HL Deb 26 April 1988 vol 496 cc116-8

2.47 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What effects or consequences they foresee for Scotland of the national curriculum proposed for England and Wales in the Education Reform Bill.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sanderson of Bowden)

My Lords, the national curriculum proposed in the Education Reform Bill applies only to England and Wales. The Government's proposals for curricular reform in Scotland are contained in the consultation paper Curriculum and Assessment in Scotland: a Policy for the 90s, issued by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on 19th November 1987. A copy of this document has been placed in the Library of the House.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. As Scotland has for some time been moving towards a standard curriculum, and as the Education Reform Bill does not apply to schools in Scotland, are the Government aware how confusing the term "national curriculum" is to the members of the public in Scotland?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, I take due note of what my noble friend says on that matter. The fundamental purpose of our reforms is the same. We in Scotland will be building on the traditional strengths of Scottish education.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, does the Minister accept that I agree fully with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, who asked about the confusion that exists when we talk about the national curriculum? Is he also aware that Scotland has for some time had its own wide national curriculum for secondary education which leads to the SEC examinations, embracing English, arithmetic, a language and social studies, and that in primary education we have had our own curriculum since 1965? The strength of Scottish education, as I think the Minister hinted, is due to its breadth, which we certainly would not want to change.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I agree entirely with what he said. We have gone a long way in secondary education. Our study deals with the primary area. We have brought forward a consultation document, and we look forward to the responses.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of us in the House have had correspondence from Scottish local authorities and Scottish professional educational associations? Before any change to the constitution is made, do the Government intend that there will be discussions with Scottish representatives in both Houses, Scottish local authorities and Scottish professional associations?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, a consultation document has been issued. An analysis of the responses is taking place at the moment. At the appropriate time my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will come forward with proposals.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, what coordination, if any, is proposed between authorities in England and Wales and the Scottish Consultative Committee on the Curriculum (CCC), which recently issued that document to ensure that curricula north of the Border are on the same lines as those south of the Border?

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for raising that point. We are looking closely at what is proposed for England and Wales. If I may give an example, the Gallic and Welsh languages is one area at which we are looking most closely in order to see what is happening in Wales and what we should be doing in Scotland in that connection. As the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael said, the situation is different north of the Border. Our consultation document differs in many respects from what is proposed in England and Wales.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, may I add my congratulations, and I imagine those of many people, to the Minister on handling this matter much more sensibly than his counterparts in England?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is perhaps some scope for us in Scotland to learn from the discussions on the English so-called national curriculum? Is he aware that the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum has recommended that it should be possible for pupils to drop all foreign languages after two years in secondary schools in Scotland? That conflicts with aspirations of the national curriculum for England and Wales and its response to the coming single European market. Ministers may feel inclined not to accept the recommendation in view of the considerations south of the Border.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, in answer to my noble friend's first point, yes, we are always prepared to learn from those south of the Border if the point is worth learning. On the question of foreign languages, yes, indeed, my right honourable friend is well aware of that difference. We can offer two languages for the first two years of secondary education. That is the difference between north and south of the Border. My right honourable friend is currently considering a further decision paper from the Consultative Committee on the Curriculum.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, with reference to what my noble friend said, is he aware that I support the fact that the curriculum work north of the Border is being done separately and is different because I was the Secretary of State who started it? Is he also aware that it is important to have coordination because of the families who have to move due to the mobility needed for industry and business and the service families who move to RAF stations or barracks? If children of such families find themselves with a completely new system it is most disruptive to their education.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that remark. We will take that matter into account. With regard to testing we are looking closely at the dates for testing in primary education in Scotland. The age is slightly different from what is proposed in England. There is the 14-year-old test in England which we do not propose to have in Scotland. We already have the standard grade at 16.