HL Deb 07 July 1988 vol 499 cc420-54

4.58 p.m.

Proceedings after Third Reading resumed.

Clause 3 [Foundation subjects and key stages]: [Amendment No. 2 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Morton of Shuna moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 34, leave out ("specified in an order of the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment leaves out in the specification of foundation subjects, in particular of a modern foreign language, the words: specified in an order of the Secretary of State". In the Bill the Secretary of State has to choose and specify which modern languages may be taught as foundation subjects. The point of the amendment is to leave that out so that local education authorities can teach any modern foreign language that they consider appropriate.

There are two issues here. The first is the range of choices of modern foreign languages and the other is the question of what could be called in a sense "community languages," in that one has to deal with people who speak a modern foreign language at their home and, in a sense, English is a modern foreign language for them.

On Report, the noble Baroness said: it would be wrong for me to prejudge which languages might be taught as the modern foreign language foundation subject before we have undertaken consultation and sought advice from the proposed National Curriculum Council. In the meantime, no modern foreign languages are ruled out".—[Official Report, 21/6/88; col. 741.] She added: The list of foreign languages which will be issued in the order will, I believe, be susceptible to regional variations and it will be a very comprehensive list".—[Official Report, 21/6/88; col. 742.]

On the question of regional variations, when the noble Baroness comes to answer perhaps she will explain why it may be appropriate, for example, to teach French in Bradford but not in Essex or wherever it may be, and what is meant by regional variations to allow one language to be taught in one region and not in another. It is a matter which I find difficult to comprehend but it is perhaps a fairly minor matter.

The main problem is that however comprehensive the list may be, if the Government are willing to include community languages then the range is enormous. The Swann Report entitled Education for All of March 1985 discovered that in Bradford some 14,000 children spoke at home between them some 64 languages other than English, and in Haringey roughly 7,500 pupils spoke between them a total of 87 languages other than English. Therefore, the question obviously becomes one of what is conveniently suitable for the school or for the local education authority.

It seems to us on this side of the House that there is no need for specification by the Secretary of State because no school would be teaching a modern foreign language if it did not have the teachers, the course and probably the examination syllabus to tackle that language. Therefore, it is unnecessarily restrictive that there should be this specification of what the Secretary of State may consider to be the appropriate foreign languages to be taught. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I express my support for this amendment, partly because it would remove one element of prescription by the Secretary of State, and we have so many. It would remove one prescription which seems to me quite unnecessary and undesirable for the reasons already outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna.

I believe that in the inner London area the number of community languages spoken is around 170. Is the Secretary of State really going to specify all those languages? Is it not going to be possible for any given language to be taught unless he has specified it? The problem could be easily solved simply by leaving out the words suggested in the amendment. I support the amendment.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I too support this amendment. I agree with what was said earlier by my noble friend Lord Baldwin that the Secretary of State is giving himself too much power in directing what shall be taught and what shall not be taught.

This is a matter for the headmaster who is on the spot. He knows what languages are desirable and what are not for particular pupils—not the Secretary of State who is sitting in his office in Whitehall. The man on the spot should decide. It is entirely inappropriate for such decisions to be within the power of the Secretary of State.

Incidentally, I express the hope that the vast majority of the young who are learning foreign languages will first learn to speak their own language properly.

Earl Russell

My Lords, this clause seems to be part of what I have described on other occasions as the notion of a planned economy of learning, a control over local initiative. It is an excessive discouragement to local initiative. As the Bill stands, if I understand it correctly, if the Secretary of State should fail to specify a specific language, he has in effect killed that language.

I make no imputation against the Secretary of State. I do not think he has any wish to go round killing languages, but there are many languages which he may on occasion not get round to specifying. I take an example which happens to be within my recent memory. I have a pupil who is by birth half Finnish and who has a great desire to maintain her own language. It is possible that, with the best will in the world, the Secretary of State might happen to forget to specify the Finnish language. She would then be doing something illegal and that seems to be altogether unnecessary.

These points have been made by others as well as myself. I should like to quote from a document that I believe other noble Lords have also received. I shall be interested to see how long it is before any noble Lord recognises the source from which I am quoting.

The document states: In sharp contrast to the Tory emphasis on freedom, choice and decentralisation in these parts of the Bill, the clauses on what is to be taught follow an almost socialist line and give power to the DES undreamed of until now. In particular we would find it intolerably prescriptive for boys between 14 and 16 who would have less opportunity to study the foreign languages and the sciences which the Government rightly wishes to encourage. I hope that by the time you read these words, the Bill will have been amended to allow some sensible flexibility". Those are the words of the headmaster of Eton, writing the foreword to the annual newsletter of the Old Etonian Association. It is not often that I have the pleasure of sporting my old school tie in support of my party loyalty, but today I do.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, there is a point on this amendment which has not yet been mentioned. There are a number of children who speak a language other than English at home and learn English as a second language. The time when it is easiest for them to learn English is when their own language development is taking place, when they are young in junior school. I understand from those who teach languages to young children that English is best taught at the same time as they are being taught the basics and proper grammar of their own language so that the two languages develop together.

If the Secretary of State does not specify all the languages that small children learn at home, and speak at home, a number of them will be hampered in their learning of English. Consequently, it will be more difficult for them as they go up the school and in life generally thereafter. Therefore, I believe that this amendment has a lot to be said for it.

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

My Lords, I understand the desire for choice and diversity. The Government too believe that there should be a variety of modern foreign languages on offer to secondary pupils both for their own benefit and to improve the country's range of language expertise. We have made our intentions clear in the policy statement on modern languages in the school curriculum which we published earlier this year. That is also why we have not specified one or two particular languages as the modern foreign language foundation subject in the Bill itself.

This amendment would go too far. Schools would be able to offer any language, however obscure, in fulfilment of this part of the national curriculum, regardless of whether it would be useful to pupils in their adult life or formed a good basis for further language learning. I believe we would be doing children a disservice if, having required them to study a modern foreign language for the first five years of their secondary schooling, we did not build in certain safeguards about which languages they should study. I also feel sure that secondary schools themselves would welcome a firm indication of which languages they should teach as a first foreign language to pupils. They will still of course be free to decide which of the languages specified in the order they teach as a first language and also which languages they offer as second foreign languages in the sixth form or at an earlier stage.

That said, I stress that no final decision has been taken on which languages should be specified in the order. There are clearly educational advantages in requiring children to have the experience and discipline of learning a language which is neither the national language nor their mother tongue and which will be of value to them in adult life and employment. But this is a framework Bill and the detail is a matter for further consideration. I repeat that no modern foreign languages have yet been ruled out.

The first requirement will be that a modern foreign language should be taught "for a reasonable time" before any attainment targets or programmes of study are specified. My right honourable friend has no wish to make it difficult for schools to meet that requirement, and he is likely to take a fairly liberal view of what languages should qualify so as to reflect existing practice in schools.

The noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, specifically asked what I meant by regional variations. Existing practice must be one of them. It could be the supply of teachers in a particular language. Indeed, it may be the effect of the predominance of certain community languages. However, the intention is to allow local education authorities to decide which foreign languages should be taught in their schools and they then have to make sure that they have the appropriately qualified teachers. We want diversification of the first foreign language, not every school teaching French.

I have listened carefully to your Lordships' arguments about which languages should be included and we shall give them full consideration before coming forward with our further proposals. As I said, we also intend to undertake consultations and seek advice from the National Curriculum Council on this matter. Should your Lordships think that the list of languages is unduly restrictive or that the wrong languages are being specified when the order is made under Clause 3(2)(6), your Lordships will be able to pray against the order under the negative resolution procedure. I hope that with this reassurance noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendment.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, did the noble Baroness say that if this amendment was carried languages would be taught almost willy-nilly and that head teachers would introduce languages that did not matter or did not have to be taught? I do not think that it was intended, but I took it to be an insult to head teachers to suggest that they would teach languages whether or not they were relevant.

I find that proposition difficult to accept. I live and operate in the London area. I know the difficulties experienced by head teachers in deciding which languages to teach out of the scores of languages that exist in the Greater London area. I should have thought that the noble Baroness would welcome this amendment. It would introduce the flexibility that is absolutely essential if heads are going to meet modern conditions in the inner city areas.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, with the leave of the House, that is why we feel that this is an important topic that requires further consideration and consultation.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, that would seem to be the perfect reason why there would be no need for specification. You must trust somebody somewhere. The idea that the Secretary of State might inadvertently omit something from his schedule that he would otherwise specify seems to me to be terrible.

I am surprised to hear the Minister put forward the idea that one should teach a language that is foreign both to the language spoken at home and to the language spoken in the school. That puts a much heavier burden on those who at home speak a language which is different from the language they are taught at school than on those who only speak English. I am sure that it was not intentional, but that is the effect of what the noble Baroness said. If there are those who naturally speak Chinese or Greek at home and there are sufficient numbers of people in the area to teach that language at school as the foreign language, why should that not be done? Why should they have to learn a different language?

I should have thought that parents, in the kind of exotic situation suggested by the Minister of teaching a language that was going to be of no use, would be able to operate under Clause 21 of this Bill very easily. I cannot see schools in Bradford teaching Eskimo languages. In the circumstances, and not wishing to delay the progress of the Bill, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

Clause 4 [Duty to establish the National Curriculum by order]:

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 4: Page 3, line 42. after ("subjects") insert ("other than art, music and physical education").

The noble Lord, said: My Lords, with permission I will speak to Amendment No. 4 and also Amendment No. 5. I put forward this amendment in the hope of a sympathetic response from the Government because it follows on from what Ministers have already said.

Essentially this amendment concerns the degree and detail of prescription of attainment targets and programmes of study. The amendment as it stands differentiates between core subjects where there will be very detailed prescription of programmes and attainment targets. We approve of that because that is the spirit of the view that we put forward—that we ought to have concentrated on the core subjects in the first place.

The second level refers to what should always be referred to as the other foundation subjects, except for three. There, one has a medium level of detailed programmes and attainment targets. I assume that one of the purposes of the medium level is to emphasise the point that within that area in particular cross-curricular study will be possible and highly desirable. The noble Baroness has certainly said something to that effect. Level three applies specifically as it stands to music, art and physical education, where, for perfectly obvious reasons, it is impossible to write such detailed programmes.

The amendment seems to correspond precisely with what the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said when she distinguished those subjects and reassured your Lordships that that degree of difference in detail and degree of prescription would he possible within the Bill. It is our view that Ministers are being extremely sensible in taking that point of view and in responding to the wishes of noble Lords who have spoken on these matters. However, it is our view that this is precisely the kind of matter that ought to appear on the face of the Bill because it is not something which should be left to chance or subsequent arbitrary decision. It should be in the Bill at this point in time.

I should like to make another point on a related theme. The Bill refers to music and art, but I take it from comments that Ministers have made that it would be right to interpret music and art in a very broad sense to include "the arts". In other words, there is no intention that related arts of a dramatic kind would be left out. That is not central to the amendment but I use this opportunity to ask for some reassurance on that point.

What is being said here is very much within the spirit of the Bill. It is certainly within the spirit of the debates that have taken place and I believe that it is within the spirit of what the noble Baroness has herself said. I simply press the Government to say that this is an amendment which they ought to accept. I beg to move.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I should like to support the last point very strongly. There is great confusion in the arts world as to what the Government mean by art. I hope that they mean the arts, which include, drama, dance, crafts and architecture. I should like to know what they mean by the arts. If they do not know, they ought to.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I rise to support this amendment. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that with regard to the core subjects, the three Rs and science, a high degree of prescription is appropriate. It may be that in a few years' time if we have this, there will be less general semi-literacy in the country, which is one of the problems worrying the Government. With regard to the other foundation subjects, I am still worried about the compatibility between what is said here and what was said in 1986. I laboured this point at an earlier stage of the Bill. I will not take longer than I have to now. At the earlier stage it could have been four o'clock in the morning, but I cannot remember.

The 1986 Act says that it is the duty of every local education authority to determine and keep under review their policy in relation to the secular curriculum. It is also their duty to consider the range of the secular curriculum and the balance between its different components. It is then the duty of the governing body to consider the policy of the local education authority, to decide what their aims are and how that policy should be modified for the particular school for which they are responsible. Finally, it is the duty of the head teacher of every school to see that the curriculum authority is implemented. I cannot see how all of that is compatible with the Secretary of State's national curriculum.

I asked the Minister to write to me on this point and she was kind enough to do so. Indeed she made some valid points. She said that the local education authorities would remain responsible for those subjects which were outside the national curriculum and for sixth-form work. But I still do not see how they can determine a curriculum policy in which the attainment targets and programmes of study have already been specified by the Secretary of State. It does not seem to me to be compatible.

I have had no representations from local education authorities on this subject. I have done all the thinking myself, but I feel sure that they must he thinking on these lines. If we had an amendment such as the present one which described more clearly how far the specification of the Secretary of State went and how in the other foundation subjects it was less specific and merely referred to guidelines with art, music and PE, it would be much clearer and would be closer to being compatible with existing legislation. Otherwise it seems to me that local authorities will be in a terrible muddle as to what will be expected and required of them by the law.

I should like to add more generally that it is kind to the teachers. We are in all this dependent on our teachers. If you say to a teacher, "You will do this. You will not do that, and you will aim at such and such", you will gradually remove from him all creative and inventive incentive. The joy of teaching, if you are a teacher, is to be able to be creative and inventive. If you remove all that by telling him exactly what he has to teach by being too prescriptive, you take the pleasure out of it and we shall not have any good teachers, because the creative ones are the good teachers.

We have just been talking about languages. If the Secretary of State is going to produce an immense list of all the languages that may be taught, how is he to prescribe programmes of study and attainment targets for each one of 30, 40, 50, 170 languages? It does not seem to make sense. This amendment, or something close to it, would make things much clearer and would give our teachers, on whom we are totally dependent, a much happier future.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I should like to say a few words with regard to music alone, and I am speaking only about individual teaching of music. It is very difficult indeed for anybody who is not a musician to assess the progress of any particular pupil. In fact it is difficult for anybody except the pupil's teacher himself or herself.

We have the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music grading examinations which are practically universally used not only throughout the country but abroad as well. They have always proved to be completely satisfactory. I cannot see why they should not still be adhered to and used. I cannot think that any interference with that method of grading would do any good whatsoever.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, these amendments are a recipe for a three-tier national curriculum. They seek to set out in statute what we have repeatedly said is intended to happen; that attainment targets and programmes of study for the core subjects will be set out more fully than those for other foundation subjects, and that in the case of music, art and PE what is provided will amount to very broad guidelines. But these distinctions do not transfer happily into statute.

As I understand it, the amendment would, for example, allow the Secretary of State to prescribe detailed programmes of study for maths, science and English, so where is the flexibility that has been asked for there? What we intend for all subjects is a framework within which there will be considerable freedom for teachers to develop their own syllabuses, and I would hesitate to describe the programmes of study as "detailed" in any subject without that important qualification. And yet those who have argued equally strongly for the maximum professional freedom for teachers are happy to write these words onto the face of the Bill. I believe this proves at the very least that "detailed" does not have a generally accepted meaning in this context, and the same is true of the other words used—one man's "outline" is no doubt another man's "guideline".

Secondly, we feel that these amendments are unnecessary. We have set up statutory processes of consultation so that what is proposed in respect of each core and other foundation subject will be debated fully and openly. It is at that stage that the degree of detail of any attainment target or programme of study can be considered very carefully in the light of the views of those concerned, and this will allow us to make sure that what is prescribed is appropriate in each case. There is no danger of the present legal framework not allowing adequate flexibility—subject to the consultation process—because the Secretary of State can make orders which contain such attainment targets and other provisions "as he considers appropriate", and this will cover almost the full range of that which the proposers of this amendment envisage.

But the flexibility built into the Bill is not quite as great as that in the amendment, and this is in fact my third reason for rejecting it. The amendment envisages that, at whatever degree of generality, what is prescribed for music, art and PE should not be binding on schools. Now we are prepared to accept that for many reasons—the wide variations in pupils' aptitudes, the availability of certain specialist resources, the preservation of existing centres of excellence and the importance of regional and cultural factors—it would be right to give maximum freedom in these three subjects. But we do not want to cut them off from the other foundation subjects as a third tier of subjects, relegated to the status of a footnote in the national curriculum. Art, music and PE are part of our plans for the national curriculum, and we want that to be clearly seen in the Bill.

Since so much concern has been expressed on these subjects I shall go further and say that music and art are named as foundation subjects because we intend that, at the primary stages and in the early stages of secondary school, pupils should be enabled to build on any artistic or musical talent and at the least have a better appreciation of these subjects. However, in the later secondary years, while some pupils may be taking GCSE in one or more of the expressive arts subjects, we intend that the majority will follow a broadly-based arts course that will embrace all the arts subjects including of course dance. For these reasons, which I believe are compelling, I trust that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendment.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. I particularly liked the thought that one man's outline is another man's guideline. If you added "Discuss" it would make an admirable examination question, but since we are anxious to proceed I shall not work on it tonight. I am disappointed. I believe that there will come a day not long hence when the department and whoever is the Secretary of State will wish that they had written these precise amendments into the Bill, but that is by the way.

May I say, in order not to be misunderstood, that although I believe in great freedom and flexibility I do not believe in great freedom and flexibility when it comes to the core. One of the reasons why I was enthusiastic about a "well-defined and compulsory core" is that I want the attainment targets set very definitely, and I want the attainment targets attained. I hope that there is no moving back on the Government's side from that view at least on the core, because that is certainly my view. Having got that on the record, I shall not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

5.30 p.m.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 6: Page 4, line I, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (3A) below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with permission, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 7. These amendments follow upon discussions arising from confusion among many noble Lords about a number of matters to do with the use of available time. Our concern is that the demands of the national curriculum will crowd out other desirable educational activities. The wording of the Bill and all that we have heard, in addition to the fact that the Government cannot quite agree on what share of the school day, week or year will be taken up by the national curriculum, give us cause for a modicum of worry, if not alarm.

If one looks at the way the programmes of study will be set out, there seems to be no mechanism for guaranteeing that they will be co-ordinated in terms of the use of time. Almost everybody who has experience of teaching—certainly at the higher level where I and my colleagues have experience—wants a share of the available time. When one adds up all those shares the total always comes to more than 100 per cent. Our real worry is that this will happen in respect of the programmes of study, especially if they are unco-ordinated.

The related worry in respect of use of time concerns teacher freedom. If we are moving away from the core, one asks how much freedom is left. I have made the point that the core must be regarded as primary, but it should not to a degree that leaves no room for anything else. We are looking for some clarification of exactly what is supposed to happen. I am fairly certain from statements made by the noble Baroness that the Government are aware of the problem. What concerns me is whether the Government have any ideas on the solution.

Finally, I am bound to return to the compatibility of the curriculum with GCSE and TVEI. I am not persuaded that the national curriculum and the other parts fit together easily as the Government say they do. As one ends up with a certificate in the case of GCSE, I am convinced that it will crowd out everything else unless something

I have made a number of disparate points. I make no apology. On a day like this one has to bring as many points into a single amendment as one can. However, one is looking for some reassurance and clarification. I beg to move.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, there is a recurrent fear that the national curriculum will absorb all the time in the timetable; and for a particular reason. Governing bodies, head teachers, teachers, parents and children will all say and think that the only thing that matters is the national curriculum and that they cannot be bothered with anything else. I know what children are like. The children themselves say this, especially when they get into their teens. One must bear in mind that a school's reputation, a head teacher's reputation, a teacher's reputation, and so on, are all related to the results of these assessments, which will take the children up to the age of 14.

After that they will be preoccupied entirely with public examinations—the GCSE, TVEI and so on—and in this respect the position is rather reversed. The national curriculum subjects will threaten to interfere with the subjects which children are taking for GCSE. As I said on a previous occasion, a scientifically minded boy who is taking maths, chemistry, biology, physics, CDT, English language and English literature does not have the time or energy left to give his thoughts to history or geography or to pay lip service to music or art whatever that may mean at this stage—or PE. It does not make sense. One hopes that the amendment will do something to resolve this difficulty through the intervention, if necessary, of the Secretary of State.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, these amendments look very much like an attempt to give the Secretary of State more central control over the school timetable—a power we have never wanted and which, in response to Opposition pressure in another place, we have expressly ruled out in Clause 4 of the Bill. I am amazed that after hearing so much about the need to give teachers a free hand, to trust their professional judgment and to allow head teachers to use their powers to organise the curriculum, one now hears in effect that teachers will not use the flexibility built into our orders in a sensible way.

Some signal about the minimum amount of time the Secretary of State would expect pupils in general to spend on particular national curriculum subjects is important. It will influence what is said to the subject working groups and will be reflected in the attainment targets and programmes of study which are proposed for each subject on which there will be full consultation. The overall intention that in years four and five of secondary school, in respect of which I realise considerable anxiety has been expressed, the national curriculum may take up only 70 per cent. of the curriculum if schools so choose, is already well understood. There will be many legitimate reasons for national curriculum subjects occupying individual pupils for different amounts of time. If the pupil has particular problems with English, or perhaps wishes to specialise in science, his timetable will have to reflect that. The proportion of time overall to be taken up with these subjects will be a matter for the head teacher and the governors who will bear in mind the need to offer the choices that pupils and parents value, including those offered within the TVEI programme, as well as the need for worthwhile study in the core and other foundation subjects.

We have not been silent on the topic of time allocations. We recognise the need to ensure that the national curriculum is deliverable with the flexibility we want within the time available. But we shall not seek to put any formal limit on teachers' and schools' discretion in this area. That promise has been widely welcomed by teachers. They were reassured when it was written into the Bill. I believe that teachers would not thank your Lordships for weakening the position, and I hope that the amendments will readily be withdrawn.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. There is a slight difference of view as to what the teachers believe in this matter; but I shall not pursue that. My point was not that teachers would willy-nilly create problems or be the source of difficulty. I say that outside pressures will be the cause of problems and difficulties and that teachers will feel obliged to respond to them, particularly along the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie.

I am willing to accept that there are two views on this matter. I am also willing to accept that the Bill is highly experimental in what it proposes. We shall all survive to see the outcome. I am confident of the outcome I predict because that has been the outcome of similar pressures in our schools in the past. As a classic example, I merely refer to the effect of A-levels on narrowing the curriculum. The noble Baroness and even I are young enough to wait to see what the outcome will be. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

Clause 6 [Collective worship]:

The Earl of Halsbury moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, line 40. at end insert ("or of different faiths").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment is a curtain-raiser for a large group of amendments the heartland being those to which the right reverend Prelate has lent his name and which he will be moving in due course. For that reason, in order to maximise his freedom of manoeuvre, I shall not make a long speech. It may be a convenient moment now to add that I shall not be moving Amendment No. 14 on advice that it would be controversial, time consuming and not really appropriate for Third Reading. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I very much appreciate the invitation from the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and I am glad to be able to accept. I shall, if I may, first present my case and then speak specifically to the amendment tabled in the noble Earl's name. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 10 to 13, 18, 19, 20 and 21. I fear that I shall take a little time but I think that what I have to say falls within the categories of what is proper for Third Reading, as we were reminded by the noble Lord the Chief Whip earlier today.

The first amendment I propose will provide for the omission of Clause 6(3). That clause is, I admit, an over-simple formulation of what we intended to achieve and on which the original consultations were based. The purpose of that formulation was to legitimise good practice in school worship, while at the same time excluding over-easy options which do not solve the problems but, in fact, ignore them.

The latest amendments seek to set out in terms which have legal force and meaning the main elements of that earlier formulation. I should like here to acknowledge the great help that I have received from the Secretary of State, the Minister, the officials of the department and the parliamentary draftsman, because these amendments are very much a product of combined thinking.

Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that this is not the whole package; it is but part of the package. I shall not rehearse the other parts because it would be quite improper to do so on Third Reading. I simply remind the House of the parts we have already accepted and ask noble Lords to remember that what I now propose is in the context of those earlier amendments.

The spirit behind the whole package of the amendments is well summed up in a phrase from Amendment No. 15 tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, which reads: to ensure that religious education, Christian or otherwise, shall promote respect, understanding and tolerance for those who adhere to other faiths". I am glad to be able to say that I understand that the substance of what the amendment says will be included in a circular to be issued by the department. I hope that the Minister will confirm that when she speaks to this amendment.

The intention behind the new amendments is the avoidance of damaging divisions within a school and its surrounding community. Differences of worship within a community need not divide a community; but they can do so, if, on the one hand, they are over-emphasised or, on the other other hand, suppressed or ignored. Sometimes the maintenance of harmony within a multi-faith school will be best achieved by expression of the differences that exist through provision for different forms of worship. There will also be occasions where common expression of common concerns and interests should be sought.

However, the decision as to which approach is right in any given situation is a decision which must be taken at a level close to the situation itself. That is why legislation must provide an appropriately broad framework of principles with a mechanism for flexible local application of those principles. Clause 6(3) was intended to set the framework and Clause 10(2)(a) the local mechanism. Both elements are retained in the new amendments but in ways which I am assured are now sufficiently precise in legal terms to be effective, which the earlier versions were not.

Our original agreed formulation in Clause 6(3)(a) required that in the main collective worship should reflect the broad traditions of Christian belief. Packed into the phrase "in the main" were three quite separate meanings. First, it meant that the norm in the country as a whole would be of this character and the great majority of schools would be bound by that requirement. Secondly, it meant that in the provision in any given school the norm would be of this character and most acts of collective worship would be bound by the requirement. Thirdly, it meant that the normal individual act of worship would itself, in the main, reflect the broad traditions of Christian belief. Those three meanings are kept separate in a new clause which is to follow Clause 6. Subsections (1) and (2) establish the required norm for all three meanings. They also establish, which was not previously clear, that an act of worship may be wholly Christian. That required norm applies to all county schools unless it is formally waived under the arrangements set out in subsection (6).

In all schools which are bound by the overall requirement, the flexibility in the overall pattern of provision of worship implied by "in the main" is allowed for in subsections (3) and (4)(a); namely, that on some occasions an act which is not broadly Christian would be permissible. Some flexibility in the content of individual acts of worship is allowed for in subsections (4)(b) and (4)(c).

Subsection (5) indicates the criteria which will govern the extent of the departure, if any, from the norm, the whole process being under the general guidance of the local standing advisory council, as indicated in Clause 10(1) of the Bill. But as well as this general guidance which the standing advisory council will be giving regarding normal situations, it will have a quite specific role in relation to any exceptional waiving of the mainly Christian requirement affecting a whole school or a distinctive part of one. That role is fully set out in our new clause to follow Clause 10 and it includes in subsection (9) the part played by parents in the process.

It is important to emphasise that it is open to a standing advisory council to decide on the waiving of the mainly Christian requirement not only in terms of a whole school, but also in terms of a relatively small part of the school or a relatively large part. For example, to illustrate the latter case, if a county school with, say, 90 per cent. Moslem pupils and 10 per cent. Christian pupils applied to the standing advisory council under the new clause, it would be open to the council to grant the application in terms of that 90 per cent. only, leaving the provision for the 10 per cent. of Christian pupils still under the requirements of subsections (1) and (2) of the new clause following Clause 6 as well as of Clause 6 itself. I hope I have made that clear and that I have not confused your Lordships by the references to clauses. However, I think that the substance of what I have said is clear.

What I have described so far refers to what is to be written on the face of the Bill. There will also be the possibility of informal arrangements made within a school to accommodate the wishes of those parents who feel it necessary to withdraw their children from the collective worship of the school. I am referring to the kind of situation mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, in an earlier debate. He asked whether those arrangements would still be possible under our amendments. I can assure him again that they will be possible in an informal way. There is nothing in either the original amendments, or the new ones,to prevent such arrangements being made.

Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of what we have been trying to achieve. There was general agreement in Committee that the provisions were inadequate both from the Christian standpoint and that of other faiths now represented in our nation. It was accepted that whatever amendments were made they would need to have the goodwill, if not the support, of all who are concerned in our education system; namely, governing bodies, local authorities, teachers, parents, the Churches and representatives of other faiths. To that end, I undertook to have consultations with all involved, and that was done. As a result, I put forward my amendments on Report. While it was then accepted that they went a long way towards providing a satisfactory solution, time had not been on our side and, as I have said, those amendments needed clarification and further amendment to ensure that they would be legally effective. Working out the present amendments, I have had to bear in mind the need, on the one hand, to achieve that end, and, on the other, not to agree to amend the provisions in such a way that I should be breaking faith with those whom I have consulted, thus losing their confidence.

Throughout the process of wrestling with the amendments we have tried to uphold five main principles. We have sought to provide a framework for worship which, first, maintains the tradition of worship as part of the process of education, giving proper place to the Christian religion; secondly, maintains the contribution of the collective act of worship to the establishment of values within the school community; yet, thirdly, does not impose inappropriate forms of worship on certain groups of pupils; fourthly, does not break the school up into communities based on the various faiths of the parents, especially in that it makes some groups feel that they are not really part of the community being educated in the school; and, lastly, is realisable and workable in practical terms of school accommodation and organisation.

Those five principles underlay our original consultations. Even though the words of these latest amendments may seem a long way from the original. simple formulation of Clause 6(3)(a), I can assure everyone concerned that the same five principles are still the foundation on which they have been built. In our judgment, they provide for those principles now to be implemented.

I hope that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, will appreciate from what I have said that I cannot accept his amendment. It would alter the basic position in all our schools, and I could not agree to it without further consultations for which, as he will appreciate, there is not time. I hope therefore that he will accept that this is a good and workable package which secures the aims which we originally set out to achieve and will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I shall not speak for more than three minutes because the last thing that your Lordships want is another long debate on religion in schools. All I wish to do is to say thank you to all who have worked so hard to achieve the results which seemed impossible as recently as a few weeks ago and to clarify the position, as I see it now. In saying thank you, I must first and foremost thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and congratulate him on his immense efforts in negotiating so many complex issues with so many people representing such diverse interests to achieve a situation which I believe should satisfy Christians and those of other faiths. I also wish to thank the many other people inside and outside your Lordships' House who have worked so hard. I shall not say "tirelessly" because I suspect that many are exhausted. They are too numerous to name in the compass of three minutes, but they too deserve congratulations on all that has been achieved.

What has been achieved is historic. There is now explicit recognition on the face of the Bill of the expectations that religious education and worship should, in the main, be Christian, thus enshrining Christianity as the main spiritual tradition of this country and providing young people with opportunities to learn about Christianity and to experience Christian worship, opportunities which have too often been denied to many of them in recent years. There is also enshrined a respect for the other major faiths and opportunites for those of other faith communities to teach and to worship according to those faiths if parents request that and teachers find it feasible. That provision for other faiths is also historic and is warmly to be welcomed.

The provisions contained in the amendments tabled by the right reverend Prelate may not seem to be crystal clear on the face of Bill. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give an assurance that there will be a circular from the DES which will make clear to parents and teachers the rights and opportunities, as they have been explained to us by the right reverend Prelate this afternoon.

As I conclude, perhaps I may say that my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft wishes to be associated with all that I have just said. We believe that the amendments with which we are associated are not now necessary. We also hope that the amendments in the name of the right reverend Prelate, and the associated amendments in the name of my noble friend the Minister, will receive the support of your Lordships because they provide a framework within which Christians, and those of other faiths who are concerned about religion in schools, will be able to develop education and worship according to the integrity of their faith.

However, the making of the law is only the beginning. It can provide the opportunities. It will then be up to teachers, parents and the relevant authorities to ensure that the law is interpreted and applied in ways which will give our young people the spiritual education which is our heritage and their birthright. If that can be ensured, the Bill will prove historic indeed, not just in its provisions but in its effects, in matters which those of all faiths see as of ultimate importance.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, we from this Front Bench support the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate and congratulate him on achieving what I would regard as an almost impossible task of realising, in the main, a consensus. On this issue of course we would not apply any Whip. Members of the party to which I belong will be free to vote in any way that they wish. However, the Front Bench retains one or two worries about the provision of collective worship and religious education as set out in the Bill. The first is fairly straightforward. Why have the Government changed their attitude during the Bill's progress through Parliament? In another place the Government's attitude, as I understand it, was that the 1944 Act needed no amendment. Perhaps we may have some indication of why there was that change.

My second point is that we doubt whether the facilities are available, especially the trained teachers of religious education, to make this provision in any way a reality. Without having effective training facilities and properly trained teachers of religious education. We can pass as many laws as we like, but they will not happen.

The third point is that we hope that these provisions will do nothing to damage the furtherance of a collective community spirit in any school. The collective act of gathering all pupils together is most important to create and foster a spirit of tolerance and community, recognising the values of people of different colours and faiths. It would be unfortunate if the effect of the amendments was in any way to separate off people of different religions into different camps, so to speak. Speaking as one who was brought up in a city in the West of Scotland, I can perhaps say that I know something of the dangers that can arise from that type of competition.

I wish to end by quoting from an excellent—in the sense that I totally agree with it—letter from Sir Hermann Bondi which appeared in The Times on the 4th of this month in which he said: Democracy involves respect for minorities no less than rule by majority. Could it be made explicitly clear, in the Bill or at least in DES guidance, that the teaching given in Christianity must be such that it in no way brands non-Christians as inferior, misguided or followers of untruths, for otherwise it creates undesirable tensions and conflicts in the minority chiildren and, even worse, intolerance in the majority children".

6 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, perhaps I may say that I have always regarded a government who are prepared to change their mind as a result of discussion in Parliament as a model to be followed by all parties. On this occasion an effort which started as a Christian denominational effort has finished up as an inter-faith effort to secure the individuality and respect of all religions. I hope it is recognised in the minority faiths that for the first time there is a statutory route to the provision within our schools, not by withdrawal, for religious worship in their faith and that that will add to the cohesion not only of the school community but of the community of which the school is part and in which it operates.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, that it places a great obligation on the Churches and on all the faiths. They now have the responsibility in the SACRE to develop the agreed syllabuses and the provisions for worship. They will be responsible for that to their flocks. It is also the responsibility of the Churches to encourage young people to come forward and teach in the schools and of the training colleges to train those teachers to do it. I am delighted with these amendments, to the extent that I put my name upon them. It is not therefore necessary for me to speak further.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, I too support the amendment before us. What has been done in the amendment as it is now is to clarify much of the misunderstanding that has arisen while we have been debating this subject. My own denomination and the Free Churches to which I belong welcome and support the amendment. Since it was printed I have had consultations with the leaders in our Church and they support it completely.

We are indebted, as I am sure are the majority of the Members of this House, to the work of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London in getting the amendment drawn up as it is. I wish to congratulate those who have supported him and I hope that the House—and I say this most sincerely—passes the amendment unanimously.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, since my name is down on Amendment No. 9, perhaps I may pay a tribute very briefly to my noble friends Lady Cox and Lord Elton. They have played a very important part in the development of these matters behind the scenes and have greatly assisted the right reverend Prelate in his arduous duties. It is right that your Lordships should know that that is the position. I wish to be associated with everything they have said.

Furthermore, it is now common ground between the Government, those who support Amendment No. 8, and Amendment No. 9 in my name and those who support the amendment of the right reverend Prelate that there should be a collective act of worship available in faiths other than the Christian faith in appropriate circumstances, with flexible local application. This is a novel and vastly important social provision which now appears on the face of the statute. It is a substantial, welcome and essential departure from the Bill as originally drafted and from the Bill as it stands unamended before your Lordships' House at Third Reading today.

I find the drafting of the amendments difficult to assimilate. My hope is that, when the department tries to make some intelligible representation for practical guidance, it will not look so much to the drafting as to the plain, simple words which the right reverend Prelate used today. Then it can look at the drafting and produce what could be helpful and authoritative guidance. It is totally right that the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education should make all appropriate determinations in this regard.

In the hope that my noble friend the Minister—and of course it is a matter for her—can give the assurance that some intelligible guidance can be produced, it would not be my intention to move Amendment No. 9. I merely wish to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his good offices in the introduction of this new dimension of collective worship, relevant to a multi-faith society.

On Amendment No. 15, to which the right reverend Prelate was good enough to refer, I reserve my position, as I intend to move it briefly for opinions and to afford a moment for discussion in your Lordships' House. It would be wrong to pre-empt it, and I reserve my position.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for the attention he has given to a point I raised in earlier debates on this matter. I am very glad to see that the formulae put before us now will make it possible for the arrangements, which I described in order to meet the problems of schools with students of different faiths, to be lawful. I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to that end.

The Duke of Norfolk

My Lords, I wish to support these amendments on collective worship in county schools in the name of the right reverend Prelate and myself as well as of the noble Lord, Lord Elton.

It is of the greatest importance that those students who are of Christian background should be introduced in school to Christian worship. But at the same time it is vital that there should be a sensitivity and consideration for the position of non-Christian religious groups. The amendments are an amplification of the earlier amendment and are in my view a surer way to achieve the two objectives I have mentioned. I welcome the way in which the Christian character of the worship is spelt out more distinctly. I welcome also the provision for certain schools to be relieved of the obligation of holding Christian worship. This meets the position of a limited number of schools where the pupils are predominantly non-Christian in background.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I have spoken so often in this House over the years in favour of Christianity that I think it would be churlish not to pay a tribute today to those—pre-eminently of course the right reverend Prelate—who have managed to persuade this House to include Christianity in the Bill. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, on this historic occasion at least. To use a phrase employed by Sir Winston Churchill during the war, may I, across the havoc of war, pay tribute to her labours? I think that without her frankly this result would not have been achieved.

This is a completely non-party matter. I believe that in years to come it will be the best thing this Government have done and one of the best things any government have done in this century. I do not mean the Bill itself, I regard it as a bad Bill, but it has a redeeming feature.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, perhaps I may follow the example of other noble Lords and speak very briefly at this final stage of the debate. I support what my noble friend Lord Elton has said in response to the noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench who asks why the Government have changed their mind on the issue. It is because they have listened to the argument in this House—yes, certainly this House. It is here that we get argument in our parliamentary system that is audible and intelligible.

Perhaps I might add a footnote to what the noble Lord has said. The great John Henry Newman once wrote, "To be human is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often". I am not encouraging the noble Baroness to change her mind again on this issue, but it is a matter for praise and encouragement rather than reproach when a government listen and alter their view.

The amendments are to a certain extent obscure. I must say that to the right reverend Prelate. They are obscure unless one is, as he is, an expert in exegesis. My noble friend Lady Cox expressed the hope that a DES circular would make everything crystal clear. Speaking as a former education Minister, I can say that it will be the first time in history that has happened. However, my noble friend is an eminent example of the Christian virtue of hope. Let us hope that hope once again triumphs over experience in this regard.

Finally, I wish to tell my noble friend that she is the heroine of this particular area. It is thanks to her unremitting efforts that these changes have been made. It is a tremendous encouragement to everybody that a single individual by dedication, devotion and persistence can bring about a major change by acting as a rallying point for others to express their views.

The task of my noble friend is only now beginning. I ask her to place herself at the head of a movement to find the teachers to take the opportunities that are provided by this Bill. That was the failure of the 1944 Act. As my noble friend Lord Eccles will know, the teachers were not forthcoming. If my noble friend can secure a supply of teachers of religious education, trained and worthy of their task, that will be her greatest achievement to date.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, I wish to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London on a considerable achievement. I also wish to take up a point about teachers made by the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Fawsley, and my noble friend on the Front Bench. When I was Secretary of State I paid great attention to this matter and I held two weekend seminars at St. George's House, Windsor. The predecessor of the right reverend Prelate attended for the whole weekend, as did Archbishop Beck, a number of eminent Free Church leaders and a great many teachers. We tried to hammer out some principles for the teaching of religion in schools.

Subsequently I talked to probably thousands of teachers throughout the country and in Scotland too. I was shocked—indeed, horrified—to discover that the majority of teachers were opposed to the teaching of religion in schools. I found whole schools where not a single teacher was prepared to teach religion. They objected to the assumptions which have to be made. One cannot teach religion unless one makes assumptions. One must assume that God is, that Christ was divine. One must assume the resurrection, the immaculate conception and other matters. I discovered that those assumptions were unacceptable to a vast number of teachers.

It is one thing to work out a formula. I, like the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Fawsley, hope that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London will provide us with an exegesis on his formula so that we can really understand it. It is one thing to work out the formula, but it will be another thing to ensure that it has any effect on the lives of our children. That cannot happen unless we have teachers who are willing, able and prepared to teach this subject.

The Bill, through the two councils funding the universities and the polytechnics, provides for contracts between the funding councils and the polytechnics and the universities to supply courses. I suggest that the Government should, immediately the Bill becomes law, discuss with the two funding councils putting out some fairly hefty contracts for the training of large numbers of teachers of religion. Unless they do that, there is no hope whatever that the marvellous, praiseworthy, considerable and historic efforts of the right reverend Prelate to work out this formula will have any effect whatever.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I wish to say one thing to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, which is simply that it was precisely because of the importance of the teachers that we took particular care in our consultations to consult them. It is with their goodwill that these amendments will go forward. I do not minimise the difficulties of which the noble Lord has spoken, but they certainly have the goodwill of the teaching profession.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Jakobovits

My Lords, as a representative of the other faiths that have been mentioned so often and indeed of a people who have been called the great non-conformists of history may I, for my part, say that when I originally read the proposed new amendments in cold print, I was greatly perplexed, confused and in part considerably worried. But, having now listened to the exegesis of the right reverend Prelate, and particularly also the interpretations given by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and others, I feel immensely relieved and indeed encouraged.

Perhaps I feel some justification for the Jewish commitment to the oral law being more important than the written law. What I had feared was that the phrase in Amendment No. 13 calling for collective acts of worship which, "shall be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character would mean that they are neither Christian nor representative of any other faith. That particular phrase sounded to me like expecting children to observe the fifth commandment by honouring people who were wholly or mainly father and mother, but not entirely so.

Therefore I want, now that I have heard what the intention of the new reading is, to join in the tributes paid to the enormous skill, ingenuity and persistence of the right reverend Prelate, as well as that of others who have contributed to this truly historic new Bill, as now amended. I wish to express the hope that not only by upgrading religion in the country as such and in the raising of our children, but also in particular through Amendment No. 15 by promoting respect and tolerance of other faiths as part of our national commitment, we may succeed together in restoring the fatherhood of God of all of us, through whom alone we can establish the brotherhood of man.

I hope it will become clear to other nations that have rejected this that only through that way can we win mutual understanding, mutual respect and a reverence for the traditions and for the heritage that we have in common but which make us distinct from one another. I congratulate all noble Lords.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I wish to add from these Benches our pleasure and delight that these long debates have resulted in a decision which is worthy of your Lordships' House. I cannot praise it more highly than by saying that. Nevertheless, I hope that the noble Lord on the Woolsack will call my Amendment No. 17 when he comes to it.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I think there must be unanimity on one point at least; that is, that we have all tried very hard in our different ways to get this right. Our thanks are due especially in this respect to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. But I am most grateful to all your Lordships who have contributed to the debates in our House and who have worked behind the scenes.

I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, that I should have thought it was very clear from the discussions that we have had why the Government agreed to support the right reverend Prelate in seeking a solution to meet the clearly expressed concerns from many sides of the House and indeed from outside the House. I should make it clear at the outset that the Government are recommending that your Lordships support the amendments which have been put down in my name as well as the package of amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate and my noble friends the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Elton. In speaking to the amendments referred to by the right reverend Prelate—Amendments Nos. 8 to 21 and 46 to 50—I shall also speak to Amendment No. 124.

The Government's position in considering all the amendments tabled about collective worship has been conditioned by two major considerations additional to our general wish to support noble Lords in ensuring that pupils are exposed to worship in accordance with Christian traditions and beliefs. First, we wish as far as possible to ensure that the act of collective worship provided for in statute is indeed collective. It is because such an act of worship can perform an important function in binding together members of a school and helping to develop their sense of community that we in this country make collective worship in schools a statutory requirement, although other equally Christian countries do not do so. This educational value of worship must be clearly distinguished from confessional acts of worship which are properly pursued by practising Christians and members of other faiths. Maintaining the collective emphasis and minimising withdrawal of pupils from the act of worship is a proper concern of those responsible for education.

Secondly, we have to ensure that what is required in legislation is practicable for schools to do. It was that consideration which led us to initiate consultations last year concerning the timing and organisation of collective worship in schools in order that we might include in the Bill the provision which is now part of Clause 6.

Amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 12 would put into statute provisions for separate alternative acts of worship to be organised for those of different faiths, albeit in an apparently discretionary way. Let me make the position clear. The law requires collective worship. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from such worship. Where enough pupils are withdrawn and their parents want them to have alternative worship on the school premises, it is open to the governing body and head teacher to organise alternative worship, voluntarily and on a good will basis. This is the sort of case described by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, to which the right reverend Prelate referred.

We think that that is a sensible position. The head can judge whether he or she has the resources to organise such provision and whether to do so would in any way upset relations and sensibilities within the school. Nothing in the Bill prevents such voluntary arrangements or makes them less likely to happen. I am happy to give noble Lords an assurance that the Government will issue a circular which will give specific guidance encouraging schools to make alternative provision for pupils who are withdrawn.

The amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate have resulted from his consulations, as he has explained. They will cater for situations where a high rate of withdrawal is inevitable—for example, in schools where most pupils are from non-Christian backgrounds—and where it will be right and proper that alternative provision for worship should be made. But his amendments do not encourage pressures for separate acts of worship according to faith and they put the SACRE in the position of deciding whether a school should be exempt from the normal requirement to provide broadly Christian worship so that they must instead provide alternative forms of worship for one or more faiths.

That is a sensible and controlled way of approaching the issue of separate collective worship for pupils of different faiths, and one which will ensure that all the circumstances, including parents' views, are taken into account. I believe that the amendments tabled by the right reverend Prelate fully meet the points made by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. They have the added advantage of reflecting the consultations carried out by the right reverend Prelate before Report stage, and they fulfil the intention of the amendments he tabled previously as a result of those consultations.

Turning to the amendments standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and others, we believe that head teachers and governors should take account of the views of parents on those matters. I have previously commended the arrangements proposed by the right reverend Prelate for doing precisely that. However, we believe that a ballot of parents is quite the wrong machinery for ensuring that. I therefore hope that in due course those amendments will be withdrawn.

The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has said that he will not be moving Amendment No. 14, and I shall therefore not speak to it. Amendment No. 15, tabled by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway and others, is one with which I, like the right reverend Prelate, have sympathy. As I have mentioned, the Government intend to issue a circular in due course on all the religious education and collective worship provisions of the Bill. We believe that that will offer a more appropriate means of exhorting school governors and others involved in religious education and collective worship to promote the objectives of the amendment. I promise my noble friends that it is our intention to include a passage in the circular along those lines. I therefore hope that in due course, although my noble friend did not speak precisely to that amendment, he will feel able to withdraw it.

Perhaps I may also comment briefly on the amendment standing in my name to Schedule 1 of the Bill. It is a response to a point made at Report stage by my noble friend Lord Renton. He rightly pointed out that county schools should not be prohibited from giving religious education about catechisms and formularies of different denominations. The Government readily accept the good sense in that point. The amendment seeks to correct what was previously in the Bill. I urge the House to support the amendment. I hope that noble Lords will also support the amendments to Clauses 82 and 85 which amend provisions relating to worship in grant-maintained schools to take account of the package of amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate.

In conclusion, I hope that noble Lords will take full account of the assurances which I have given concerning the guidance to be given to schools on making arrangements for pupils who will be withdrawn from statutory collective worship and on the need for religious education to engender mutual tolerance and understanding between faiths and denominations. I undertake to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway that we shall use our best endeavours to make those matters as fully intelligible as possible.

I thank my noble friend Lord St. John of Fawsley for his kind remarks. I also take note of what he said and what was said by other noble Lords about implementation and the supply of teachers. However, it is now a question of saying, "Let's get on with it". I therefore strongly urge the House to accept the excellent package put forward by the right reverend Prelate, the consequential government amendments and the amendments which meet the case made by my noble friend Lord Renton.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may ask a question about Amendment No. 16, standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Blackstone. As regards the question of a parents' ballot, all the Minister has said is that she believes it would be wrong. Surely the House is entitled to a fuller explanation. Much of the philosophy of the Government is based on ballots, both in this measure and in the five employment and trade union Acts which, if I may use the term, are riddled with the need for balloting. Why should it be wrong in this case? Perhaps the Minister will enlarge on why she believes it to be wrong.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, we believe that in this case the legitimate concerns of parents, head teachers and governors of a school will be met by allowing for full consultation of parents to take place. The machinery which would be involved in conducting a ballot is not necessary in this instance.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, in rising to wind up our debate on Amendment No. 8, I should like to add my congratulations to those of the rest of the House to the right reverend Prelate for delivering the package which he promised us on Second Reading in a form which has received acclaim from every speaker. That being so, it would be quite wrong of me not to respond to the request to withdraw my amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

6.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendment No. 10: Page 4, line 41, leave out subsection (3).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendment No. 13: After Clause 6 insert the following new clause:

("Special provisions as to collective worship in county schools.

.—(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, in the case of a county school the collective worship required in the school by section 6 of this Act shall be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, collective worship is of a broadly Christian character if it reflects the broad traditions of Christian belief without being distinctive of any particular Christian denomination.

(3) Every act of collective worship required by section 6 of this Act in the case of a county school need not comply with subsection (1) above provided that, taking any school terms as a whole, most such acts which take place in the school do comply with that subsection.

(4) Subject to subsections (1) and (3) above—

  1. (a) the extent to which (if at all) any acts of collective worship required by section 6 of this Act which do not comply with subsection (1) above take place in a county school;
  2. (b) the extent to which any act of collective worship in a county school which complies with subsection (1) above reflects the broad traditions of Christian belief: and
  3. (c) the ways in which those traditions are reflected in any such act of collective worship;
shall be such as may be appropriate having regard to any relevant considerations relating to the pupils concerned which fall to be taken into account in accordance with subsection (5) below.

(5) Those considerations are—

  1. (a) any circumstances relating to the family backgrounds of the pupils concerned which are relevant for determining the character of the collective worship which is appropriate in their case; and
  2. (b) their ages and aptitudes.

(6) Where under section (Determination by advisory councils of the cases in which the requirement for Christian collective worship is not to apply) of this Act a standing advisory council on religious education determine that it is not appropriate for subsection (1) above to apply in the case of any county school, or in the case of any class or description of pupils at such a school, then, so long as that determination has effect—

  1. (a) that subsection shall not apply in relation to that school or (as the case may be) in relation to those pupils; and
  2. (b) the collective worship required by section 6 of this act in the case of that school or those pupils shall not be distinctive of any particular Christian or other religious denomination (hut this shall not be taken as preventing that worship from being distinctive of any particular faith).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Religious education required in the basic curriculum: further provisions]:

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 15: Page 5, line 38, at end insert— ("(4) The Governors of a maintained school shall use their best endeavours to seek to ensure that religious education, Christian or otherwise, shall promote respect, understanding and tolerance for those who adhere to other faiths and a spirit of social unity within the realm subject to the rule of law.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as I have already indicated, this amendment is concerned with religious education and the promotion of tolerance. I referred to this on Report (at cols. 711 and 712 of Hansard for 21st June) and expressly reserved my position on Third Reading suggesting that it was worthy of discussion and consideration by your Lordships, and no more. Since then it has apparently received the express approbation of the noble Lord the Chief Rabbi whom I did not consult on the matter. It also has the express approbation of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London who informed me that such was his view. It also apparently has the sympathy of the Government.

The question is this. Apparently it has become common ground that this draft is acceptable. The only question is the means of implementation. Of course it is a matter for your Lordships to consider. There has been no discussion of any kind. This is not an amendment—and I stress the point—which the right reverend Prelate has to take back for further discussion. I think that the right reverend Prelate nods in my direction. This involves no further discussion. The issue is very simple. Is the principle of the promotion of tolerance to be the subject of one of those ministerial circulars to which my noble friend Lord St. John of Fawsley, having some experience of them, has referred, or is it to be on the face of the Bill as the amendment proposes? That is the question.

First, let us approach the issue swiftly and totally objectively. What is the objection to having this principle stated on the face of the Bill? Secondly, is it not of crucial consequence that in our multi-faith society this principle should be recognised in primary legislation on the face of the statute book and not, I was about to say, in some scruffy ministerial circular? The status of the two is wholly different.

Thirdly, the Bill as drafted on religious education originally, and indeed as it would stand today before amendment, would not require this amendment. The reason why this amendment is necessary is because of the historic advance made with the amendments brought in by the right reverend Prelate. This amendment is the statutory cement which binds the new concept of collective worship with religious education. This is why I am detaining your Lordships to ask: do we put this in a scruffy ministerial circular or do we have it on the face of the statute?

I am a lawyer and I see and prefer things on the face of statutes. I urge the consideration of your Lordships as to whether a concept of this importance, a novel principle relevant to our social needs, should not be on the face of the statute.

Unless any of your Lordships may think that this is unnecessary as a principle, the lessons of history have taught us never to dare to assume that religious education given in any faith, even the Christian faith, would be designed of necessity to promote tolerance of those who adhere to other faiths. I ask your Lordships and detain your Lordships only for the purpose of discussion. Of course I am entirely in the hands of your Lordships on this novel and important matter. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, as I have already indicated I entirely agree with the sentiments of this amendment. I said so in my speech earlier. I think that it is merely a matter for the House to decide whether or not it wishes the assurances to be enough and for the matter to be included in a circular or whether it wishes to see it enshrined in the Bill itself. I do not think that I would wish to say more than that.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I had not intended to intervene, but I should like to warn your Lordships about something. Procedurally I shall not be able to do so after the noble Baroness has sat down after replying to the debate.

From my own ministerial experience I fully expect her, for good reasons, to wish to place this requirement on circular rather than in statute. I am not a lawyer and I do not know whether questions like using best endeavour are justiciable when one is dealing with a board of governors. I shall not go into all that because no doubt my noble friend has thought it through.

I would say this to your Lordships. If the noble Baroness is not able to accept this amendment it would be very unfortunate indeed if it were to go to a Division and be lost. It would be very unfortunate indeed if it were to go to a Division and be won. If it were to go to a Division and be won it would override the—I presume, because we have not heard them—perfectly good reasons of my noble friend the Minister; if it were to go to a Division and be lost it would send the wholly misleading message, particularly to the minority faiths, that tolerance had been voted against by a Christian majority in the House of Lords.

I take the opportunity to congratulate my noble friend on the considerable flexibility and patience he has shown in dealing with other matters in this respect, outside the Chamber as well as in it. I ask him not to make this a set-piece event because either way it would be greatly damaging to the achievement we have just accomplished.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, I too am not a lawyer, and at times I thank God that I am not a lawyer. I thank God that probably the only thing that I can offer this House is a great deal of common sense. I have been involved in education, and not the law, for the past 25 years. I realise that what we have done in education is to use a lot of common sense on many matters that are not in statute. Therefore I appeal to the House and I appeal to the noble Lord not to pursue this amendment because it will definitely be misunderstood by many people.

Even though I support the intention of the amendment I believe that we have achieved what we want with the earlier amendment. Therefore I think that this amendment is quite unnecessary. My plea is: leave it to the good sense of the governors of schools. They will recognise what Parliament really wants and what is best for their schools.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, since I touched on this amendment in my earlier remarks I shall be brief. I explained then why the government felt that it was preferable to deal with the expression of the sentiments, with which we all agree, in the circular which we propose should be issued.

In terms of a commitment on the face of the Bill, we can turn to Clause 1 where it is stated that there is a duty upon not only the governing body or head teacher of every school but also on every local education authority and indeed the Secretary of State to ensure that the national curriculum is delivered in a way that, promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society". I believe that that, to some extent, covers the need expressed by my noble friend for having a statement of the intention on the face of the Bill. I hope that he will not feel it necessary to press his amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for allowing me the opportunity to bring this matter before the House for discussion. Having had that opportunity and the advantage of having heard what has been said, and even having a vestige of common sense and, I hope, a little common humanity, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

Clause 9 [Duties with respect to certain requirements]:

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 17: Page 7, line 13, after ("secure") insert ("so far as is reasonably practicable").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is not closely related to the matters that we have been debating for some time. It is purely an administrative and possibly a legal point. The clause to which this amendment refers states that it will be the duty of the head teacher to secure that all pupils in attendance at a school take part in a daily collective act of worship.

Reference has been made by certain noble Lords, in particular the noble Lords, Lord Glenamara and Lord St. John of Fawsley, to the possible difficulty of finding teachers and members of staff who are capable of performing that duty. The Minister made reference to the head teacher being able to organise a minority group of children in the school who would be able to worship in another faith and perhaps pursue education in another faith. In practice head teachers may find themselves in difficulty trying to obtain the teachers. The few words of my amendment: so far as is reasonably practicable", seem to me to be a harmless safety net for the teacher should he be approached by irate parents who say that he is failing to make provision for something for which it is not really in his power to make provision.

I do not think that those words will do any harm. In fact they will help the head teacher in the event of a complaint. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, this amendment was part of the group that we discussed earlier, although my noble friend intimated that he would move his amendment separately.

Responding to the particular point raised, perhaps I may say that the amendment would require head teachers to secure the specified objects so far as is reasonably practicable. In law one cannot require someone to do something that is not reasonably practicable. One cannot legally demand the impossible. On any reading of the Bill that should be assumed. The amendment is therefore redundant and I trust that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it. I hope that the grouping will stand in relation to the other amendments.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for having explained the point. I am relieved to hear that the law cannot command the impossible. I have been told that before but I am glad to hear it from her lips. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 [Standing advisory councils on religious education]:

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if Amendments Nos. 18, 19 and 20 are taken together.

The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendments Nos. 18 to 20: Page 7, line 37, at end insert ("; and (b) to carry out the functions conferred by section (Determination by advisory councils of the cases in which the requirement for Christian collective worship is not to apply) of this Act on councils constituted under this section."). Page 7, line 38, leave out second ("section") and insert ("sections (Determination by advisory councils of the cases in which the requirement for Christian collective worship is not to apply) and"). Page 7, leave out lines 43 and 44.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendment No. 21: After Clause 10, insert the following new clause:

(" Determination by advisory councils of the cases in which the requirement for Christian collective worship is not to apply.

.— (1) it shall he the duty of the council, on an application made by the head teacher of any county school after consultation with the governing body, to consider whether it is appropriate for the requirement for Christian collective worship to apply in the ease of that school, or in the case of any class or description of pupils at that school. References in this section to the requirement for Christian collective worship are references to the requirement imposed by section (Special provisions as to collective worship in county schools)(1) of this Act.

(2) In determining whether it is appropriate for that requirement to apply in the case of any such school or in the case of any class or description of pupils at such a school, the council shall have regard to any circumstances relating to the family backgrounds of the pupils at the school or of the pupils of the particular class or description in question which are relevant for determining the character of the collective worship appropriate in their case.

(3) The council shall give any head teacher who has made an application to them under this section written notification of their decision on the application.

(4) Where the council determine on any application under this section that it is not appropriate for the requirement for Christian collective worship to apply in the case of the school or any class or description of pupils at the school concerned, that determination shall take effect for the purposes of section (Special provisions as to collective worship in county schools) of this Act on such date as may be specified in the notification of their decision under subsection (3) above.

(5) Any determination of the council under this section by virtue of which the requirement for Christian collective worship does not for the time being apply in the case of any school or any class or description of pupils at any school shall he reviewed by the council—

  1. (a) at any time on an application made by the head teacher of the school after consultation with the governing body; and
  2. 449
  3. (b) in any event not later than the end of the period of five years beginning with the date on which the determination first took effect or (where it has since been reviewed under this subsection) with the effective date of the decision on the last such review.

(6) On any review under subsection (5)(b) above the council shall afford the head teacher an opportunity of making representations with respect to the determination under review; and the head teacher shall consult the governing body before making any such representations.

(7) On any review under subsection (5) above the council may confirm (with or without variation) or revoke the determination under review (without prejudice, in a case where they revoke the determination, to any further determination under this section); and they shall give the head teacher of the school written notification of their decision specifying the effective date of that decision for the purposes of subsection (5)(b) above.

(8) Any determination of the council which is required to be reviewed under subsection (5)(b) above shall cease to have effect, if not confirmed on such a review, at the end of the period there mentioned.

(9) The governing body of any county school, on being consulted by the head teacher under this section, may if they think fit take such steps as they consider appropriate for consulting all persons appearing to them to be parents of registered pupils at the school.

(10) Any application made to the council under this section shall be made in such manner and form as the council may require.").

The right reverend Prelate said: I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.45 p.m.

Clause 12 [Establishment of Councils]:

Lady Kinloss: moved Amendment No. 22: Page 10, line 49, after ("require") insert— ("( ) to appoint a specialist advisory sub-committee on special educational needs, and at least one member of the sub-committee shall be a member of the Council which appointed it, regard shall be had to the desirability of that person being a person with a disability.").

The noble Lady said: My Lords, in moving this amendment on the issue of special needs, I should like to point out that at Report Stage the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said: The Bill will apply the national curriculum to all pupils, including those with special educational needs. The National Curriculum Council will have a specific remit to consider the requirements of those pupils".— [Official Report, 22/6/88; col. 870.] She also said at Report stage that where necessary the councils: will be able to co-opt specialist members, appoint specialist advisory sub-committees and consult specialist interests". This amendment does only this; it ensures that a subcommittee will be set up on special educational needs. That is what the Government have been saying continually that they will do and I cannot see any objection to having it enshrined in legislation. We have no doubt of the Government's good intentions in the area of special needs; indeed, they have responded sensitively in other areas. However, it is a small but significant step to include this amendment in the legislation.

'The noble Baroness also said: I expect that he [the Secretary of State] will see to it that appropriate expertise is included among council appointments in order to reinforce the links that the councils establish at professional level and through their committee structures".

What better way is there to ensure that appropriate expertise is consulted and that committee structures function effectively than to make sure that one member of the sub-committee is on the main council that appointed it? How can a sub-committee function effectively if there is not a member of that subcommittee on the main council?

I feel that the time has come for the Government to write into legislation what they have committed themselves to verbally at previous stages of this Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

My Lords, from these Benches I am pleased to support the amendment to which I have added my name. There have been numerous attempts at various stages of this Bill in both Houses to ensure that the problems and requirements of special educational need are fully taken into account in the work of the various councils that are mentioned in Clause 12. At Report stage the Government rejected the idea of a national advisory committee on special educational needs. However, as the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, pointed out, the Government have accepted that the National Curriculum Council and the other councils will have a special remit to consider the requirements of pupils with special educational needs. In order to ensure that that special remit is properly attended to this amendment builds on a suggestion made by the Secretary of State, Mr. Kenneth Baker, when (as reported in Hansard at col. 210) he said on 22nd March that the Government might want to set up a sub-committee to deal with special educational needs. The same day he said: Clearly we would want to take the advice of those who are expert in dealing with special needs".— [Official Report, Commons, 22/3'88; col. 234.] I think that we have the support of the Secretary of State for this amendment. I hope that when the Minister replies she will not say that to allow this sub-committee will open the door for others. That is the classic, bureaucratic case for inaction. To put the matter quite simply, there is a special case under special educational need.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, as I said before and as the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, has reminded us, there is no reason why the NCC, SEAC or the Curriculum Council for Wales should not establish a special needs sub-committee if they think it necessary to do so. That is why Schedule 2 to the Bill provides for any of the councils to set up committees for any purpose and to appoint to those committees anyone they think fit and suitable.

This power and the fact that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has clearly stated his intention to ensure that the councils include members knowledgeable about special education needs should, I feel, provide reassurance, if indeed reassurance were needed, that the councils will have the necessary expertise available either directly or by co-option to committees. We believe that the councils must be allowed flexibility to organise themselves as they consider best and the amendment denies that to them.

I also recognise that an individual with a disability of one kind or another will have a particular knowledge of the needs of people who also have his or her disability, but I do not necessarily accept therefore that they are the only people, or indeed the most appropriate people, to serve on those committees. In our view, the important matter is to secure that the councils include a wide range of expertise on education, the curriculum, assessment and testing, the world of work and so forth. However, as I have said, we are confident that within that range of expertise will be knowledge of special needs in education. I trust therefore that the noble Lady will withdraw her amendment.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Baroness does not feel able to accept this amendment. I have tried hard to persuade her all the way through this Bill. I should like to see whether the House will agree with me on it.

6.50 p.m.

On Question, whether the said amendment (No. 22) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 73; Not-Contents, 92.

Airedale, L. Kilbracken, L.
Ardwick, L. Kinloss, Ly. [Teller.]
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Kirkhill, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lawrence, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Listowel, E.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Lockwood, B.
Carter, L. [Teller.] Lovell-Davis, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Lytton, E.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Combermere, V. McNair, L.
Craigavon, V. Masham of Ilton, B.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Mayhew, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Morton of Shuna,L.
Diamond, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Nicol, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Oram, L.
Ennals, L. Peston, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Flowers, L. Rea, L.
Gallacher, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Galpern, L. Russell, E.
Glenamara, L. Seebohm, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Serota, B.
Gregson, L. Shackleton, L.
Grey, E. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Headfort, M. Thurlow, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Tordoff, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Underhill, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hylton, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Ingleby, V. Williams of Elvel, L.
Jay, L. Winstanley, L.
Jeger, B. Young of Dartington, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Ampthill, L. Borthwick, L.
Arran, E. Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Auckland, L. Brabazon of Tara, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Broxbourne, L.
Beloff, L. Caithness, E.
Belstead, L. Cameron of Lochbroom, L.
Bessborough, E. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Boardman, L. Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Merrivale, L.
Coleraine, L. Mersey, V.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Morris, L.
Cox, B. Mottistone, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Denham, L. [TellerL.] Munster, E.
Dilhorne, V. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Dundee, E. Nelson, E.
Eccles, V. Newall, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Norfolk, D.
Elibank, L. Orkney, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Oxfuird, V.
Elton, L. Pender, L.
Ferrers, E. Penrhyn, L.
Goold, L. Perth, E.
Grantchester, L. Portsmouth, E.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Rankeillour, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Rees, L.
Hesketh, L. Renton, L.
Hives, L. Romney. E.
Home of the Hirsel, L. St. Germans, E.
Hood, V. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Hooper, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Stockton, E.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Sudeley, L.
Kinnoull, E. Swansea, L.
Knutsford, V. Swinfen. L.
Layton, L. Swinton, E.
London, Bp. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Long, V. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Trafford, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Trefgarne, L.
Mancroft, L. Trumpington, B.
Mansfield, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Marley, L. Wolfson, L.
Marsh, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the ne disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 15 [Exceptions by regulations]:

6.58. p.m.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 23: Page 12, line 44, at end insert— ("( ) Regulations shall provide that where provisions of the National Curriculum are deemed not to apply, or are deemed to apply with modification, then the headteacher shall inform in writing the parent of the pupil of the decision and of that parent's rights under section 21.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is very simple. It is to ensure that where a child is either to be excluded from the national curriculum or is to have the curriculum modified as a result of Clause 15, the parents have the right to be informed in writing of the decision.

At Report the Government rejected amendments that would have given the parents the right to be consulted on the rather extraordinary grounds that such consultation would prevent head teachers acting quickly and flexibly. I am not sure how long it takes to write a letter. This amendment accepts that the head teacher must be able to act quickly and flexibly but also must inform the parents in writing of decisions concerning their child and the national curriculum. Not all parents are articulate and well-informed. Not all head teachers are sufficiently concerned about the role of parents. Even the parents who are articulate are not always kept fully informed of decisions affecting their child.

This amendment merely ensures that parents will be informed in writing of decisions affecting their child's education. It is a right which exists under Clause 16 for children with special educational needs and under Clause 17 for temporary exceptions for individual pupils. We fail to understand why this right should not also apply to children affected by Clause 15. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, I should like to support the noble Lord stongly on this amendment. I regret very much that the children without statements do not have leave to appeal to the governing body on disapplication or modification of the national curriculum. I feel at the very least that they should be informed of what is going on and of their right to complain under Clause 21.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, I should like to support all that the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, has said. Will parents be informed when they can make a complaint or will they be expected to know? The amendment is intended to ensure that it will be made clear and that they will know the complaints procedure.

Lord Peston

My Lords, briefly from these Benches I entirely agree with the views expressed by noble Lords and I am very sorry that the earlier amendment was not accepted. I should find it astonishing if the Government do not accept this amendment. It seems to me that the least a head teacher could do would be to inform the parents in writing both of the decision and of parental rights. One would hope that the head teacher would go further and see parents in all such cases. I hope strongly that this is an amendment that the Government will be able to accept.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I regret that I shall have to speak against this amendment. I much regret that after what has been said, but I hope your Lordships will permit me to say at this stage that it is our intention later today to accept a further amendment, Amendment No. 132, which will require parents of pupils whose statements of special need are amended to be told of their rights to appeal against that attention. But that is looking ahead.

We are now considering something rather different. The reasons we cannot accept it are twofold. First, the amendment is defective is using the word "deemed". Modification or disapplication of the national curriculum provisions under Clause 15 would be actual, not deemed. For that reason alone I could not accept the amendment.

But, more importantly, the amendment is unnecessary. I accept that all parents will need information about how the national curriculum is being applied in the case of their child, and if the national curriculum is modified or disapplied the parents' need for information will be all the greater. But we already have power to make regulations under Clause 20 dealing with this point— and are required by the Bill to consult on the scope and content of the regulations. I am sure this is the right way to proceed.

Similarly, all parents need to be informed of their right of complaint under Clause 21, and what duties and responsibilities it covers. We shall use Clause 20 and Clause 21 as necessary to ensure that this is done in an appropriate way.

I can give your Lordships an assurance that we shall meet the parents' concerns and objectives by using the existing provisions of the Bill. On that basis I hope that noble Lords will be content not to press the amendment further.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, may I just add one thing. I have noticed, going round several— am I not allowed to come in?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness, but my noble friend has now replied. I believe that the procedures on Third Reading are that there should not be interventions after the Minister has replied.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, they are being enforced also.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am extremely disappointed with the Minister's answer and also that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was not able to intervene in the debate, because I understand that she wanted to. I believe that the consultations referred to under Clause 20 are with organisations, not with parents. I am not sure how that meets the requirements of the amendment. I suppose I have to accept the Minister's assurance that parents' rights will be protected. We have some doubts about this, but because of the speed of the debate and the time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I hope that your Lordships may consider that this is a suitable moment at which to break for dinner. I beg to move that further proceedings after Third Reading be now adjourned until 7.45 p.m.

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