HL Deb 18 April 1988 vol 495 cc1208-10

2.54 p.m.

Baroness Young asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they are considering to help with the problems that may arise over the education of children of British families working for short periods in the European Community after 1992.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science (Baroness Hooper)

My Lords, there are no specific proposals, but there is no reason to suppose that an increase in mobility among workers between European Community member states following the completion of the internal market in 1992 will change the nature of the problems which already arise over the education of children. However, your Lordships may wish to know that an EC Council directive of 1977 requires the host country to ensure that appropriate educational provision is made for the children of migrant workers who accompany their parents abroad, and we expect that our national curriculum proposals will also help.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Does she not agree that the problem identified in her reply is likely to increase post-1992 when far more people will go to work in Europe? Does she also not agree that some discussion between her department and the Department of Trade and Industry on the real problems of children who need to follow a British curriculum—for want of a better term—should take place?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I agree that this is an important and increasing problem. We are in contact with the Department of Trade and Industry. The national curriculum will ensure that all pupils study a broad and balanced curriculum to the age of 16, which is the pattern of our European neighbours. That should help as regards the problems of transition.

Baroness David

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Opposition also believe that a problem exists? Naturally, parents do not wish to be separated from their children. Day schools are needed when parents are abroad for a short time. How much are the Government now spending in relation to this matter, and will the DTI produce funds to meet what will be an increasing problem?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, this is an existing problem. We are looking at ways of ensuring that the situation is improved. To that end the Government support the role of European schools and the role of British independent schools abroad. There is a variety of local education authority provision to meet the needs of parents abroad.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, will the Minister take into account the significance of the international baccalaureate in respect of this Question? Can she say whether the proposed national curriculum will make it easier to qualify for that?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the objectives of the national curriculum are not designed to fit in precisely with the international baccalaureate. However, the Government believe that the introduction of the curriculum will help pupils. Its broad and balanced nature, in addition to the series of tests and attainment targets and the system of testing, will tie in better, as do the GCSE examinations.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that the availability of a British-type education at a reasonable cost is an important recruiting element in obtaining suitable staff to work on the Continent in support of the Community?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the Government recognise that British-type schools provide a valuable service for British citizens working abroad. For that reason we welcome the efforts of COBISEC, a body representing the interests of 25 independent schools mainly situated within the European Community. In addition the Ministry of Defence makes special financial arrangements for the children of service personnel.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, does the noble Baroness not agree that most other nations within the European Community make special arrangements for such children? Will the Government study those arrangements to ascertain what can be done on our part?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, yes. We are looking at the problem in that context.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, for a number of years I have taught history in a school especially designed for the children of parents coming to work in this country who wish their children to study in British schools. Is it not true that this matter can best be handled by private enterprise?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, in many circumstances it is extremely well handled and well met by private enterprise.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, perhaps I am right in concluding from the answer which the noble Baroness gave to my question that the national curriculum will make it more difficult for pupils to take the international baccalaureate. That is a straight question; perhaps I can have a straight answer.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I am sorry if my reply gave cause for confusion. My intention was to say that the national curriculum should make it easier to comply with the requirements of the international baccalaureate.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, can the Minister say whether it is likely in the not too distant future, when the subject is discussed with thoroughness, that the British professional education organisations will be consulted for their assistance and advice?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, yes indeed. All interested parties will be consulted and listened to.

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