a manual which is taken into schools by our officers and discussed with the head teacher and the class teachers". Later he said: What then are our objectives to be? Programmes should be designed to teach crime prevention in its broadest sense—to teach personal safety and citizenship and to teach the recognition of responsibilities". He continued: There has been, this year in Thames Valley, an upsurge of interest in crime prevention youth panels in schools, run by the students (with help from the staff on occasions) and by the local police and crime prevention officers themselves. This involves real consensus decision making on behaviour and attitudes".

So much for the view of one experienced police superintendent who is working in this important area in the Thames Valley force. However, unhappily in a number of areas in this country that does not exist. In a number of parts of inner London, Left-wing teachers are preventing the police from entering the schools at all for purposes of a kind which I have just set out. There cannot be much dispute about that.

In a parliamentary Answer given on 30th January this year (House of Commons Hansard col. 571), the Minister of State gave a list of schools in inner London—I cite this as an important example, and there are others, I understand—where there is a policy of refusing to admit the police. For the purpose of the record I propose to name the schools. They are: North Westminster Community School, NW1 and W9 (Lower Houses) and W2 (Upper Houses); Daubeney Infants School, E5; De Beauvoir Junior School, N1; De Beauvior Infants School, N1; Gainsborough Junior Mixed and Infants School, E9; Gayhurst Junior School, E8; Gayhurst Infants School, E8; Grazebrook Junior Mixed and Infants School, N16; Laburnum Junior Mixed and Infants School, E2; Millfields Junior School, E5; Millfields Infants School, E5; Orchard Junior Mixed and Infants School, E9; Southwold Junior Mixed and Infants School, E5; William Patten Junior School, N16; William Patten Infants School, N16; Clapton School, E5; Hackney Downs School, E5; Stoke Newington School, N16; Skinners' Company School, N16 and E5 (Upper and Lower School); Hurlingham and Chelsea School, SW6; Ecclesbourne Junior Mixed and Infants School, N1; William Tyndale Junior Mixed and Infants School, N1.

3.45 p.m.

Teachers prevent the police from entering each of those schools to discuss road safety and crime prevention. As we know from letters appearing in the press in East London, that is done in defiance of parents' wishes. Given that the Bill is about giving parents greater power and influence in schools, I should like to know what the Government propose to do about that situation.

The problem in London has arisen as a result of the decision by the Hackney Teachers' Association, which took the lead and was followed by the Inner London Teachers' Association. A number of us this afternoon would like to hear not merely an indication of the Government's concern about that, but what precisely they propose to do.

I shall briefly run over the issues that many parents want the police to raise in those schools. In many cases they are in areas of acute economic deprivation and high unemployment, with a high incidence of drug taking, as we know. First, they want the police to talk about the risk of narcotic abuse in London which, as we know, is growing at an alarming rate. Year on year, the level of heroin and cocaine consumption, particularly heroin, by children, is increasing at an alarming rate, and yet in such areas the police are being prevented from going into those schools by teachers operating entirely on the basis of their own ideological obsessions.

Secondly, there is road safety. That is self-evidently a desirable issue to be raised by the police. Thirdly, another matter of great importance to many parents is the risk of the sexual molestation of young children which is a problem of increasing severity in many areas of this country.

The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science on 30th January 1986 (House of Commons Hansard col. 572) said about this issue: Young people need to know about the law and about the rights and responsibilities of citizens. They need to know, too, about the role of the police in maintaining law and order, about crime prevention and about road and other dangers. The action of certain schools in refusing to allow police in school is not in the interests of their pupils and can only hinder good relations between them and the police". I agree with that and I am sure that virtually every other Member of your Lordships' Committee agrees with it as well. The purpose of this amendment is a simple one. What, in the context of what the Minister of State has said, do the Government now propose to do about the situation? I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord has said that he wig not press this amendment to a vote. Therefore, this is a matter on which only from this Dispatch Box can I express my views on the amendment. It is not necessary or appropriate to discuss whether the amendment may or may not be defective in its wording, but I think it is necessary, as the education spokesman for the Labour Party before this Committee, to say without equivocation that we do not condone the exclusion of the police from any schools, and that we do not believe it is proper, whatever political views teachers may hold, that they should use those political views for any exclusion of this sort.

Lord Mishcon

I rise again from these Benches, if I may, in order that there shall not be the slightest doubt about the views of the Opposition, and I speak as the official spokesman for the Official Opposition on home affairs. I think it highly regrettable—and I say this on behalf of these Benches—that any education establishment should bar the police from its school. I furthermore say that we have every conceivable interest in seeing that the relationships between our children and the police are of the friendliest and of the most helpful.

Baroness Cox

I will speak only very briefly indeed in support of this amendment because already, in speaking to a previous amendment, I have given some examples of the type of anti-police behaviour in the classrooms of some of our schools that causes such concern. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, put it so well, one of the major purposes of this amendment is to try to ensure that the police are not banned from our schools. The noble Lord read a very sober list of those schools where a policy of banning the police is already in operation, and it is rather worrying that that list might be expected to grow, given that it is now the policy accepted by the Inner London Teachers' Association.

It is especially serious in view of the anti-police propaganda that is very freely available, especially in the London area. For example, at the so-called farewell party of the GLC on Easter Monday vast piles of those very virulently anti-police propaganda posters were available and were being given away free to people of all age groups. Of course, the police may be subject to legitimate criticism, but because of that kind of anti-police feeling that is being stirred up for political reasons outside schools it is very important that the police have access to our schools to answer that criticism, to be able *o talk to young people and themselves to put over the case for a police force, as well as providing those educational services which they have provided for so long and so well, which are so greatly appreciated and which it is the purpose of this amendment to ensure they are allowed to continue to provide.

Viscount Trenchard

Before my noble friend answers on this probing amendment, may I say that I hope that on this occasion we shall not get another repeat of, "This is not the right way to cure the problem: legislation is not required". I think that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has done the Committee a great service by listing the number of schools which the police are forbidden to enter. Perhaps it is a common sense deduction to suggest that in the schools where the police are forbidden quite a lot of other distorted practice and persuasion is going on, and quite a lot of the anti-police propaganda which my noble friend Lady Cox suggested is going on. This is a problem. All the problems that we have had in this section of the debate on the Education Bill are real problems, and they are growing. So I hope that we can have an end to the kind of statement which says either, "It is too difficult", or, "Legislation is not the right way to deal with it".

Baroness Hooper

We must all sympathise with the intention behind this amendment, which is that all pupils should receive instruction at school from the police in crime prevention and road safety. This would not only provide all pupils with valuable knowledge and skills but would actively promote good relations between the police and our young people. There can be few who will disagree with that, particularly in view of the very grave problems that are recognised in relation to narcotics abuse.

However, I must remind noble Lords that under existing legislation the only compulsory school subject, as has been stated already in discussion, is religious education. With that exception, responsibility for the school curriculum rests with local education authorities and individual schools, and successive Governments have resisted attempts to require schools to teach other specific subjects. So I am afraid that I must disappoint my noble friend Lord Trenchard by again saying that this is another area where legislation is not the appropriate course.

Another consequence of this clause, if it became law, would be to breach the right of the schools to determine who shall come into school for the purpose of giving instruction. This would be wrong in principle, and it could also have unfortunate practical consequences. This sort of activity is only useful if it takes place in a spirit of co-operation. It would not only be an unpleasant experience for a policeman or policewoman to go into a school to teach where there was little or no co-operation from the staff, but it could limit their effectiveness in the classroom. The existence of a statutory right of entry for this purpose would not necessarily help such co-operation to develop. It might, indeed, even hinder it.

The decision by 20 or so schools in the Inner London Education Authority not to invite the police into the classrooms has received considerable publicity, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, quoted a list of schools. Incidentally, I understand that it may not in all respects be accurate, and, if necessary and if it is helpful to the Committee, the Government will take steps to correct that. One can only deplore that decision of the schools. Nevertheless, we see the matter in perspective if we reflect that out of some 900 primary and secondary schools in the Inner London Education Authority about 880 admit the police to give instruction, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, himself acknowledged that the situation generally throughout the country is reasonably satisfactory.

So what are the Government doing, and what do they intend to do? Within the next few weeks copies of a discussion document on developing effective cooperation between the police and the schools will be issued to every school in England and Wales and to every local education authority and police force. This has been prepared by the Society of Education Officers and the Association of Chief Police Officers, and should result in a better understanding between teachers and police officers. I think that this voluntary approach is the most promising way forward.

I have no doubt that the most effective way by which a school can help its pupils to develop into responsible citizens is by having the right atmosphere in which hard work and good quality work are expected, encouraged and rewarded; where good and considerate behaviour is the norm; and where the pupils can see that the staff are interested in them as individuals and care about them and their future. This will happen only as a result of hard and sustained work by the head teacher and all the staff.

We believe that the proposal in the Bill to give governing bodies responsibility for the conduct of their schools will enable them to exercise an important influence over the ethos of the school. However, in the light of what the noble Lord, and indeed other noble Lords, have said both in the previous debates and today, there is a further piece of action that the Government are prepared to take.

The circular that will be issued to local education authorities when the Bill becomes law will contain advice on the responsibility of schools for promoting good citizenship among pupils. The Government are ready to expand this advice in order specifically to encourage a smooth working relationship between schools and the police which will include contributions by the police on the matters which the noble Lord has in mind and to which he has referred. In view of what I have been able to say, I hope that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw his amendment.

4 p.m.

Lord Annan

It is not only the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, who may be disappointed by the reply of the noble Baroness. It has certainly disappointed me as one who put his name to the amendment with the noble Lord, Lord Harris.

Who are the grey, dim, dreary, depraved bureaucrats who have drafted this answer? I refer to the way in which it was drafted: the appeal to a general principle that no subject is to be made compulsory in our schools, which, I may say, is open to very grave criticism indeed when one considers that mathematics and the English language—the mother tongue—are not compulsory subjects. But leaving that aside, to appeal to this general principle that no subject should be made compulsory except by the local authority is one of those marvellously convenient bureaucratic ways of dodging a real political issue.

One hundred and fifty years ago that marvellous inspector of schools, Matthew Arnold, would not have seen the point of such an amendment. In those days road safety—yes, one could be knocked over by a dray—was not the issue that it is today. As for crime prevention, we all know how that was in those days. The prevention of crime was carried out either by the family or by a police officer giving one or possibly more sharp clips over the ear to juvenile delinquents in order to prevent them appearing in the courts. Such measures are no longer possible today, and for very good reasons.

How are we to educate our children in the schools, children very often in disadvantaged circumstances, to understand the nature of crime, to understand that their health is at stake if they get on to the drug habit? How are we to make them understand that law and order is essential to any society if it is still possible for local options on this matter to be observed and the police to be excluded from schools?

I beg the noble Baroness to ask her right honourable friend the Secretary of State to reconsider. This is a matter on which there is no real disagreement in the Committee. We have heard the admirable speeches by the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord McIntosh of Haringey. They said from the Opposition Benches that there is no difference of opinion on the general issue. The question is: what is the best way of doing this? Without legislation one will get the same situation prevailing; indeed it may even spread. What will a circular do to those local schools which are determined to prevent the police coming in? They will tear it up and stamp on it. I beg the noble Baroness to take this to heart and ask her right honourable friend whether he will not alter his opinion.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I support the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and ask the noble Baroness to consider a little further her deeply disappointing reply. As I understood it, she said that legislation is the wrong instrument and that she will rely on a circular. Some of us may be sceptical as to whether the kind of people who impose this prohibition will be in the slightest degree affected by a circular or any number of circulars from the department.

Will the noble Baroness and her right honourable friend put this to the test? Will she give an undertaking to the Committee that if within a year of the issue of this circular the police are still excluded, the Government will come forward with the necessary legislation?

Baroness Hooper

I think the only undertaking I can give is to draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State the comments that have been made in this Committee today. I can only say to noble Lords who have just spoken that, in my view, legislation does not necessarily guarantee good practice. The Government's attitude and reaction to this amendment, and indeed to others, results from the traditions and well established practices which in the vast majority of cases work satisfactorily. The principle behind this Bill is to provide a structure by which these decisions can be made at a local level. We still feel that this is the best way to proceed.

Lord Annan

Will the noble Baroness bear with me again and just take on board this point? She used a good argument which is that custom is often the best way of dealing with problems. But in this situation the custom has broken down and is not accepted, and this is likely to spread. Therefore I do not accept that that is a good enough argument. That is why it is worth while putting in this clause even though it may appear to be anomalous.

We talk about the curriculum. I expressed to the noble Baroness my sadness that for many years the Government have resisted the attempt to make certain subjects compulsory. But they are academic subjects. This is something to do with social control. It is not a subject such as science or history. Therefore I ask the noble Baroness whether on those grounds she will think again. I understand the wisdom and experience of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, which is so much greater than mine, in the proposition that he put forward that if within a year we still find this resistance perhaps the Government will then introduce legislation. The trouble is that there is never parliamentary time. Here we have parliamentary time; a Bill is in Committee. Can we not grasp the nettle now?

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

What we are forgetting is that if this Bill is enacted with one or two improving amendments, we shall be dealing with a different situation. This is what we have to remember. It will be a different situation with different people there who will have a greater say. The Government are trying to say to us: "Look, we are trying systems that have been proved. We are going to improve the governing bodies of schools which will have a greater say in the administration and in the running of the schools, so let them have a go. Let them have a say. Let the people who really matter have a say". This is all that the Government are saying. Therefore I support what they are saying on this issue.

I am sure that the Government will take note. Let us remember that the majority of these schools are doing a good job, are co-operating and are working closely with all kinds of bodies outside of the school. Let us remember that the common sense of the new governors of schools will prevail.

Baroness Hooper

Yes, I must remind the Committee that family and parental responsibility are involved very much in this sphere. The object behind the Bill is to establish a structure by which parents have appropriate representation on governing bodies and the governing bodies have appropriate powers to control matters such as the one put forward in this amendment, with which everybody must have considerable sympathy.

Lord Gisborough

In view of the almost unanimous opinion in the Committee, I hope that the noble Baroness will take this back and reconsider it; or, failing that, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will test the opinion of the Committee.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I am grateful to all who have participated in this debate. This is an important and serious issue, and that has been recognised by noble Lords in all parts of the Committee. I can immediately answer one question put to me by the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat. I give him an absolute guarantee that this matter will come up again on Report, and frankly, if we do not get a better answer then, we shall vote.

It seems to me that the noble Baroness, who admittedly is in the difficult position of appearing before us as an advocate for the Department of Education and Science, has not been given a serious reply for this debate today. In a Bill that is designed to give greater power to parents, the rights of parents are being utterley ignored in the list of schools that I read out a few moments ago.

The idea, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said only a moment or two ago, that the sort of people who are keeping the police out at the moment are to be deterred by a discussion document produced by the Society of Education Officers and ACPO or by a circular issued by the Department of Education and Science is, to put it as politely as possible, slightly to underestimate the vigour and the enthusiasm of this group of dedicated revolutionaries, which is what they are. They want to keep the police out; they will continue to keep the police out. A circular will frankly not make the slightest difference.

The Earl of Swinton

I have just seen the noble Lord, Lord Annan, heading out of the Chamber and I am sure—no, he is not going—he would wish to retract what he said about civil servants. In this Committee the three of us sitting here are a fair target for all that is thrown at us, but I am sure, as the noble Lord appreciates, the Civil Service cannot answer back. He used rather intemperate language about the officials, which is not perhaps in the best traditions of this House.

Lord Annan

I shall naturally apologise for anything I said which could have wounded the feelings of those who drafted the answer. I am sure that they drafted it in the spirit that they are used to; that this is a principle and it is a cannot-be-altered principle. I do not want to say anything personally about them except that I think there has been here a lack of imagination—shall we put it that way?—by those who were concerned with the drafting of the answer.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I had assumed that I had incurred the displeasure of the noble Earl when he rose. However, let me repeat the point that I was making and then I propose to sit down. We are asked to believe that a group of Trotsky-ist schoolmasters are to be prevented from barring the police as a result of two circulars. Quite bluntly, that is nonsense. Those who drafted the argument were talking nonsense.

Notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, I have the greatest admiration for members of the Civil Service but I very much hope that they are capable of finding slightly better arguments to justify the case they put before Ministers. I repeat, if the noble Baroness and her colleagues are unable to come forward on Report and meet us, if necessary on the basis of what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, suggested a few moments ago, a number of us are quite determined to divide the House on the question. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton moved Amendment No. 53A:

Insert the following new Clause—

("Health Education

. The articles of government for every school shall provide for the teaching of courses of health education, which shall include basic anatomy, first aid and nursing skills, sex education and child care, diet and hygiene, accident prevention and teaching on the dangers of drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse.").

The noble Baroness said: I feel that this amendment follows rather well after the last one, and I shall be equally annoyed if I get the same answer, which I expect I shall from the noble Baroness who is going to reply. This amendment which I bring before the Committee for your Lordships' consideration I feel is of the utmost importance for future generations if the health and wellbeing of our society is to improve. I think it was Sir Keith Joseph, when he was Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, who said: "There is a cycle of deprivation." Does the Committee not think that the time has come for us to get out of the rut and to do something about it? I believe educating our children to the vital needs of understanding the meaning of good health and to bringing them up to respect the marvels of their bodies will help to do something about many of the tragic situations which arise today. We have the situation of increasing child abuse and cruelty to children. We have increasing alcohol and drug abuse, and increased smoking among many young girls. Medically speaking, social class 5 have the highest perinatal mortality and morbidity rate. Most frightening of all is the increasing violence in society.

For some time now Australia has had life education centres. And now America—another country with a terrible drug problem—is making certain educational requirements on schools with respect to drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.

The Government are trying hard to prevent drug abuse and have just launched a campaign with the BBC Grange Hill team with a song, "Just Say No to Drugs". I am certain that young people need far more education. Children need an awareness of the beauty and wonder of their body. It has been found since they launched the life education system in Australia that they are less and less likely to take any substance into their bodies that will hurt or destroy them. To respect themselves, and it is hoped others, they need to understand the physiology of the human body and what is good or harmful for it. I expect that I shall be told by some of your Lordships that it is not wise to spell out too much detail in legislation what needs to be done because some important issues which are not spelt out might be neglected.

The reason why I have listed several important subjects which I feel should be included is to make quite clear at this stage of the Bill what I think health education should mean. Some time ago I asked a Starred Question on health education and the officials from the Department of Education and Science dealing with the Question jumped to the conclusion that I had meant sex education. That happened to be the last thing on my mind at that time. Unless there are clear guidelines on what should be covered in a syllabus, I can understand how neglected some aspects of education could be.

We have in this country some excellent health education experts. I do not think that it would be too difficult for them to provide the necessary modules and manuals needed for health education, and health education teachers could become part of our educational system throughout the country.

I feel that basic first aid and nursing skills could be of immense value to children. Many of them are often left in charge of small babies, and younger children have to deal with sick or depressed parents. As a report on careers found, many children look after disabled parents before school and after they return from school. Perhaps those are matters that are not very often talked about, but they often exist.

The children of today are the future parents and trainers of the next generation. First aid can be vital when taking part in many outward bound and sporting activities, and some knowledge of accident prevention, such as understanding the dangers of diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool, can save a broken neck. A healthy diet can prevent such conditions as heart disease and cancer in the future: and with the increase in hepatitis B and the HTLV 3 virus, hygiene is more important than ever before.

Responsible sex education and good child care teaching is what every future parent needs. Unless good practices are taught now and in the future, the cycle of deprivation will just go round and round. As I am sure your Lordships will know, many children in our schools do not have good examples to follow from their own parents. Unless education does something about that, the problems can only get worse. The Government know better than anyone how expensive health care is becoming. Can we not educate a healthier nation for the future, to be more aware of how to look after themselves and their families? I hope that at this stage both your Lordships and the Government will accept the spirit of this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Cox

I wish to speak very briefly but wholeheartedly in support of this amendment. It is particularly timely in view of the fact that the United Kingdom is a signatory to a statement of commitment to the attainment of health for all by the year 2000, which requires us as a nation to do all in our power, through preventive and primary health care, to promote good health and to prevent avoidable disease and injury.

In this country, as in other industrialised societies, we have seen a serious increase in deaths and disabilities from avoidable causes; for example, with the growth of diseases associated with behaviour such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and drug abuse. We are also confronted by an increase in that dread disease AIDS—an increase that is to be of unknown proportions.

In some schools, however, it seems as though recent initiatives in curriculum development are almost designed to encourage such unhealthy forms of behaviour. For example, in a speech on Tuesday evening one noble Lord—I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing—read extracts from a pupils' rights charter, which it was claimed had been circulated at Parliament Hill School. That charter informed pupils at what age they had a right to drink alcohol or a right to enter brothels.

I believe that the subjects spelt out in this amendment represent essential knowledge for a healthy life and that pupils have much more of a right to that kind of information than to some of the other forms of so-called education that seem to be offered to them at the present time at many of our schools. I warmly support the amendment.

Baroness Lane-Fox

I certainly support the amendment. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that for both humane and economic reasons it is essential that the greatest trouble be taken to maintain healthy bodies. Life can already play enough bad jokes in accidents, viruses and disease—the treatment of which proves enormously expensive to the NHS.

It would seem madness, surely, not to seize every possible opportunity to teach people how to avoid becoming just crocks, and to do so by telling them about the working of their joints and bodies, starting at an early age. The physiotherapist who saved my hands from being useless and my spine from being twisted is now shocked by the number of patients who come to her in their late middle age, having previously occupied costly NHS beds, because they have developed chronic orthopaedic conditions through their bad posture and bad use of limbs. In her life, that physiotherapist has run classes for children to teach them very elementary anatomy, physiology and psychology—showing them the proper use of, for instance, feet, knees, hips and backs, and letting them compare the different shapes. Some of her ex-pupils, now adults, have found those early classes so helpful in reminding them that they must for ever be correct and flowing in their movements and so escape incapacitating pain and long drawn-out treatment, often requiring surgery.

It seems crazy to stand by and watch soaring NHS expenditure without employing methods to reduce it. That form of physical education should be introduced to help not just healthy and strong pupils with their games and gymnastics but also the weaker ones, who should be told how to defeat the traps that are in store for them.

Teachers should be well-trained in physical education. It is not a matter for the biologist as such, but classes should be so cleverly presented as to generate enthusiasm and interest. The session should be seen as having vital importance in the school. It is from that aspect that I wholeheartedly support the amendment so ably proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham.

Baroness Hylton-Foster

I should like to support the suggestion of the noble Baroness for the teaching of first aid in schools. The Red Cross and, I think, St. John's already do that in a great many schools, where it has now become a routine part of their lessons. The children enjoy such teaching, parents approve of it, and it is useful for the children all their lives. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the amendment careful consideration.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

If I may, as a mere male, take part in these proceedings, I should like most heartily to endorse that which has been said by noble Baronesses so far. I should like, without breaching rules of the Committee, to advertise a kind of trailer for a debate that I am hoping to introduce in your Lordships' House and which I know has the support of all sides of the House. It is a Motion on the means of preventing disability, which has been touched upon by both the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, and the noble Baroness who followed her, and it is implicit in this amendment.

It may well be that an amendment does not need to spell out every kind of health teaching that is necessary, but for the purposes of this amendment I believe that the noble Baroness was right to go into the detail that she did. I hope that the Government will take this point away and think about it, and will produce an amendment that is comprehensive, but not in the way that the present amendment is, which may exclude other forms of health education by inadvertence.

Lord Kilmarnock

I, too, should like to support the amendment of the noble Baroness, although it has to be said that it has resource implications. That is probably the argument we shall hear from the Government. However, even if the Government do tell us about the resource implications, I hope that they will not for that reason dismiss the idea behind the amendment.

There is a lot of very good evidence that children are extremely susceptible to influence in schools on the subjects that are mentioned in the amendment. It is conceivable that it might be a better way of spending money than the Government's current advertising programme on television and their leaflet programme on drugs. I believe that one would get closer to the root of the matter if one went at it through the schools. With those words, I should like in principle to support the amendment, and I hope that the Government will not dismiss it simply because of its resource implications.

Viscount Buckmaster

I rise to support the amendment of my noble friend Lady Masham, for whose activities in your Lordships' House I have boundless admiration—and I think that probably goes for all of your Lordships.

I would, however, inject a caveat, and a very strong one, about sex education. When I moved my Amendment No. 49B late last Tuesday night the Committee was very poorly attended and, unfortunately, many of my supporters had had to leave. Nevertheless, at that time I tried to show to the Committee that a great deal (indeed, even most) of the sex education in our schools nowadays is amoral, if not downright immoral. I quoted from a number of booklets and from letters that had been received from parents, and so on. I shall not weary the Committee with the detail now but it is all in the Official Report dealing with my Amendment No. 49B. It cannot be escaped that some of the teaching in these booklets condones, if not advocates, such subjects as under-age sex—both heterosexual and homosexual—incest and even bestiality. All the quotations are there for the Committee to read. Furthermore, some of these booklets actively undermine the sanctity of marriage.

4.30 p.m.

I agree that sex education is necessary, but I very much hope that if the noble Baroness decides to withdraw this amendment and to redraft it she will include a proposal on the lines that sex education should be given within the context of enduring family relations. With that reservation, it gives me great pleasure to support the amendment.

Lord Auckland

Although this is a wide-ranging amendment, I believe that there is much merit in it. The three most important parts of the amendment are diet, hygiene and accident prevention. I believe that those subjects are more important than what we were discussing recently—political education.

Some members of the Committee may have seen on "Newsnight" last night a horrific item from Edinburgh regarding AIDS and the use of needles. The programme was most disturbing. I believe that the whole question of hygiene in schools needs to be highlighted far more than it is. That applies also to diet. There are many qualified young dieticians in this country who could usefully go round the schools and give advice—no more than that.

I must declare an interest in accident prevention as an honorary vice-president for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. It is in the schools that accident prevention in the home, on the farm, and so on, can be taught. Therefore, while I think that the amendment is a little widely drawn, the principle of it should be carefully considered by the Government.

Lord Porritt

I support this amendment. As an ancient medico and way down the batting list I feel that it has an awful lot of good common sense and a message of health that we have not heard here for a long time. Most points have been brought out already, but I should like to put two very minor points that I believe to be of importance because they refer to teaching children.

Children love a good many things. They are terribly fond of sport and of machines and toys of all kinds. The subject of health should be taught by the proper people and on that basis it could be made intensely interesting to 80 per cent. of all children. There is nothing more beautiful than the human body. There is nothing that has come up to it in this world. We have never got anywhere near it. On that aspect alone, children can be interested for years and years. If one is talking about machines, you will not find a machine that comes anywhere near the human body.

Therefore, I believe that there is a great basis for being able to teach what the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, put forward. I thoroughly agree with her principle. It would not need to be a compulsory subject, because it would be so intensely interesting. Four out of five children would fall for it and go to the classes all the time. The Government would be well advised to take on this amendment at this time when there is an Education Bill and a chance of putting something worth while into the curriculum.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

As an ex-teacher may I add a few words? I shall not keep the Committee for more than a minute or two. Having spent a lifetime teaching academic subjects, I cannot imagine anything that is more important to teach than the subjects named in this amendment. They appear to me to deal with realities in a way that a great deal that is taught in our schools does not. I support the amendment with all the strength in my power.

Baroness Young

No one can have listened to the proposals behind this amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and the support that she has received from all parts of the Committee without being conscious of the strength of feeling on this amendment throughout the Committee. I therefore approach what I have to say, bearing in mind the strictures we have had from the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Annan, on the preceding amendment, with trepidation.

I address my remarks to my noble friends on this side of the Committee because this is, after all, a Government Bill and I suggest we look at the basic principles behind it and what it is we are trying to achieve. The Bill is based on a White Paper entitled Better Schools, published for extensive public discussion and setting out a number of fundamental principles about the education system, including how the curriculum is to be managed.

We have had several debates on this subject, and I think it would not be unfair if I said that there is broad agreement throughout the Committee that there should be a major responsibility for the local education authority, the school governors, the head teacher and the teachers. There has been argument on precisely how those responsibilities should be balanced, but the fact is that, basically, we are agreed on this. What the amendment says, in effect, is: "Forget about all that. We are going to issue nationally, from the centre, a prescription about certain subjects which we have decided are more important than all the other subjects. We are not going to prescribe English, mathematics, modern languages, history, geography, the sciences, new technology, engineering, computing or anything else, but we are going to pick on these subjects".

The subjects in the amendment are important. I recognise that. However, we have to decide as a matter of principle whether we want to move down the path of a national education system—and this would have to be prescribed nationally—or whether we want to continue with our devolved system of education. That basically is the principle behind this debate. If we are to move down the road of a nationally prescribed system, we would all have voted for the first amendment on the second Marshalled List, moved by my noble friend Lord Beloff who characteristically made out the case for it, if I may say so, very well indeed. But the Committee decided not to support that amendment. We are now coming back to a series of other amendments saying that these subjects must be prescribed.

Let us consider what the amendment says. It states: The articles of government for every school [in the country] shall provide for the teaching of courses of health education". That includes: basic anatomy, first aid and nursing skills, sex education and child care, diet and hygiene, accident prevention and teaching on the dangers of drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse.". If we put those subjects into the school curriculum resources will be required, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, rightly said. Teachers will be required who are very skilled in those subjects. The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, has already pointed out some of the dangers. I was in my place when he moved his amendment late on Tuesday night, and he pointed out the dangers of sex education, which he did not like and which is included in this amendment.

The great danger is that unless there is a nationally prescribed, detailed curriculum which is laid down for every school in the country we are liable to get variation. Let us face it, there will be variations on a great many of these subjects. For example, in the case of diet, how many people today believe one should be a vegetarian? Now that may be right, and I am not arguing against it, but if one is going to lay it down in the curriculum one has to decide what it is that one is in fact determining that people should eat. I think, therefore, that we may be going down a quite difficult path. I think your Lordships need to think very carefully about the principle and the detail of this Bill before making up its mind to vote on this amendment.

I take very seriously the point behind the amendment, and the Government are doing something about these questions. On gage 20 of the White Paper it says that the curriculum ought to: provide moral education, physical education and health education". The Government have already said about the curriculum studies from 5 to 16 that health education essential for pupils' physical and moral wellbeing may be promoted through the medium of topic work subjects in the curriculum or special courses.

When we look at the subject of drugs, which I think is a very serious issue today, it can be seen that on 30th December 1985 it was agreed that all 96 local education authorities in England have been allocated a share of the £2 million to be devoted next year to the education support grants programme tackling drug misuse. The money, 70 per cent. of it from Government grant, will enable local education authorities to appoint or second a full-time member of staff from April 1986 to stimulate and co-ordinate action within the education service and other agencies and to take other appropriate action in the light of local circumstances. So the Government are already playing a part in the education service in tackling the problem of drugs.

We are all very well aware of the campaign against smoking, and there is great concern about what I understand is now an increasing problem, which is that of children buying alcoholic drinks from supermarkets below the age at which they would be allowed to buy drinks in a restaurant or a pub. It is a very serious matter. I should like to suggest to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and her friends that they, too, should think very carefully about just what pressing this amendment would mean. It would drive a coach and horses through this Bill. It would make it much more difficult to resist other amendments which people may feel they should put down; for example, that everybody should be obliged to study computing—I think a very good case could be made out for that today—or English or mathematics. In fact, one could make out a case for the national curriculum.

I think one must remember that in the Bill we are making arrangements for the curriculum to be determined by the local education authority and by the school governors. The school governors now include a good proportion of parent governors who, under the terms of the Bill, will be trained. There is an opportunity given for a special parents' day, when all matters of the curriculum may be raised. With this Bill we are entering a new situation, and I think it is one that your Lordships ought to consider carefully. Before we have even had an opportunity for it to be tried to see how it can work, we ought not to be moving amendments which actually go against the long traditions of British education. The principles in this Bill are intended to enhance our traditional principles of education and make them work better. I hope very much that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I should like to thank all noble Baronesses and noble Lords who have supported this amendment. At this stage I do not want to waste your Lordships' time because there are many more amendments yet to come, but I should like to say that I do not think that this country takes seriously enough the very important matter of prevention—a stitch in time saves nine. There is a very serious crisis situation that has now arisen because of drugs and AIDS, and, of course, because of the expense on the National Health Service of which we are all aware.

I cannot accept the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about mathematics, because I do not know of a school that does not teach mathematics. Health concerns every single living person in this country. It is something which matters to us all from the cradle to the grave. Health applies to everyone, but everyone does not have to learn how to use a computer. Computing is a different matter altogether.

When I moved the amendment I said that I had done so in a rather detailed way so that people could understand what lay behind it. The noble Baroness said that there was a provision which read "may" provide. There is a big difference in legislation between "may" and "shall". I agree with the movers of the last amendment (the one before mine) that the time has perhaps come for us to put more emphasis on change. The time has come for change. I do not think that this country takes seriously enough the health provision for society. I shall bring this amendment back in a different form at Report stage. At the moment I am pleased to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Swinton

I think that this may be a convenient time to take the Statement. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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