§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Duties with respect to the curriculum]:
Lord Joseph moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1. line 17. after ("to") insert ("the whole school curriculum including").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 1, 4, 5, 14, 17, 27, 39, 43, 44, 46, 64, 65, 107, 110, 117 and 120. With those amendments goes Amendment No. 36. However, the Minister has added her name to that amendment and I propose to leave her to introduce it.
§ I strongly support the Bill. However, in my view the national curriculum is over-prescriptive and will damage the large non-academic proportion of children. It is very surprising that this aspect of the Bill conflicts sharply with the Government's philosophy. Their philosophy is that we have been over-governed, and that in many fields the Government should provide a framework and leave people in their infinite variety to pursue their own purposes within that framework. Yet here, in the national curriculum, we have over-government and, in my view, straitjacket government.
§ I strongly support the need to raise school standards, particularly for the non-academic. Indeed I helped to raise that issue to the top of the agenda. I accept the need for a mandatory core curriculum —English, maths and science —and testing. Noble Lords will please note that defining even the three core subjects has not proved easy. However, the Government suggest with the Bill that there are nine other subjects which each child is to be required by law to take. It is to the removal of the mandatory prescription by law of eight of those nine subjects regardless of the student's capacity, gifts or enthusiasms that this group of amendments is addressed. Of course I am in favour of breadth —breadth, yes; uniformity, no.
§ I may be told that the academic child will be able to cope and will have time for extra work in his or her strong subjects. However, I should prefer that the national curriculum sat less peremptorily and extensively upon such children so that their individual diversity could be met; or alternatively that Ministers would consider extending the school week or year to give all children more time to study. The huge proportion of people for whom I am, above all, pleading in these amendments is those who are non-academic. If the Bill goes through as drafted, the non-academic will suffer most. It is the non-academic child who is most likely to be de-motivated by some subjects, even though that child is lit by other subjects, including technology. Yet he or she is to be compelled to take the full range of foundation subjects.
§ Perhaps colleagues imagine that the Government are following France and that French education is satisfactory. I suggest to your Lordships that both judgments would be suspect. Napoleon did indeed want each school pupil to follow an identical course.608
§ From that we tell each other that the French Minister of Education knows at any hour, at any minute of the day exactly what every child anywhere in France is studying. The anecdote is a myth. It was probably always a myth even in Napoleon's day when only a small minority of the children over the age of 10 were at school at all.
§ What is true is that at the primary stage the French require all children to devote over one half of their time to French and maths —15 hours out of 27 hours a week. Those 27 hours include sports. The French curriculum is still largely imposed after the primary stage from the ages of 11 to 14. But from the age of 14 there is far, far more choice than is provided in this Bill. There are three different streams —the baccalaureate, the technical baccalaureate and the brevet de techniciens. In the two "bac" systems there are at least 15 different curricula ranging from the highly academic with Greek and Latin components to applied hairdressing. In the brevet system there are over 60 different curricular choices. Every school is different. What is done at the great Henri IV Ly Ćee in Paris where the polytechniciens send their children bears little resemblance to what goes on in other schools in Paris and in the provinces.
§ What the national curriculum system does in France is to ensure that any variations in all those different curricula are made not by the head and the teachers on the spot in accordance with what they know of the children they are teaching but by bureaucrats in Paris. Moreover, it is widely acknowledged in France that the centralisation of education is something near a disaster and that the decentralisation going on in other areas of French policy is needed even more in schools.
§ If we pass the Bill as drafted we, who have never had such a rigid system and are leaders in decentralisation, are plunging headlong in the wrong direction. We in Britain have long known that the great school is an autonomous school. Only in an autonomous school can the head feel and be responsible for picking and inspiring a teaching staff to perform to the highest professional standards. Only an autonomous school can be made accountable in the one way in which a school can be made accountable —by allowing parents to remove their children if they find the school unsatisfactory. If the teachers are no good no amount of national curriculum will produce better education. I submit that good teachers should not be demoralised by reducing each school to mechanical conformity.
§ All this has been recognised by the Government in the general thrust of the Bill which is to give schools more autonomy and to allow heads, governors and teachers the power to meet those responsibilities. This is an excellent policy that is embodied in the bulk of the parts of the Bill dealing with schools. It means giving heads and teachers discretion over the input and exercising control by testing the output. It means insisting on the core subjects. I fully agree that they should be mandatory —English, maths, science —but leaving heads and teachers free to assess the needs of each particular child in relation to a broad range of other subjects.609
§ Of course it is reasonable for the Government to provide means of assessing whether children have achieved levels of competence in each subject taken so that parents can judge whether the education is satisfactory. That is the way to enable parents to make sound choices between schools and to apply pressure for the stretching of each child without a straitjacket.
§ I ask the Government, I ask my noble friend, to think again, to keep the core subjects mandatory but to leave the foundation subjects at discretion. I ask this particularly for the non-academic children who have so far not had nearly as much benefit as we would all wish from their schooling. I beg to move.
§ 3.15 p.m.
Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)
My Lords, having added my name to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, I should like to support it briefly but nonetheless warmly. As I made clear in Committee when we discussed earlier amendments to the national curriculum, I should have preferred a less binding curriculum which could have embraced all pupils and did not entail modification and exclusion clauses for some pupils with special needs.
I feel, however, that the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, has just moved with such eloquence and such conviction offers a very great deal more flexibility than is at present contained in the Bill. Schools would be more able to respond sensitively to individual needs, not only of pupils with special needs but of the non-academic and the very gifted. They could ensure that pupils get the very best out of their education and that their education gets the best out of them by catering for their individual diversity, as the noble Lord expressed it so well. More time would be available to study a wider range of subjects and there would be more opportunity for cross-curricula teaching and learning.
Many organisations concerned with children with special needs have been very worried that the national curriculum as set out in the Bill could put a serious brake on the move towards integration. The Rathbone Society, when commenting on the Secretary of State's plans for a national curriculum said:A national curriculum can only be that if it is a curriculum for all children … Significant discretion as to the content of what is taught to any particular class should be available to the classroom teachers, subject to broad guidelines. Teacher discretion in identifying and dealing with the educational needs of pupils at any given time is particularly important for the disadvantaged and for those with moderate learning difficulties in mainstream and special schools".The national core curriculum proposed in this amendment would, I repeat, entail disapplication and modification for some but I am convinced that it would allow more room and more time for that discretion to operate. Without the emphasis on teaching and testing foundation subjects mainstream schools would be better able to look after pupils with special educational needs and more willing to admit them. That would ensure that they develop to their full potential and give them the maximum chance when the time comes of going out to live, work, compete and contribute to the able-bodied adult world.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I should like very briefly to support every single word which the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, has said. I do so for four reasons. First, the amendment gives the teachers the scope to use their professional judgment in the way that only they can. If we are to have the schools we want we must give every possible encouragement to the improved professionalism of the teachers.
Secondly, it does something for the non-academic child. The noble Lord, Lord Joseph, both when he was Secretary of State and since has recognised the need to do something for the non-academic children whom we have failed to a large extent over the years. Yet they are probably the most important section of the school population with whom we need to deal. If we do not deal adequately with the needs of the nonacademic child we shall develop that underclass which both economically and socially will be extremely threatening to this country.
Thirdly, the amendment also gives scope for the more gifted children who will not be put into a straitjacket. We need to consider them too. We need our gifted children to be able to develop in the ways and at the pace which are best suited to them. We must not cramp them in the interests of the development of those in the middle of the range.
I think that my final point has not yet been made. The amendment means that certain subjects which would otherwise wither will continue to be taught in schools. If subjects wither in the schools they will wither in the universities because there will be no source from which students can be recruited. If we limit the teaching of modern languages —as it looks as if we shall if we stick rigidly to the programme that is laid down in the Bill —then at a time when we need to be developing such subjects as Russian in the schools and universities, and surely we need to revive Russian studies, there will be so little teaching of those subjects in the schools that students will not be forthcoming to fulfil our requirements. That is only one example.
I beg your Lordships to think again and to note the very wise guidance of the ex-Secretary of State for Education.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, these amendments direct our attention to the question of whether or not children should be taught the foundation subjects as well as the core subjects. I believe that there are two ways of looking at that question. I should call one of them internal and the other external.
If we are thinking only about our own society and how we want our children to be educated and to become reliable British citizens, if they are well grounded in the core subjects perhaps we could leave the schools to introduce in addition whatever other subjects they consider appropriate. No doubt schools would differ in their ideas. They would have regard to their available resources and progress would probably be leisurely. It would certainly be patchy.
There is then the second, external reason for reforming the curriculum. The world outside the British Isles is putting enormous pressure on us to prepare our children for the global society in which they will work and live. All advanced countries, not 611 just Great Britain, are under pressure to respond to that challenge. In the United States the two presidential candidates —Vice-President Bush and Governor Dukakis —are both making their top priority the reform and expansion of American education. That has never happened before in the United States. Republicans and Democrats say that there are grave deficiencies in their home subject teaching but the appeal of both parties is strongest and most effective when they describe the competition coming from Japan and the Pacific rim.
The Far East may not seem very near to us, but what about Europe? Very soon we shall enter the single market. What should our children be taught about the territory, people and resources of Europe? It means the study of history and geography, which are two of the foundation subjects. Help in making friends and influencing people will come from knowing a foreign language, and that is another of the foundation subjects.
It may be objected that English is now the world's common language. It is lucky for us that it is. However, there is another new and all-pervasive common language, which is technology. I always hoped that it was love that made the world go round, but now I perceive that I must add to that notion technology. The pressures from outside compel us to direct the attention of the schools to history, geography, foreign languages and technology. That is not a departure from our experience and traditions. We have long believed that education should take account of local interests, the patterns of employment, agriculture, the cotton and coal industries and shipbuiding. Now we must take account of Europe. Of course we must pay attention to the way of life in our community and strengthen it. The local school has a great part to play in that process.
However, the whole world is becoming our village. The foundation subjects mentioned in Clause 2 of this Bill stand in recognition of that fact. This House should not allow them to be dropped. The amendments would do that. If that is done one will lose any hold on the next century. It is not in the interests of our children to refuse them the opportunity to learn those foundation subjects. I know that it is difficult, but they should have the opportunity. I hope that the amendments will be rejected.
My Lords, when I made my maiden speech in another place 43 years ago the speaker who followed me was the gentleman who is now the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. He was very kind to me, as is customary in the other place, as everyone will know. I shall be kind to him now.
Having listened to two former Secretaries of State, I believe that it is right to remember that those who are called to the teaching profession possess special gifts and have received special training. When the noble Viscount said that the amendments would mean dropping the subjects to which he referred, he implied that the head teachers would drop them. That is a load of —well, it is not exactly what I would call common sense. Head teachers have a sense of 612 responsibility toward this country equal to that of any noble Lord who sits in this House. Teachers come face to face with individuals whose lives they can influence. It is said that Whitehall knows best. I am surprised that that sentiment comes from those Benches; it used to be said from other Benches. I do not believe that London necessarily knows best; nor do we who are gathered in this Chamber.
We ought to trust more in our teachers. I know that there are some areas of education in which problems have arisen, but it is foolish policy to seek to legislate just because there are certain blemishes that we wish to remove. The noble Lord, Lord Joseph, has shown great courage but he has also brought before us a critical issue on which he deserves support.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, the House will be aware that there was on the statute book a crime known as infanticide, which related to a mother suffering from post-natal depression who put an end to the life of her newly-born infant. I cannot imagine why the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, should wish to commit such a crime. We owe the concept of raising education standards in this country by a determined effort of central and local government and the education professions to the noble Lord's pioneering work when he was Secretary of State.
Surely if we are to have any way of measuring whether or not we are succeeding in that task, which is of great importance to the whole nation, as the noble Viscount pointed out, we must have some idea of the subject matter and the direction of studies that we wish to see pursued and in some cases tested. I find it very hard now to understand why it should be advocated that all but three subjects should be dropped. Apparently there are two arguments, which I shall rehearse briefly.
The noble Lord, Lord Joseph, spoke primarily about the needs of non-academic children. That is a concept which has crept into our discussions and is largely unchallenged. We do not know what is meant by "non-academic children". In this country —and I do not speak about children who suffer from the disabilities to which the noble Baroness referred —there is a very large proportion of children who, if properly taught in properly run schools, could surely make a good shot at all the subjects that are proposed. On the other hand, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is more worried about those children who again are difficult to define but who exist, if you like, in the upper bracket of intelligence or application.
However, as was pointed out at the Committee stage —when we debated all these matters at great length —with the degree of flexibility in the time allotted, the speed at which children can advance through these subjects is provided for. I very much hope that the House will reject this and the allied amendments, because if not they are rejecting the primary purpose of this Bill.
§ 3.30 p.m.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, in speaking to this amendment I do not think that I can add anything new to the arguments that have already 613 been deployed this afternoon and at Committee stage. However, I want to re-emphasise what I said on the latter occasion. Over-prescription is a real danger to good education. It may seem that by laying down ever firmer rules standards will be raised, but I do not believe the connection is really there. A general levelling down is a more likely outcome. When the 11-plus was abolished the good primary teacher did not say to herself, "Good, now we can all sit back," But, "Good, now we can begin to educate."
I remember the comments of visiting French teachers whom I met some years ago on a tour of English primary schools. Their main reaction was, "What could we not achieve given your freedom from central control?"
There is also the creeping bureaucratisation of education to consider; and I speak as an ex-bureaucrat. The more we legislate, the greater the education industry that is needed to support those at the sharp end with day-to-day contact with pupils. I have seen it happen during the 10 years since I left the classroom: we have been flooded by more directives, circulars, regulations and Acts of Parliament than in any comparable period before. These siphon off people's energies from the proper business of education.
We are at an unfortunate stage in the cycle of educational confidence. Historically these issues go in waves. It is not the case that our industrial underachievement and increase in social problems are largely the fault of our education system, as addressed in this Bill. I phrase it thus because there are improvements to be made but they do not feature here. If we could find it in ourselves to convey a mood of confidence in our schools —and this point has been made by other speakers —the self-fulfilling effect might surprise us. The increase in morale and performance that I believe would result is more to be desired than any statutory regulations.
However, if regulations we must have —and one has to accept that the Government are determined in this respect let them be as few and as loose as possible. These amendments seek to achieve that end. If your Lordships prefer the approach adopted in the next group of amendments standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady David —an approach which is freer in one way and a little tighter in another —then I for one would lose no sleep about it. However, to me, the important lesson is that one does not raise standards in education by tightening screws. What the Government are proposing in this Bill is too tight for the good of our schools.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I believe I am not alone in very much regretting that my noble friend Lord Joseph should have seen fit to put down at Report stage an amendment very similar to the ones which we discussed at very considerable length on Committee, and indeed divided upon. The Committee took a very clear view on this matter. I must therefore say, as I said at Committee stage, that were they to be carried this afternoon the effect would be wrecking amendments on the whole of this part of the Bill, because both the core subjects and the foundation subjects stand together as a package and need to be so considered.
614 I should like to give one response to the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, who has just spoken about the educational system. One criticism which came out at Committee stage, and was certainly very apparent to me when I was a DES Minister, was that boys tend to give up languages far too soon and girls tend to give up maths and sciences far too soon. This is self-evident if you go round schools and have a look for yourselves.
One way of meeting what is acknowledged to be a very real criticism is to have the spread of core and foundation subjects. There are of course others but at this stage of the proceedings I shall not enlarge on the arguments. I hope very much that my noble friend the Minister, when she comes to reply, will answer again the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, made about the importance of the scope that teachers need, and the use of their professional abilities. We all, including myself, share concern about this issue of the importance of the role of the teacher.
It was brought out time and again at Committee stage that there was to be flexibility within both the core and the foundation subjects, and that there would be many opportunities for teachers to use their professional skills. That is absolutely crucial to the success of this part of the Bill. That said, I hope very much that the House at this stage will reject this amendment.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I should like briefly to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), and the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin. We have made quite clear from the beginning that we disliked the rigidity and inflexibility of the national curriculum as it appears in this Bill. We think that it will make no difference to raising the standards of education in this country. It does not have the confidence of the teaching profession, nor indeed of the administrators in the county councils and in the metropolitan councils. This Bill has a great many enemies. The rigidity of the curriculum underlies that.
The point that I take up is the need for confidence. That is what is needed in our schools as well as a belief in the teachers. What the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, is all important in our efforts to raise the standards in our schools, which is what we all want. I do not believe, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, that this is a wrecking amendment. I think that is totally wrong. The amendment leaves the framework. It leaves the curriculum councils and the examination assessment councils. I believe that the Government are supporting the TGAT report. A great deal could be made of this Bill but I do not think that this extremely rigid curriculum with these old-fashioned foundation subjects —the list goes back a great many years —will do any good to our system. I therefore hope that the House will support the noble Lord.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science (Baroness Hooper)
My Lords, in speaking to this group of amendments, perhaps I may first clear up a small 615 point. In introducing the group my noble friend Lord Joseph referred to Amendment No. 36. This applies to Wales and will be dealt with separately at a later stage. I am disappointed that my noble friend Lord Joseph and the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), have felt it necessary to revive at this stage amendments which have in substance already been debated and rejected by your Lordships in Committee.
As my noble friend Lord Joseph, and indeed others, have done, I am forced to repeat this afternoon what I said in Committee. I must ask your Lordships to reject these amendments because a national core curriculum would not serve the purposes of a true national curriculum as set out so persuasively in the White Paper, Better Schools, as practised in other countries and as seen in operation in a number of our schools at present. These amendments would distort and perhaps worsen an already unsatisfactory position. I know that we are all agreed on aiming to improve standards in all our schools, to increase expectations, and above all to help the average and below-average pupils.
I quoted at some length in Committee from my noble friend's previous speeches, as well as from Better Schools, in all of which he made the point that a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils, covering the very areas which the foundation subjects together embrace, was the most important aim of any curriculum policy. My noble friend felt obliged to remind me at Committee stage that he still accepted these aims, but that he had never thought of imposing any mandatory requirement that they should be met. It appears that he is now convinced, as we have been for some time, of the need to take a further step and that some statutory provision is required if we are to guarantee a good curriculum for all pupils. I should have expected him to follow this logic to its conclusion and to wish to legislate for the broad and balanced curriculum for all that he previously advocated. But instead he and the other supporters of the amendment are proposing legislation for a narrow core curriculum.
The movers of the amendment propose to give statutory protection to two subjects, maths and English, which already form part of the curriculum for virtually all pupils. Science for all would certainly be an improvement, as would agreed attainment targets and assessment for all three subjects. But by legislating in such a narrow way my noble friend and the other movers would increase the chance of pupils, particularly the less able, for whom he has so much genuine concern, ending up with a curriculum which only went beyond the three core subjects in a very limited and unco-ordinated way and was narrow and unbalanced in its overall impact.
We are not prepared to contemplate such a distortion. If the policy of breadth and balance is seen to be in need of statutory support we must legislate for that policy and see that its benefits are available to all. The arguments we have heard against the 10-subject national curriculum boil down, as they did during the arguments at Committee stage, to a concern about flexibility and freedom of choice, 616 particularly in years four and five of secondary school. I said then, and I repeat. that we must not confuse flexibility with laxity. There will be ample provision in the new arrangements for teachers to offer their pupils the right curriculum in the right way. But there will not be the opportunity to take the soft option by omitting to teach, for example, as my noble friend Lady Young has said. modern languages to pupils of less than average ability or technology to girls.
We have plenty of evidence of good practice on both these examples as well as in other subjects. Why should we not attempt to extend this good practice? We expect teachers to use the flexibility that has been built in to ensure, for example, that pupils with difficulties in English are not introduced too quickly to another language; that pupils who move very rapidly through the national curriculum targets are not held back; and that groups of pupils with specific handicaps, to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), referred are given a suitably adapted curriculum. In this way we shall ensure that what is prescribed reflects the full range of what is needed.
But the real flexibility in our proposals is much more basic. I dispute the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady David, that all teachers are against the national curriculum. Many of the best teachers already apply the national curriculum and many more are looking forward to the Government's proposals being made law. But the real flexibility in our proposals is much more basic. It comes from what is not prescribed. We shall be setting out a framework for teachers to use and adapt. We are not setting out detailed syllabuses. We are prevented from prescribing teaching methods and materials or requiring that subjects are timetabled in any particular way. Teachers will be able to decide what level of attainment is right for any pupil at any age within very broad limits, and for years four and five we have said that some 30 per cent. of the timetable over one-and-a-half days a week will be available for pupils' own choice of subjects.
I believe that when the recommendations for attainment targets and programmes of study, which we expect shortly from the first two working groups on science and maths, are available it will be easier for all those who are concerned about flexibility to understand our intentions better.
As my noble friend Lord Joseph returned again to the theme of France in his opening remarks and referred admiringly to the arrangements made there for technical education for non-academic pupils, I should like to be clear. In France such provision is not a matter of positive choice. It is for those who have been failed by the ordinary system. That in itself, whatever my noble friend may say, is rather more rigid than our proposals. Pupils who are not up to the academic standard required in French primary and lower secondary schools are required to repeat the year. Those who do so more than once, particularly in primary school, may therefore arrive at the secondary stage one, two or even three years late. They and those who fail in the first two years of the lower secondary school may then be guided into technical and vocational classes to prepare them for technical or vocational work in the appropriate 617 upper school. The aim of this practice is to ensure that such pupils obtain some qualification. That is very laudable.
But my understanding is that the presence of these classes gives rise to considerable misgivings in France. In effect, they cut pupils off from the mainstream curriculum, and the work seen by HMI in its visits led members to criticise the extreme narrowness of the technical work in particular. For example, no modern technology is taught in these schools. But we note also that the curriculum is not confined to technical activity since it contains general subjects such as French, maths, science and topic work. Although practice varies considerably, the best practice was in those schools which were using the technical and vocational work to exemplify in a practical and relevant way more general educational matters. That of course is the equivalent of our technical and vocational educational initiative (TVEI), which is fully compatible with the national curriculum.
I believe that when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change. But in this case the evidence is conclusive. The standards in many of our schools are not what they ought to be and we must do something to change them. It is generally recognised that a broad and balanced curriculum, well taught by motivated teachers, brings satisfaction and success to all the fortunate pupils in those schools where it is applied. That is what we seek for all our schools.
I am sorry to have had to repeat so much of what I said at an earlier stage on this topic. I hope that it convinces the Committee as much as it did on the previous occasion, and that noble Lords will again join me in rejecting the amendments if my noble friend and the noble Baroness again press them to a Division.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, I am afraid that what the Minister said on a previous occasion did not convince many of us and it does not convince the second time round. I was very disappointed with much of her response and in one respect at least I thought she was being somewhat disingenuous in suggesting that many teachers support the national curriculum as proposed in the Bill because they are already teaching it. That is not the case. The fact that many teachers are teaching it might be a reason for not being quite as prescriptive as the Government are being. It does not seem to me to be a good reason to introduce a straitjacket of this kind.
Even where teachers are teaching the national curriculum they do not accept that it is desirable to be instructed in what they should teach and how they should teach it by the centre. That is what is entailed in the national curriculum as presently proposed.
I should like to support almost everything that the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, said, in introducing this group of amendments, but there are a couple of additional points that I should like to make. The first is that I suspect that the Government are biting off far more than they can chew and that there is a real danger that they will get totally bogged down in trying to prepare attainment targets, programmes of 618 study and assessment arrangements for as many as 11 different subjects for 11 years of schooling from the ages of five to 16. Surely it would be far better to try to create a really successfully core and later, when that has been achieved, to consider whether we want to go any further.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, argued that one could not separate the core from the foundation. I know of absolutely no educational reason why that should not happen. There could be a centrally-prescribed core of subjects that we regard as of particular importance and at the same time schools could be allowed to teach a wide range of alternative and additional subjects. Even if the Government want to be prescriptive and go beyond these subjects they would do far better to be much less ambitious at this stage. I suspect that by being so over-ambitious they are jeopardising their own objectives.
At the Committee stage, in answer to questions about the many subjects and areas of study left out of the peculiarly outdated and old-fashioned list of subjects a list which does not differ very much from the 1906 secondary regulations the Government frequently said that many additional subjects could be added to the curriculum over and above the list. I believe that that was most unconvincing. If the 11 subjects are to be covered properly it will take up the whole of the school week. The danger is that when schools try to add other important subjects, pupils will face overload because there are already so many prescribed parts of the curriculum.
The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, did not appear to fully understand the purpose of the amendment. It is not to exclude the study of history, geography, technology or modern languages. It is to allow combinations of those subjects to be taught to pupils at different times. Most importantly, it is to allow professional teachers to have control over what is taught, what should be expected of pupils and how they should be assessed. Instead the Bill hands that over to the Secretary of State and to a small group of civil servants and hand-picked outsiders.
No other country in North America or Europe has gone down the road of providing such a highly centralised curriculum. If we do so we shall destroy a great deal that is good in our system and which gives some choice to pupils, parents and teachers. The effect of the Bill will be to leave that choice available in the independent sector but not in the state system. As currently proposed the national curriculum is a straitjacket. It is also inconsistent with the Government's aims to provide more choice and diversity. I support the amendment.
§ Viscount Davidson
My Lords, I did not like to interrupt the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, but it may be for the convenience of the House if I remind your Lordships that the recommendation of the Procedure Committee is that only the mover of an amendment should speak after the Minister at Report and Third Reading stages. The committee believes that that recommendation by the group is in accordance with the practice of the House, with the proviso that it does not refer to short questions for elucidation, and that where a Minister wishes to speak early to assist the House that should not prevent subsequent debate.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to ask the noble Baroness a question. Will the national curriculum preclude schools from constructing courses in technical education for those children who, at the age of 13, have not shown any ability or willingness to learn what are called academic subjects? I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that such schools have been a great success in Germany where they have created a literate and numerate workforce. Will the national curriculum exclude the establishment of what in the Butler Act was called a technical school?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall attempt to respond briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Annan. As regards the national curriculum, our intention is to allow certain specialisation in the fourth and fifth year. Although it is intended that the full national curriculum should be followed through to school-leaving age, it can be followed through at different rates of progress and to a different standard. Not all subjects are expected to be taken at GCSE level, for example. In any event, we anticipate that a substantial amount of the curriculum time —approximately 30 per cent. —will enable pupils who wish to specialise in a certain direction to do so. I believe that it is fully compatible with what the noble Lord seeks to achieve.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ On Question, whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 133; Not-Contents, 162.621
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Adrian, L.||Dormand of Easington, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Ennals, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Ewart-Biggs, B.|
|Annan, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Ardwick, L.||Fisher of Rednal, B.|
|Aylestone, L.||Flowers, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E. [Teller.]||Foot, L.|
|Banks, L.||Galpern, L.|
|Birk, B.||Gladwyn, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Glenamara, L.|
|Blease, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Greenhill of Harrow, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Gregson, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Grey, E.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Grimond, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Carter, L.||Hatch of Lusby, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Hayter, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Hughes, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Hunt, L.|
|David, B.||Hylton, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Ilchester, E.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Ingleby, V.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Irving of Dartford, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Jay, L.||Rugby, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Russell, E.|
|Jenkins of Hillhead, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Joseph, L.||Seear, B.|
|Kagan, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Kearton, L.||Serota, B.|
|Kennet, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Sherfield, L.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Somers, L.|
|Kirkwood, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Stedman, B.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Longford, E.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Lovell-Davis, L.||Swann, L.|
|McCarthy, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|McNair, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Mason of Barnsley, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Mayhew, L.||Tonypandy, V.|
|Milford, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Molloy, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Monson, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Morton of Shuna, L.||Walston, L.|
|Murray of Epping Forest, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Nathan, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Nicol, B. [Teller.]||White, B.|
|Oram, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Parry, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Peston, L.||Willis, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Prys-Davies, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Rathcreedan, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Cox, B.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Craigton, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Cranbrook, E.|
|Allerton, L.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Arran, E.||Davidson, V. [Teller.]|
|Beaverbrook, L.||De Freyne, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Denham, L. [Teller.]|
|Beloff, L.||Denning, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Dundee, E.|
|Bessborough, E.||Eccles, V.|
|Blanch, L.||Effingham, E.|
|Blatch, B.||Elibank, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Elliott of Morpeth, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Elton, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Enniskillen, E.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Erroll of Hale, L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Fanshawe of Richmond, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Ferrers, E.|
|Burton, L.||Ferrier, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Caithness, E.||Gainford, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Gibson, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Gibson-Watt, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Gridley, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.|
|Carnock, L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Cathcart, E.||Hankey, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.|
|Chichester, Bp.||Harvington, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Henley, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Hesketh, L.|
|Combermere, V.||Hives, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Hood, V.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Cowley, E.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Reay, L.|
|Kaberry of Adel, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Kimball, L.||Renton, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Layton, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Leicester, Bp.||Romney, E.|
|London, Bp.||St. Albans, Bp.|
|Long, V.||St. John of Fawsley, L.|
|Luke, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|McFadzean, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Sandford, L.|
|Mahnesbury, E.||Seebohm, L.|
|Manton, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Marley, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Merrivale, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Mersey, V.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Middleton, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Monk Bretton, L.|
|Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Moran, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Morris, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Mottistone, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Mountgarret, V.||Terrington, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Moyne, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Munster, E.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Trafford, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Tranmire, L.|
|Norfolk, D.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Northbourne, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Truro, Bp.|
|O'Brien of Lothhury, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Orkney, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Oxfuird, V.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Pender, L.||Wolfson, L.|
|Pym, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Quinton, L.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.4 p.m.
Baroness David moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 17, after ("to") insert ("the framework for the teaching of").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 2 I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 6, 26 and 28.
§ These amendments try to change the national curriculum in a slightly different way from that proposed in Lord Joseph's amendment which we have just discussed. My purpose is to give greater flexibility to the Bill and to provide a more modern and appropriate framework for the national curriculum than the current archaic subject-based model set out in Clause 3.
§ One remarkable omission from the presentation of the Government's case for the national curriculum so far has been any reference to work currently going on in Scotland. As a result a number of noble Lords may not be aware that a very detailed process of preparation and consultation on the content of the curriculum guidelines in Scotland has been going on for a considerable time. The reason for the Government's failure to draw attention to this is that they have been pursuing a wholly different policy in Scotland compared with the approach in the current Bill.622
The approach in Scotland is advisory. Guidelines for a national curriculum and assessment are being introduced without legislation. There is to be no national prescription by the Secretary of State of the subjects to be included in the curriculum nor of the assessment arrangements. As consultative documents for both the Scottish Office and the Consultative Committee on the Curriculum state, the approach is to issue guidelines on the curriculum and advice and guidance on assessment. The approach has been specifically endorsed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Rifkind, who issued a consultative document in November 1987 entitled Curriculum and Assessment in Scotland: a Policy for the 90s which states that:
the CCC … —
that is the Consultative Committee on the Curriculum,
is issuing with the Secretary of State's approval guidelines on the curricular framework for the years S1 to S6",
that is the secondary years of education.
§ I should like the Minister to answer three questions. Why are the Government pursuing a different policy in England and Scotland? Why are guidelines appropriate in Scotland but not in England? Why is it appropriate to proceed without legislation in Scotland but not in England and Wales?
The current proposals for the secondary curriculum in Scotland were issued in August 1987 by the Consultative Committee on the Curriculum entitled Curriculum Design for the Secondary Stages. Guidelines for Head Teachers. Paragraph 2.1 states:
In Scotland guidance issued by the CCC with the approval of the Secretary of State is designed to assist education authorities and schools in devising curricula appropriate to the needs of the locality and individual pupils, within a broad national pattern based on the consensus implicit in the partnership between central and local agencies".
§ Paragraph 2.3(b) of the document states that local authorities have an important role to assist schools to adapt national guidance to local circumstances. The curriculum for an individual pupil is then negotiated between the school and the parents from national frameworks. The head teacher has primary responsibility for selecting the individual curriculum for each pupil.
§ The pattern set out in the guidelines proposes a number of broad subject areas as reflected in our amendments. Thus there is no suggestion that the traditional subjects which are normally regarded as being at the heart of the school curriculum should not be taught but that they should be presented in a flexible way which does not ignore other important cross-curricula areas and links them in a way which makes sense to pupils, particularly at the younger ages.
Paragraph 3.12 of the document states:
The curriculum of all pupils should include systematic and active study within each of the following modes: Language and Communication, Mathematical Studies and Applications, Scientific Studies and Applications, Creative and Aesthetic Activities, Technological Activities and Applications, Social and Environmental Studies, Religious and Moral Education and P.E".
§ We have left religious and moral education out of our list as RE is treated separately in the Bill.623
I point out that this list is very much nearer to the proposals in Better Schools than what appears in the Bill. Better Schools states:
The Government's policies for breadth and balance require that … the curriculum for all pupils … should contain English. maths and science: a study of the humanities; aesthetic subjects: practical subjects; physical education; and a modern foreign language for most pupils".
§ It recognises the place in the curriculum of a range of other possible subject areas. Contrast that with the English situation. By seeking to impose such an insensitive stranglehold on state education in England and Wales, the Secretary of State has alienated an already demoralised school system. Advisers, inspectors, administrators, teachers and support staff have all united with organisations of parents and governors in criticising his plans. We hope that no one remains convinced by the suggestion that there is any sort of consensus in favour of this detailed, centrally imposed and subject-based national curriculum.
§ The damage that pursuing these plans and using these unprecedented powers may do to our system, our teachers and, above all, to our children is incalculable. Saddest of all, it could easily have been avoided. The Secretary of State could have been content to follow the path of his predecessors —the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, in Better Schools, from which I have just quoted, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, in a number of DES and HMI documents presented in his time —a path of encouraging positive curriculum development and positive methods of assessing children's and school's performance; moving forward in the tradition of our education system with the teachers, with the administrators and with the parents and children; leading from the centre, but not controlling and throttling from the centre.
The present collision course, which may well turn out to be that, could have been diverted if the Scottish system had been followed all over the United Kingdom. Instead of the Secretary of State issuing orders setting out syllabuses which are required to be taught in every state school classroom and testing arrangements which must be used everywhere and prohibiting any curriculum development or experiment that does not have his prior approval, the Scottish guidelines —and I quote from the letter:
aim to provide head teachers with the basis for designing local and individual curricula in relation to a national curricular framework".
What an infinitely more educational, more trusting and more civilised approach that is than the language of this Bill. For example, there is the duty in Clause 6 for the head teacher,
to secure … that the National Curriculum as subsisting at the beginning of that year is implemented".
The letter continues:
The overriding consideration is to achieve an appropriate curriculum balance for the individual pupil. The guidelines stress that a curriculum that wholly fails to take account of each essential element would be inappropriate; one which disregards special circumstances is equally inappropriate".
§ Contrast that sensitivity for special circumstances with the language of the Bill in Clauses 12, 13 and 14 which allows children with special needs and others 624 to be excluded from the national curriculum. These formal exclusions —made necessary again by the range of powers to prescribe in detail that the Secretary of State is taking —will intensify segregation and set up barriers to achieving equal opportunities and whole school policies.
The conclusion of the Scottish document Curriculum Design for the Secondary Stages emphasises that it:
does not attempt to deal with detailed issues of organisation and management of the curriculum at school level, believing that these can only be satisfactorily considered by education authorities and schools in relation to their own decisions on policy and priorities and the resources available to them".
§ Why has such thinking been aggressively dismissed south of the Border? Obviously providing a sensitive national framework of individual curriculum planning cannot break it up into narrow subject boxes; hence the language of this amendment following the Scottish model with areas of study or modes which can encompass the balanced and broader based curriculum which Clause 1 seeks.
§ In responding to the English consultation paper on the national curriculum many organisations pointed to vital components of education missing from the bald list of subjects in Clause 3: home economics, child care and parenting, health education, citizenship, the classics, economics and so on. We have a list of amendments bringing in those subjects yet again. Those subjects would be embraced in the broad headlines of the subject areas in our amendment. I ask your Lordships to look at the appendices to the Scottish document which make this clear.
§ Replacing the subjects with this more thoughtful framework would reflect some understanding of what modern schools are about instead of trying to move them back to the early years of this century. It would avoid relegating vital areas of learning which are not included in the present core and foundation subjects. It would not insult to the same degree the skills and experience of our teachers. I beg to move.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, I strongly support this amendment. When one considers that we are talking about a Scottish amendment there may well be a moral in it —the Scots have always taken education seriously; the English have only ever put up with it. I have a feeling that the Bill reflects that situation.
If your Lordships want to know what a national curriculum should be, I suggest a look at the proposed Scottish system. It gives the flexibility that we have been pleading and begging for in vain with the Government. I mention only one or two aspects of it. It speaks of creative and aesthetic development —I think those are the words. This embraces the visual, plastic and performing arts —the performing arts embrace dance and drama, which have no mention in our national curriculum —as well as music. Instead, in our curriculum we have just art and music; baldly that. Where do dance and drama come in for children for whom these activities are much more important or which may become more important at any stage of their school career?
625 Children may suddenly have a need to take up those subjects when they reach the age of 14 or 15 when they did not have the need previously.
There is also the matter of social studies, mentioned in the proposed curriculum. These will include the life skills for which we feel there is a strong need. In the troubled society in which we live in our urban areas the teaching of life skills to children is all-important, especially when one bears in mind the extent of family breakdown with children not being taught in their homes the skills they have traditionally been taught.
What could be more important than the care of the environment in which we live? One has only to walk through our streets to see the litter. We should compare that with the condition in any other European country. We must then ask whether some education of our children on the care of the environment is not necessary.
I strongly support this amendment and beg your Lordships to consider it seriously.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, it is good to hear the Scottish education system being extolled so strongly in your Lordships' House, especially by an English Lord and an English Baroness. Far be it for me —
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lord, the tag after my title indicates the contrary. My family came from north of the Border.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, I beg your Lordships' forgiveness.
Far be it for me in any way to deningrate the system which has been evolved through the years and in which I played a small part, but I must point out to the House that the different approach to the curriculum has been developed in the somewhat different context of Scotland. As I said at Second Reading, Scotland is a very much smaller place. Historically education has been much more centralised than it has been in England and Wales.
The exam system in Scotland —and most young people take the Scottish exams, the same exams —has set the curriculum to a greater extent than in England and Wales, at any rate until now. The exam system in Scotland covers a wider range of subjects during the first year at university. As the noble Baroness very accurately described, in Scotland the curriculum is defined much more by areas than by specific areas of subjects so that the menu can be chosen from those areas. From the age of 16 the menu includes a number of possibilities in colleges of further education where more technical subjects can be incorporated into the subject areas.
When I first looked at the Bill I wondered very much whether the defining in law of subject areas for the national curriculum was a possible approach. I had the opportunity to discuss this both with local government officials in Scotland and with officials of the DES in England. I came to the conclusion that where the national curriculum will operate it will be as flexible as the way in which the Scottish system operates though the operation is under the headings 626 of specific subjects rather than subject areas. If that is not the case I shall be very disappointed.
The reply which my noble friend the Minister gave as regards the earlier amendment confirmed to me that that flexibility is there. Though the comparison between the two systems is an extremely useful one at this stage of the Bill, I do not believe that it need worry your Lordships that the English curriculum is all that more prescriptive.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I rise with a certain amount of diffidence. I appreciate that on numerous occasions in the past I have asserted, sometimes to the irritation of some of your Lordships, that Scotland does it differently and the different way is better. I make it quite clear that I fully accept that the Scottish education system is in need of a considerable amount of improvement.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I am glad to hear that the noble and learned Lord agrees. I believe he has less experience of it than I have.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, there are certain elements in the consultation paper with reference to testing where the local authorities do not agree. However, I quarrel with the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, on the question of centralisation. I realise that Scotland has only a limited number of local education authorities, but within the guidance of the curriculum council there is a considerable difference in the way in which they approach the matter and in the arrangements of the schools.
If one compares the framework for the third and fourth years at secondary schools in the Scottish system with the framework that we have in the Bill in Clause 3, we see that people must be taught history, geography, technology, music, art and physical education. I believed that history and geography as separate subjects had disappeared from modern thought. If one looks at the Scottish system one discovers that social and environmental studies cover contemporary social studies, economics, geography, history or modern studies. I suggest that that is more appropriate and more in tune with the way in which people are taught.
As regards language and communication, one finds that the core area is English but the elective area includes classical studies, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Russian and Spanish. Apart from Gaelic, which I would not suggest should be taught as a foreign language to the English, are all these languages to be included? Classical studies or Latin do not appear in the grouping of a modern foreign language.
The other matter which I consider to be very important and which is missing from the wording of Clause 3 is application. It is a matter which noble Lords on both sides of the House have continuously asserted is important, and I totally agree. I am sure that one of the reasons why children become bored 627 with school —and many of them do —is that they cannot see the point of things. If they are taught why it is necessary to learn something they will learn it a great deal more willingly. One sees throughout the Scottish wording "application" time and time again and I consider it to be crucially important. It is that which seems to be missing in Clause 3 of the Bill from the foundation and core subjects. I support the amendment.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, twice your Lordships' House —once a few minutes ago and once at Committee stage —made it clear that it supports the provisions in the Bill for the core curriculum, foundation subjects and the rest. In those circumstances I hope that your Lordships' House will not think it necessary to spend very much time on this amendment which might well be described as the core curriculum and soda; it is a diluted version of the provisions in the Bill as they stand for the core curriculum. It seeks to contradict in some considerable measure the considered decision of your Lordships' House both a few minutes ago and at Committee stage.
I do not think the fact that different provisions exist in Scotland is necessarily very relevant to your Lordships' consideration of the provisions in this Bill for England and Wales. If I may be allowed to say so, sometimes your Lordships are a little wearied with statements by Scottish Peers and from that Bench of the special, peculiar and different needs of Scotland and the demand that Scotland should be treated very differently from England in so many respects. Therefore, it is perhaps a little lacking in consistency for the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, to argue that the English system should be adopted or adapted to the Scottish.
Looking at what is proposed for England, I have no doubt that in good schools most of these provisions could be worked. In very good schools the need for the core curriculum is the least and the need for provisions in statutes is the least. However, we are dealing with all schools in the public sector in England and Wales. Your Lordships know very well that there are many very inferior schools in this country and, without wishing to prejudice the issue, including many in the ILEA area. Your Lordships will need only to reflect for a moment to consider what would happen in some schools of that kind if they were asked to take as subjects creative and aesthetic studies, technological activities and applications, social and environmental studies. I imagine that would boil down to Labour Party politics.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord has been in Glasgow or Edinburgh recently, but there are certainly areas of deprivation in those cities. Cynics in the younger age group would take these subjects if they were treated in the way the noble Lord is treating them, and would laugh at them in the way the noble Lord is laughing at them. So be it; they laugh at history and geography also.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that intervention, though I am far from clear what the point of it was. If he is saying, as apparently he is, that young and cynical people in not very good schools in Scotland would not operate very well under this system, I am wholly prepared to agree with him. What I am arguing about —and it is more relevant to this amendment —is that it would be quite disastrous in inferior schools in England. That, I notice, he did not contradict.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, as always the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has made some good debating points, but he has not dealt with the substance of the amendment. The important point here is how teaching should be handled —whether it should be on a cross-curricular basis or subject by subject.
It is worth while having this amendment in order to ask the Minister whether the way in which these subjects are presented will make it difficult for cross-curricular teaching to take place. That is what it is about. The crux of the matter is how the testing will be done. If the testing is to be related to each specific single subject, the teaching will be done on a single subject basis. If the testing is done in a way that encourages cross-curricular teaching, that problem will not arise.
People will be influenced by what appears on the face of the Act. If it is a list of subjects, and if that list of subjects is matched by tests that are closely subject related, it will undermine the opportunity for cross-curricular teaching which nearly all modern pedagogic specialists would advise.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, it is also necessary to lift the reference to social and environmental studies out of the slightly specious political joke that was made about it. Social and environmental studies have been for 15 years a very important part of the curriculum of all schools, private and public. Where the environment is poor and where the society is limited it is even more essential that enrichment of the curriculum should take place. It is in that sense that social and environmental studies are in the curriculum of schools.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I rise to speak on this amendment because I am especially interested in the arts side. "Creative and aesthetic studies" seems to be a much better way of dealing with what at Committee stage, admittedly very late at night, we found to be a difficult problem. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is wrong if he thinks that this was discussed at Committee stage. Arts were discussed only on the amendment which I moved on music. That amendment was contained in a group and did not really get a fair hearing.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, the noble Baroness misunderstood me. I was referring to the fact that at the Committee stage, as earlier this afternoon, your Lordships came down in favour of the other system —that embodied in the Bill —of the core curriculum and that this is simply an attempt to go back on that.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, with great respect, it is not. This deals with the foundations subjects. It alters the list. It makes it very much more practical and logical and provides a better way of teaching. As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, a cross-curricular attitude is extremely important, especially in the area of aesthetic and creative studies. This would make it inclusive rather than exclusive, and we would not have the unwelcome introduction of the hierarchy which is at present in the Bill. If the amendments are accepted, as I hope they will be, I shall be able to withdraw my amendment on the arts, which evidently caused the Government some problems on the last occasion in Committee.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that the principle of a national curriculum has now been approved more than once by the House. I am not persuaded that our use of a list of subjects in Clause 3 betokens a very different approach to the curriculum from that adopted by the Scottish education department.
Why are we different from Scotland, and why do we need legislation in England which is not thought to be necessary in Scotland? The first question is a large one, but on the second we have been helped by noble Lords from north of the Border. Scotland has had a centrally directed curriculum for many years, and after all, 12 local education authorities can more easily carry out that central direction than the 97 that exist in England. Furthermore, there is a tradition of consensus on the curriculum in Scotland which, as experience shows, does not exist in England. This explains the need for legislation.
Those noble Lords who examined the Scottish proposals will see that they intend pupils to cover the same ground as is included in our foundation list —English, maths, science, a foreign language, history, geography, technology, music, art and PE. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, that the areas of experience are not unfocused but represent subject groupings. Similarly, cross-curricular themes like health education will be dealt with in our foundation subjects, with room outside the national curriculum to reinforce those themes. The Scottish proposals for such themes are therefore very similar.
On areas of experience, HMI has analysed the curriculum in these terms and has not claimed that this is the way to organise a school timetable or to establish curriculum objectives. In its document on the curriculum it recognises that secondary schools will wish in the main to start from a subject base, and suggests that primary schools also will find it easier to plan for continuity and progression where some work at least is organised in separate subjects. Indeed, HMI's Curriculum Matters series will include separate volumes on English and modern languages, and on history and geography from five to 16, rather than seeking to wrap them up as language and communication, or social and environmental studies.
HMI states clearly that the areas of learning and experience are not in any sense discrete elements to be taught separately from one another, as our foundation subjects are now separately taught in most schools. This shows the inadvisability of trying 630 to replace our list with the one suggested by this amendment. The important thing for our legislative framework is that it should be readily understood and capable of translation into a workable system of national curriculum orders which define together our main educational objectives.
There is little doubt that working with the list of subjects helps in both these respects. Parents and teachers know what we mean by the broad subject headings. We also know that they must be defined in ways which cover all the essential areas of experience, including the necessary cross-curricular themes. In terms of dance and drama, which have been specifically referred to, I can quote as an example the fact that drama is firmly in the terms of reference of the National Curriculum English Working Group which was set up just after Easter.
Under our proposals the Secretary of State has no power to control how the national curriculum is taught. While we expect as now that most foundation subjects will normally be separately taught and timetabled, we are not constraining the development of cross-curricular or modular approaches, whether under the auspices of TVEI, to which I referred earlier, or otherwise, or the continuation of good practice in primary schools. In fact, by giving schools a clear framework against which to test the contents of any modular or integrated course, we are helping them to ensure that it is making an effective contribution to their overall objectives, something which may be lost sight of if such developments are not carefully monitored. Thus it is evident that nothing would be gained, and a good deal in terms of clarity and comprehensibility would be lost, by the rewording that has been urged upon us. On that basis, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister whether she intends to respond to the intervention of her noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter who said that social and environmental studies, which include economics and economic awareness, could be taught in our schools in such a way as would amount to Labour Party indoctrination. Is that now the view of the DES on the social sciences?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I do not wish to respond too often in this way. I took my noble friend's remark to be somewhat rhetorical.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I think that we all took the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with several grains of salt.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, "pinches", that is right. What I fail to understand —and this has been the case throughout the Bill —is that the Minister assures us that the framework is flexible and that there will be cross-curricular possibilities within the curriculum. Why is that not on the face of the Bill? Parents and teachers do not like such headings. They do not understand them. Every effort we have made 631 to achieve more flexibility has not been accepted. Parents and teachers still do not like the way matters are arranged.
The Secretary of State has a great deal of power under the Bill. He appoints councils and working groups. He can direct what is in Clause 11. He can direct what goes on in the way of experiments. There is more centralised power in the Bill than in anything we have experienced. I am extremely sorry that the new headings are not acceptable to the Minister. It does not seem to me that we should slavishly follow Scotland. If we see something sensible, I do not see why we should not take it over. I am sure that these headings would be more readily understood by the population, especially those involved in the education world. I can see that we shall not get any further on this point, so I shall ask the House to divide at once.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ On Question, whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 117; Not-Contents, 176.633
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Adrian, L.||Hatch of Lusby, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Hayter, L.|
|Annan, L.||Hooson, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Hughes, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Hunt, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Hylton, L.|
|Banks, L.||Irving of Dartford, L.|
|Birk, B.||Jacques, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Jay, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Kagan, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Kearton, L.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Carter, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Kirkwood, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Listowel, E.|
|David, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Longford, E.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||McNair, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Milford, L.|
|Falkender, B.||Molloy, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Morton of Shuna, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Mulley, L.|
|Flowers, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Foot, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Gallacher, L.||Northfield, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Oram, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Parry, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Peston, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Grey, E.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Grimond, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Rea, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Russell, E.||Underhill, L.|
|Sainsbury, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Seear, B. [Teller.]||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Sefton of Garston, L.||Walston, L.|
|Shackleton, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Sherfield, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Somers, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Stallard, L.||White, B.|
|Stedman, B.||Wigoder, L.|
|Stewart of Fulham, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Stoddart of Swindon, L.||Willis, L.|
|Swann, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Taylor of Gryfe, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Taylor of Mansfield, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Turner of Camden, B.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Fortescue, E.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Gainford, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Gardner of Parkes, B.|
|Allerton, L.||Gibson, L.|
|Arran, E.||Gibson-Watt, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Grantchester, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Gridley, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Guildford, Bp.|
|Beloff, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Halsbury, E.|
|Birdwood, L.||Hankey, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.|
|Borthwich, L.||Harvington, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Hastings, L.|
|Brahazon of Tara, L.||Henley, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Hesketh, L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Hives, L.|
|Burton, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Hood, V.|
|Buxton of Alsa, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Caithness, E.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Caldecote, V.||Ilchester, E.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Jenkin of Roding, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Joseph, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Kaberry of Adel, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Killearn, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Kimball, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Kitchener, E.|
|Chelwood, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Chichester, Bp.||Layton, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||London, Bp.|
|Colnbrook, L.||Long, V.|
|Colwyn, L.||Luke, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Cowley, E.||Mancroft, L.|
|Cox, B.||Manton, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Marley, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Croft, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Middleton, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Monckton of Brenchley, V.|
|Denning, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Morris, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Enniskillen, E.||Moyne, L.|
|Erroll of Hale, L.||Munster, E.|
|Faithfull, B.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Nelson, E.|
|Ferrier, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Foley, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Northbourne, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Shannon, E.|
|O'Brien of Lothbury, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Orkney, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Orr-Ewing, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Pender, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Porritt, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Portland, D.||Swansea, L.|
|Pym, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Quinton, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Rankeillour, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Reay, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Reigate, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Renton, L.||Tonypandy, L.|
|Renwick, L.||Trafford, L.|
|Rippon of Hexham, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Rodney, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Romney, E.||Trumpington, B.|
|St. Albans, Bp.||Truro, Bp.|
|St. Aldwyn, E.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|St. Davids, V.||Waldegrave, E.|
|St. John of Fawsley, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Salisbury, M.||Wolfson, L.|
|Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.||Wynford, L.|
|Sandford, L.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)
My Lords, I call Amendment No. 3 in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.
§ Lord Thorneycroft
My Lords, perhaps I may raise one question of procedure before the right reverend Prelate starts. There are grouped with this amendment some 65 other amendments, which is quite something on a Report stage. It is quite a problem for the right reverend Prelate. Obviously I do not quarrel with it, but we may well have something like a Second Reading debate.
However, a number of amendments are not included in this grouping, some on religious collective worship and some on religious education. The House may well feel, as I do myself, that while we may have a Second Reading debate covering the whole field of over 65 amendments, we shall probably be wise to reserve some of our comments for a detailed discussion on these rather important points. I think that is probably the way in which the House may wish to proceed.
There is one other point. Included in these consolidated groupings are Amendments Nos. 339 and 341 which are to be moved by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. They certainly cannot be in this group because they are amendments to a later amendment of mine which is outside this amendment.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I am in some difficulty on this. I support everything that my noble friend has said. The difficulty is that although it is most welcome to have a general introduction to the amendments, as I understand the right reverend Prelate wishes to have, any detailed consideration of religious education which arises under Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 —two of which are in my name —cannot be dealt with and it has been taken out of the mass of grouped amendments. However, the sister 634 amendments on collective worship, also in my name and to which my noble friend has just referred, are left in. The difficulty is that they raise two points of principle: one, that the act of worship shall be Christian and the other, that there shall be separate acts for other faiths. How is one to deal with that? I seek some assistance.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, perhaps I may help my noble friends. The amendment which has just been called in the name of the right reverend Prelate is a paving amendment, I think, to two or possibly more amendments. It is always necessary, where there are several amendments on the same subject, for the movers of later amendments to have the right to talk on the first one because the outcome of their later amendments may well be affected by the decision of the House on the earlier amendments.
I think that it is right that we should have, I hope not quite as large a debate as envisaged by my two noble friends, but certainly a comprehensive debate on the whole issue. After that, if there should be a decision of the House on the first amendment, some of the other amendments may fall. Others may come to be discussed rather more shortly when we reach them. I think this is the way in which the House normally carries out these procedures. I do not see that there is any other way in which the House can do it.
§ Lord Thorneycroft
My Lords, perhaps I might ask my noble friend to consider what he is saying on that point. Nobody could possibly object to the first amendment; it is a drafting amendment. To say that the decision of the House on a drafting amendment will affect the length of debate or the closeness of the analysis of other matters which raise far more important issues later cannot be right.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I must tell my noble friend that the practice in your Lordships' House is for a decision on a series of amendments to be taken on the first one, even if it is only a paving amendment. If the House should divide on the first amendment or if it should accept it on Question, that would be a decision binding on the other two later amendments which come with it. That is the way in which both the Committee and Report stages are always carried out in your Lordships' House.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will bear with me for a moment, because it will save time. There are amendments in my name. Subject to what is said, I am opposing the amendments in the name of the right reverend Prelate which are part of this paving amendment. But I am supporting this amendment because it paves the way to my amendments. In other words, I shall support this amendment although I am opposing the other amendments of the right reverend Prelate. Therefore, what are we doing with this amendment? There can be no objection to the amendment because it accepts that religious education and collective worship are inseparable and there should be a common approach. Everybody would agree with that. Where the divergence lies is on the means of implementation. The right reverend Prelate has one package and, with respect to the House, I have another, with those noble Lords who support me.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, surely this is more trouble than it is worth? We all make our separate speeches on the first amendment, supporting it if need be and describing our attitude to the later ones. If need be, we vote separately on the later ones.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I do not think that the difficulty envisaged by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway really exists. Suppose your Lordships refused to accept the amendment of the right reverend Prelate and wished later to accept the amendment of my noble friend, then the paving amendment on which we had taken the vote on the amendment of the right reverend Prelate could always be put in at Third Reading as a consequential amendment. There really is not a difficulty with this because this is the way the House always proceeds. To seek to alter what has been a very well understood and very well tried procedure of the House at this stage would have us all in a total foment.
My Lords, in the notes to the groupings it is quite clearly stated:Although every effort is made to secure agreement to these groupings, they remain informal and not binding.What precisely does that mean?
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, what my noble friend must not confuse is the amendments which are linked together —in other words, the paving amendment of the right reverend Prelate plus the little group that come after it —and those that are discussed. A decision on the paving amendment is always taken in your Lordships' House as a decision on the substantive amendment or amendments that come later. They do not affect any other amendments that are grouped with it. But it is right to discuss those together because some later amendments may well be affected by the decision of your Lordships on the earlier ones. I hope that my noble friend will understand that. I think that the House usually does find that this procedure works. The only difficulty on this occasion is that there is such a large number of amendments grouped together, but this I am afraid cannot be helped.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, perhaps I may support very much what the Government Chief Whip says. As I see it, a decision on the paving amendment —Amendment No. 3—will also be a decision on the other amendments standing in the names of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, and the noble Lords, Lord Soper and Lord Elton—Amendments Nos. 69 and 71 — as the right reverend Prelate will no doubt tell your Lordships when he moves his amendment.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, that is absolutely right. It is the custom of your Lordships' House that the decision on the paving amendment is taken as binding on the others and that the ones that are linked with it, that are agreed to be linked with it and 636 are generally accepted to be linked with it, should be taken formally when they are reached in the order in which they come.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, will my noble friend clear up one point on the ruling he has just given? If one is in the position, as I think I am, of favouring some of the subsequent amendments of the right reverend Prelate but being against others, how am I to vote on the paving amendment?
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I should hate my noble friend to think that I am giving rulings. I hoped that I was giving an interpretation of what is the generally accepted practice of this House. I think that these three amendments do go together. I am afraid that all I can suggest is that if my noble friend does not like them as a group—I do not think that they stand apart from each other—he can perhaps make that clear when he addresses the House on the subject.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I can sympathise with my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway simply by saying that surely the principle is consistency. What my noble friend the Chief Whip is saying is that no noble Lord may ask the House to do after one decision something which is inconsistent with that decision. When we get to the subsequent amendments, it will be clear whether or not they are consistent with what has already been decided.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, with respect, that cannot be so because if the principle is consistency, this amendment, which my noble friend the Chief Whip has not appreciated, is consistent with—I shall support it—both the amendment of the right reverend Prelate and with the amendment that stands in my name supported by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk and the other supporters. It is consistent with both. So when it is said by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, that if we support Amendment No. 3 we support the amendment of the right reverend Prelate, that totally puts out the other amendments. And there is a consistency between both of them.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I am afraid that we should get into the most tremendous difficulty if my noble friend seeks to alter a very well-tried and very well-understood procedure of the House. If my noble friend were to vote for the first amendment of the right reverend Prelate, the one we are engaged on at the moment, he would be supporting the substantive amendment of the right reverend Prelate. I am afraid that there is no way one can get away from that. If the group of amendments of the right reverend Prelate is not accepted, then my noble friend may move his. It will not have the paving that is common to his amendment and that of the right reverend Prelate, but that can always be put back again on Third Reading. That is the purpose of Third Reading—a tidying up after the previous stages of the Bill.
§ Lord Thorneycroft
My Lords, I should like to remind my noble friend that I have taken the prudent course—bearing in mind that something like this might present itself—to withdraw all the relevant 637 amendments from this group. So we shall have no difficulty whatever in moving them. They will not be hound in any way by the decision on the drafting amendments. However, there is a slight problem in that when the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London comes to move his amendment on religious worship (which I take it he will do formally when it is called) I have an amendment to it which is not grouped with it. But I take it that my amendment will be perfectly in order.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I think it must be right that the amendment which I hope my noble friend will discuss with this particular grouping—the amendment to the group of the right reverend Prelate—will of course be moved later when we reach it chronologically.
§ Lord Thorneycroft
My Lords, I shall not discuss it here. I only discussed it in the most general terms on Second Reading. I shall not move it formally, but with a considered speech at the appropriate point in the Bill.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, may I suggest that we take the advice of the two Chief Whips and listen to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London?
The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendment No. 3
Page 1, line 17, after ("education") insert (", religious worship").
§ The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am moving Amendment No. 3 as a paving amendment. I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 69, 71, 74, 76, 77, 80–82 and 336. I shall inevitably have to refer also to some amendments to be moved by the Minister because they are intimately connected with the implementation of those amendments.
§ In Committee widespread concern was expressed about the provisions for religious education which it was felt would not deal with the present situation in our schools. Deep concern was expressed about the failure to express the centrality of the Christian faith, both in teaching and in worship, and its replacement by what is commonly called the comparative religion approach which fails to do justice not only to Christianity but to any faith, or by the abandonment of anything which could be described as religious education.
§ While, as I then indicated, I had great sympathy with this concern (which I share) I could not for a number of reasons support the various amendments which were proposed to deal with the situation. I did not believe that it could be remedied simply by the insertion of provisions, however laudable the intention behind them, without relating them to the education system as a whole, depending as it does for its efficient operation upon the co-operation of a number of partners recognised to be such. Consultation with those partners was essential if new provisions were to be effective. I therefore gave an undertaking to your Lordships that having undertaken such consultations I should on Report try to bring to the House a package of amendments which would both implement the desires expressed in 638 Committee and do so with the understanding of all who are involved in their implementation. This I now do.
§ In presenting them to the House, I wish first to express my appreciation to the Secretary of State and his officials for the assistance which has been given and for their creative approach in our negotiations. I also wish to express my appreciation for the tenacity of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, which has provided the necessary stimulus to keep the discussion directed to the right end. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked me to express his deep regret that pastoral demands prevent him from being in the House today to support the amendments in person. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, also strongly supports the amendments. However, he cannot be present as his wife is undergoing an operation this afternoon.
§ Discussions have taken place with representatives of all the major Christian churches; representatives of other faiths; those representing local authorities; the teachers' unions; parents' and governors' organisations; and educational organisations such as the Religious Education Council, which has over 40 member organisations from the education world and the faith community. If any feel that they have been left out, I assure them that that is simply due to the pressure of time and for no other reason.
§ To avoid any doubt or confusion, I asked those who have been consulted to confirm their response in writing. In the majority of cases, I received letters from the responsible people concerned to that effect. Not only have I received widespread support but none whom we have consulted wishes to oppose what is proposed in the amendments. What I now present is more than a number of isolated amendments. It is a package. The individual amendments relate to each other to produce an overall effect which is more than the sum of the effects of each amendment taken separately.
§ The package provides a new basis for religious education in our schools. It both secures the centrality of Christianity in religious education and does so in a way which is appropriate to our education system. It acknowledges and provides for the valid concerns of other religious communities in Britain as part of our nation and does so within that system and not by requiring them to meet their concerns by withdrawing or opting out.
§ One fundamental change is the use of the term "religious education" instead of the term "religious instruction" which was used in the 1944 Act to cover both the agreed syllabus and denominational teaching. Because RE was used in that Act with a wider meaning, it is now proposed to refer specifically to worship alongside religious education. Amendments Nos. 3, 69 and 336 are all intended to implement that change. It is also reflected in the additional responsibility for worship which is given to the standing advisory councils by Amendments Nos. 74 and 76. The councils, which under earlier amendments accepted in Committee are now mandatory and given the right to require a revision of the agreed syllabus, are given the responsibility for ensuring that the provisions relating to religious 639 ducation and worship as a whole are implemented locally.
§ The changes for the agreed syllabus itself are reflected by Amendment No. 71. That provides that the syllabus shall reflect the fact that the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian, while taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain. In other words, while affirming clearly the place of Christianity it provides for a flexibility of emphasis in areas where the vast majority of pupils are from other faiths. It will be open to the standing advisory councils on religious education, as established by Clause 7 and amended in Committee, to advise as to how that flexibility is to be used. However, it will have to be done without prejudice to the distinctive position of Christianity. The complaints procedure will enable representations to be made if the implementation of the agreed syllabus is regarded as unsatisfactory in any school.
§ Similar provisions are made for worship by Amendment No. 69. Normally that will be Christian. But where the occasion requires—for example, in a school in which the family tradition is predominantly Moslem—the act of worship can draw on that tradition. Again, in respect of worship the advice of the standing advisory councils must be given and the complaints procedure lies. I should point out that amendments to be put forward by the Government restate the provision of the 1944 Act in respect of the right of parents to withdraw children from religious education or worship or both so that they will be on the face of the Bill and not remain as unrepealed provisions of the 1944 Act.
§ There is a significant change in the constitution of the standing advisory councils. Under the amendments, the committee of other denominations must include representatives of Christian denominations as well as those of other faiths. To meet the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, in Committee, Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 provide that the voting in those committees will be by majority. Each committee (or, as they will be called under the Bill, representative group), except that which represents the LEA, will have one vote each. Unanimity will not be required. That will prevent the representatives of one faith from vetoing a request for the revision of the syllabus.
§ It will be apparent that the standing advisory councils will have a very important role to play in ensuring the effective implementation of the new provisions. So far as concerns the Christian churches, I have already emphasised the need for active and vigorous participation. In the Church of England, that will be pressed upon the bishops and the diocesan directors of education. Cardinal Hume has agreed that the Roman Catholic Church will play a full part in the process—considerably fuller than in the past. The Free Church Federal Council has also indicated that the free churches will contribute to the process with enthusiasm. There are a number of points which we are still discussing with the department. However, they are points which do not affect the package on religious education and 640 worship and I shall speak to them as they arise in our debates.
§ I believe that this package could signal the end of what has been described in this House as the mish-mash approach to religious education, which those of other faiths, as well as Christians, deplore. I believe positively that it represents a new approach to religious education. In the past, teachers may have too often appeared to accept secularism because they feared that to do otherwise would mean indoctrination—a process, in its pejorative sense, which many in this House have also deplored. The package will lead to recognition and acceptance of the fact that the avoidance of indoctrination does not require the adoption of a mish-mash. Nor does it require the adoption of a neutral approach which limits religious education to no more than information about religion. Nor does it require the adoption of a separatist approach in which religion is isolated from education and which divides both the community and school and the wider community in which the school is set.
§ I do not claim that the package is perfect. I do not claim that it provides exactly what every interested party (or indeed every Member of this House) wants. That frankly would be impossible. However, I do not see it as a compromise. I see it as a positive and creative approach to religious education which, while taking the interests of all seriously, achieves those three aims that I mentioned earlier in my speech of acknowledging and providing for the valid concerns of other faiths in a way which is appropriate to our educational system, recognising that those who profess those faiths are part of our nation, and at the same time securing centrality of the Christian tradition of this country.
§ While commending the group of amendments as a whole. I beg to move Amendment No. 3.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I should like to begin by expressing great appreciation of the endeavours of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London by saying how much many of us value the progress he has achieved since we discussed these matters in Committee. With these amendments there is a profoundly significant move from a position where Christianity was not on the face of the Bill to a situation where it is explicitly identified as the main component in both worship and religious education.
It may be helpful at the outset for me to clarify my own position by speaking not only to the amendments in the name of the right reverend Prelate but also to those which carry my own name, and especially Amendment No. 25. In so doing, I shall discuss the objectives as I see them behind those amendments with which I am associated and indicate why—subject to further clarification which I hope that the right reverend Prelate may be able to give with regard to one or two specific problems—I hope to be able to support his amendments and the associated amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Hooper. I cannot of course speak for other noble Lords whose names are joined with mine on some of the other amendments.
The concerns which prompted me and I believe my colleagues to seek to amend the Bill were three-fold.
641 First, as the right reverend Prelate has said, there has been widespread anxiety about violation of the 1944 Act in that in too many schools now there is no act of worship and many pupils receive no religious education.
Secondly, there is concern over the content of religious education and worship in those schools where it has become either excessively secularised and politicised or where the multi-faith approach has been adopted to the extent that all faiths are trivialised and faith itself may be destroyed. The noble Lord the Chief Rabbi summed up this problem in Committee with a quotation from Rabbi Jonathan Sachs in which he referred to a "fruit cocktail of world faiths" and argued that,in trying to teach all faiths, it's possible that we succeed in teaching none". —[Official Report, 3/5/88; col. 420.]Thirdly, there was the related concern over the need to protect the integrity of Christianity and of other world religions. I and many other Members of your Lordships' House argued that Christianity as the main spiritual tradition of this country for nearly 2,000 years should have a primary place in both RE and in collective worship. Noble Lords may recollect that we originally used the word "predominant" but we then agreed that it has undesirable connotations.
The extent to which Christinity is not being taught adequately in some schools has since been vividly illustrated in a radio broadcast recently in which third-year pupils from a London comprehensive school showed an astounding ignorance of even the most basic aspects of Christianity such as the meaning of Whitsun and the Gospels. Indeed, they thought that the Gospels referred to the disciples.
The amendments in the name of the right reverend Prelate should reverse that deplorable situation and ensure that all young people receive a good grounding in the basic tenets of the Christian faith. However, I have always stressed that I do not wish to adopt an exclusivist approach which would be conducive to intolerance despite press reports which imply otherwise, most notably in the Observer. Indeed, I have always argued that pupils should have the opportunity to study not only Christianity but also the other major world religions in ways which respect the integrity of each faith. That will help them to have a greater understanding of faiths especially those held by others who live in our community.
Moreover, I and other noble Lords also wish to protect the rights of pupils of other faiths or those of none, reaffirming the conscience clause of the 1944 Act which enshrines the right of parents to withdraw their children from RE and from worship. In Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 I and other noble Lords go further than the 1944 Act, seeking to make explicit provision for pupils of other faiths to have the opportunity for worship and education according to those faiths if their parents wish it and if numbers justify making such alternative arrangements.
Having had the opportunity to study the right reverend Prelate's amendments and those in the name of my noble friend the Minister, I think that they seem to satisfy the major objectives, subject to clarification on two issues. That clarification is crucial and centres on the meaning of the words "in 642 the main". With regard to RE, I and many other people wish to be assured beyond any doubt that the phrase "in the main" is not intended to be an endorsement of the kind of multi-faith approach so aptly criticised by Clifford Longley in The Times on 2nd May when he pointed out that religions lose their coherence when broken into bits for the sake of comparison. Most religions have elements which, when taken out of context, can only seem absurd to those not of that faith.
I am perhaps even more concerned about the meaning of the phrase "in the main" with regard to worship. If it is to be interpreted as the expectation that worship shall be Christian except for the provision for other faiths as specified elsewhere in the Bill, that seems to me acceptable. However, if it is to be a mandate for some confusing multi-faith assembly, I believe that that would be unacceptable not only to Christians but also to those of other faiths. Worship implies worship of a god not gods. Many people would not be able to accept that wording which left open the opportunity for the destruction of the purity of worship according to the integrity of their faith. Therefore I believe that many people need to be very strongly reassured about the legal meaning of the wording "in the main" in Amendment No. 69.
Very briefly, the other major concern which lay behind my putting down Amendment No. 25 was the need to respect the rights of pupils of other faiths. Subsection (4) of Amendment No. 25 (which is in my name) attempts to achieve that objective. As noble Lords will see, that is now adopted in Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and other noble Lords. I naturally support the substance of those amendments; but I believe that those provisions are met by Amendments Nos. 67 and 101 in the name of my noble friend the Minister which allow pupils of other faiths to have provision for worship and education according to those faiths where appropriate.
As I conclude perhaps I may point out that I am aware that legislation alone will not solve all the problems confronting those responsible for RE and worship in our schools. The acute shortage of teachers will not disappear overnight. It is hoped that some remedies may emerge in the near future. I have been told by many Christian teachers in different parts of the country that they have not been able to teach RE or to take acts of worship because the multi-faith commitment of those in authority has meant that they have been forbidden to use the name of Christ in schools. Understandably, they then felt that to teach or to lead worship without any reference to Christ was a betrayal of their faith and consequently they withdrew their services. Now, with the explicit recognition and endorsement of Christianity in the Bill, they should be free to teach and lead worship as appropriate.
Finally, with clear provision for appeals procedures relating both to RE and worship which are now included in the Bill there is an opportunity—indeed an obligation—for parents, teachers and governors to ensure that schools no longer violate the letter and the spirit of the law.
643 Where there is already good practice—and it is important to appreciate that many schools are doing an excellent job in both the provision of RE and worship—it can continue to flourish, but where there is cause for concern there is now opportunity for appeal and improvement.
Perhaps I may conclude by congratulating the right reverend Prelate on his endeavours and my noble friend the Minister on the amendments in her name, which must have involved extremely hard work by many people. I hope that these amendments will serve as a clarion call to all who have responsibility for RE to give all our young people the opportunity to have a firm grounding in Christianity, as it is the main spiritual tradition of this land, together with an understanding of its influence on our history and culture. I believe that these amendments should also provide increased understanding of other faiths, especially those held by many of our fellow citizens.
Without a vision the people perish. For too long many of our young people have been denied a spiritual vision and we have allowed too many of them in recent generations to grow up without knowledge of the faith of their forefathers. I believe that these amendments should help us as a nation to remedy this betrayal of our spiritual heritage. I therefore support them subject to the clarifications and reassurances that I have requested.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I think perhaps I may raise a dissenting voice early in the debate. I may be one of the few noble Lords to do so. I wish to draw the attention of your Lordships' House to what is before us this afternoon. It is more than a question; it is a crusade—a crusade to extend the boundaries of the religious presence in our maintained schools far beyond the agreement and the Act of 1944. That is the issue. It has been part of a steady approach to what I would describe as a form of Moral Rearmament by notable people in religion and elsewhere to secure some more stringent discipline upon the nation's intellectual and moral affairs.
I do not know who or what is behind this movement. R. A. Butler complained very bitterly about the bishops but this afternoon the right reverend Prelate presented the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, with an accolade for her part in this matter and I fully acknowledge the part that she has played. As I have told the noble Baroness more than once, I only wish that she were on my side. What a doughty protagonist she can make! But of course her extreme views are on the one hand as unacceptable as I hope my views may be acceptable to noble Lords on the other hand.
When I read her amendments, which for some reason have been given a separate battlefield in the grouping process. I thought that they were what would be described in financial circles as a hostile takeover bid suitable for reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, because in them there is provision for entry into the classroom of incumbents 644 from various denominations who may deputise for teachers who are unable or unwilling to carry out the task which the amendments propose.
I also draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the Bill arrived in this Chamber in a state of neutrality on the subject of religion. I understand that it was not the Government's intention to resurrect the religious controversy, which R. A. Butler called "this religious business". So far as I understand, it was intended to allow the 1944 Act to continue in that regard, so that we need not have a re-run of the controversies aroused on previous occasions: 1902, 1917 and 1944—all of them about religion. When R. A. Butler was complaining about the bishops, he said that too many of them came from Oxford and went on to add that it would probably he a good thing to abolish Oxford. That is an illustration of the state of mind produced by the pressures upon the Government at that time.
The significance of the 1944 compromise was the survival of the denominational schools, in which sectarian religion could be taught, and the agreement on religious instruction—not education but instruction—for the maintained schools based upon the agreed syllabus. It is that with which we are mainly concerned now. In this paving amendment we are dealing with an act of worship. An act of worship is provided for in the 1944 Education Act. It is what follows upon the amendment that makes such a substantial change from 1944, and in a moment I shall be asking why we need that change.
What is proposed is not religious instruction. For some reason or other a distinction is being drawn between instruction and education. The 1944 Act did not refer to "religious education"; it used the word "instruction" throughout. We are now in the course of changing the word "instruction" to "education" in some parts in order to match the new ethos that these amendments propose, and this time Christianity is to be the basis of religious education. That is precisely what was rejected in 1944. We are now asked to reverse that position and accept Christianity as a defined purpose of religious education.
To begin with I ask whether this is a suitable time to raise this question when there are some difficult and still unresolved problems in our society. In the 44 years since 1944 this country has seen a growth of ethnic minorities with different faiths from our own. Still unresolved is the question of whether we shall have a multiracial society or a fully integrated British people, and, if the latter, what shall be the predominant religious or cultural influence upon our affairs. I mention it not in any kind of racial spirit but I feel that there are too many sensitive aspects, possibilities of disharmony and potential sources of friction in our society for there to be even the suggestion that there might be a bias in what your Lordships' House is asked to do this afternoon. Is it to identify here and now before we go any further the predominant role of one particular religion in British society? Is that the underlying purpose of what is afoot today?
I believe that this amendment is an admission of the failure of religious instruction over the past half century. There have undoubtedly been some 645 shortcomings and they probably would be admitted by the Churches themselves, but the remedy now being sought is a stronger line on Christian education. However, there is no evidence whatever —
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, there is no evidence whatever that religious education will contribute to the objectives that were sought in 1944 and which presumably are still prominent today. When the Secretary of State says that our children should be exposed to spiritual experience and belief, I wonder whether religious indoctrination is the only way to get our children to behave better. Is there no other guidance which can be brought to bear except the fear of God—that was my experience as a youngster—or the love of God, which we are trying to promote in the new realism of our religious life? Is Christianity a unified doctrine of teaching? Is it some abstract study separate from denominational differences? If so, the Christian Churches ought to tell us what it is, because they appear not to be agreed upon that.
Where does one go for Christian teaching except to the various denominations of Christian Church? It is members of such denominations who will enter the classroom if they are called in to give religious education. The signs and portents are not reassuring. The Churches are not keeping their congregations. They become interesting and attractive only when they stray into politics. The bishops become outspoken, and we take an interest in the Bishops' Bench for the first time. Sunday schools have long since gone out of fashion, and the Churches wish to take over the day schools instead.
I suggest that a conscripted adherence to any cause spells decline. In a society that has so much incitement to misconduct and violence, it is difficult to believe that conscripted education in our day schools will make any contribution. We should not be trying to instil religious belief by law but, rather, hope, confidence and inspiration for the young.
The Churches cannot wish to make their failure to reach the parents a reason for the statutory right to access to the children. Let us consider the position further before we change the statute law. There is time enough yet for that. There is no impending crisis which requires immediate legislation. This Bill in its amended form will not have gone though the elected Chamber; it will not have been the subject of political discussion. I say, let us leave it alone and let us make a better approach to the problems of the young than the simple remedy which is merely re-writing—and writing it larger—the 1944 legislation.
§ 5.45 p.m.
My Lords, I always listen with great respect to the consistent views expressed by the noble Lord. I have known him for over 30 years and he has never changed his views. He does not like the teaching of the Christian faith. I accept 646 his sincerity. It so happens that when he refers to 1945, his memory fails him. That is the kindest way to put it. I took part on behalf of the National Union of Teachers in the negotiations with R. A. Butler about the 1945 Bill.
The discussions were in 1944, my Lords. It was quite clear that thanks to his convictions and ours, we had agreed syllabuses across the land. The anxiety of the government then was entirely different from anxieties today. Then it was Catholic and Protestant quarrelling with each other or being suspicious of each other. We heard the right reverend Prelate explain that now there is unity on this question between Roman Catholics and Protestants.
As I listened to the noble Lord, I asked myself why we should be agitated about whether our faith is taught or not. We are a very tolerant nation. There is no more tolerant a nation in the world when it comes to guarding minority rights. Both Right-wing and Left-wing will proclaim the right of minorities to hold on to their faith, and to their beliefs. Indeed, in the amendments, provision is made to protect them. However, our parliamentary democracy owes everything to the teaching of the New Testament, to the Christian interpretation on the value of the individual. Our fathers built on that truth.
If one looks at the history book, one will see that the countries in the world that were first to proclaim human rights—democratic parliamentary rights—were those countries where the Judaeo-Christian belief was practised and taught. The world has been shaped by the faith of people. One can look at the different nations with their different faiths. One sees the characteristics of each faith in the respective countries. In this country, we built a welfare state on the basis that we are each other's keepers; that we are members of one family. Such a basis comes out of the New Testament.
We have a responsibility to tomorrow's world, because we are talking of tomorrow's world when we decide an education Bill which will probably endure for another 40 years. Tomorrow's world will be very different. It will be as different as today's world is from when most of us were young. However, different as it will be, it will need the old values. It will require the eternal verities. If the Christian gospel that Christ is the Son of God is true—and I believe it is—have we a right to say that we step back in the name of toleration, and will not put that faith forward? We should be betraying ourselves, our heritage, and tomorrow's world.
I regret to say this, because I was called to be a teacher and I took the calling seriously. It is a great privilege when total strangers will give you their children and allow you to influence their thinking and their attitude to life. However, thanks to the neglect of the teaching in our schools, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, reminded is, there are young people who know no more of our faith than they knew in darkest Africa when we sent missionaries there. These youngsters have been the beneficiaries of a society created by people who have these values.
647 I say to the noble Lord, we must remember that in a changing world, there are some great permanences. People's beliefs make them what they are. They decide their relationships with each other. They decide the form of society that they will have. That is why I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London with all my heart. He did not have an easy task. I do not believe that many could have achieved as much from the respective organisations as has the right reverend Prelate. I share the anxieties of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, but I am aware that we have the opportunity now, if the House so decides, to ensure that in the education system of this land the Christian faith shall be strong and secure.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, I must not be guilty of turning this debate into a debate on the re-education of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I think that he has gone too far for that and I shall not try it. I should like him to know that from the start of this series of debates my concern has been that the story of Christianity should be told to the children, because I do not believe that one can understand the nature of our country unless that story is told and unless it is known.
Secondly, the basic values of the Christian religion of which the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, has spoken should also be known and taught. I believe that over a generation or more the ignorance of these values has made it very difficult for our boys and girls to tell the difference between right and wrong. We are at present suffering a good deal from the ignorance of that generation.
I put my name to Amendment No. 22 along with my noble friend Lady Cox. But that was before the right reverend Prelate put his amendments on the Marshalled List. Having listened to the right reverend Prelate today, like my noble friend Lady Cox I have come to the conclusion that he has made a very significant advance: an advance further than I thought he would when we were in Committee.
While wording is important—my noble friend Lady Cox says she looks forward to some interpretation of the right reverend Prelate's amendment in certain respects—I am rightly or wrongly influenced by a very practical matter. What went wrong after the 1944 Act was that the Churches did not involve themselves in the teaching of religion in schools. That was true of all the Churches. There was a great opportunity and they missed it. From the recent account that the right reverend Prelate has given of his activities, I believe there is now a good chance that this attitude will be changed and that the Churches will take a positive lead. I hope that that will be so. In that belief and on that understanding, if the matter is pressed to a vote I shall be inclined to throw my vote on the side of the right reverend Prelate's series of amendments.
§ Lord Taylor of Blackburn
My Lords, at the last meeting of the Committee, I tried to persuade noble Lords to accept the amendment that we left with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London to see what could be done with it. I now realise that he has done a great deal. I pay tribute to the work he has 648 done among all the denominations in the way that he has brought this amendment hack to us.
I cannot represent the Free Church Council. I am a member of the Free Church, but obviously I cannot represent it. However, I am sure that if my noble friend Lord Soper were here he would agree with everything that the right reverend Prelate has said.
If this proposal goes through this afternoon—and I hope that it does—I look forward to it as a challenge that we have to accept in our schools. It would be a new look in the teaching of religious education in our schools. But when we have introduced it in our schools we will still have a long way to go. Regardless of all the best teachers and the best intentions of people in this House, the real place for teaching religion is by example in the home, and, secondly, in the Churches. None of us, regardless of what we do or say in this Chamber, can take that responsibility away. The responsibility lies on me to teach my children and on my son to teach my grandchildren. That is the first responsibility, regardless of what we say or what we do. I wish this amendment well. I hope it goes through and that the teachers accept the challenge of the new look presented to them.
§ Lord St. John of Fawsley
My Lords, I should like to say first what an extraordinary privilege it is for anyone with an historical sense to be taking part in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, referred to the Education Act 1902. The debate has been going on for long before that. It goes hack to the Cowper Temple clause in the 1870s. But I believe that what is remarkable about this debate as opposed to some of the debates in the past is that although people have spoken with passion no one has spoken with any bitterness. That is an extraordinary transformation.
Personally, I was fascinated by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. It was a classic statement of the secular position. It was put so persuasively that I was almost converted! But then along came the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, who put the other attitude also in a classical, well-argued and passionate way so that I was re-converted back into my old position.
I should like to express my strongest support for the principles underlying the group of amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate. They are not only his amendments, but they are the amendments of the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, who is the acknowledged leader in the lay world for the Roman Catholic community. That is of very deep significance. I should like to congratulate the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord not only on the principle but on the language in which they have contained the principle because the rightness of the principle is matched only by the adroitness of the language. It is a quite extraordinary double achievement, because while I join in congratulating my noble friend Lady Cox—because without her we should not have this amendment—I believe that the wording of her original amendment was not quite right. She herself was uneasy with it and I certainly was uneasy with it, because of that word "predominant". The word "dominant" seems so out 649 of place in the religious sphere, which is after all a matter of service to others not an attempt to dominate them.
I believe the right reverend Prelate's amendment significantly extends the meaning of the Bill. The Bill recognises that morality cannot be sustained in society without the support of religion. Of course I defer to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, on his position, but he is a remarkable individual. One cannot have a nation entirely made up of people like the noble Lord.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord St. John of Fawsley
It would explode! But one has to consider not the outstanding individual, hut the ordinary child in a school. One cannot teach morality effectively to the ordinary child unless there is some higher sanction behind it.
The amendment recognises the fact that Christianity has been the principal source by which spirituality has come to this country. It might have come through another source. It might have come through the Enlightenment, if the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, had had his way. It might have come through the philosophe of the French nation or through Hinduism, Mohammedanism or Buddhism. However, it did not; it came through Christianity. Therefore the amendment is based on a statement of fact and not on ideology or theology.
I should be the last person to maintain that good theology is a guarantee of good government. If I tried to maintain that, I should be put in a difficult position by the history of the government of the Papal state. However, I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, that our democracy, institutions and freedom are dependent upon Christian insights. Therefore it goes beyond a morality. The noble Viscount said that our institutions are based on the recognition of the rights of the individual; the sacred nature of the individual personality. I agree with that, but in deference to him I say immediately that there is another principle which he did not stress. It is that there is also a duty on the individual to collaborate with and to help other people. We must include those two principles if we are to see this in its full form.
I should like to return to the important point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, about the 1944 Act. He said that this is a different Bill and it has made a new departure in a new situation. I do not believe that that is the case at all. In 1944 the situation was that Christianity was so accepted as the religion of the country that it was unnecessary to include it explicitly. However, it was included implicitly. If one reads any of the discussions which took place between R. A. Butler and various bishops one will see that it was an accepted fact.
The situation has changed and we are now a multi-faith society. I certainly accept that. However, we are still a Christian country. We are not a Christian country in the sense that everybody is a churchgoer; 650 my dear mother used to call it "running to church". We are a Christian country in the sense that we are a people of deep ethical instincts; that we wish Christianity well; that in moments of distress and difficulty we turn to it for help. We are not a secular society at all in the sense as described by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. We have not made a choice for a secular agnostic model of society from which all associations with Christianity are excluded. That is not the case at all. A simple example is the prayers which opened today's Session in both Houses. Therefore one can still say that the basic underlying situation has not changed since the 1944 Act. However, there has been sufficient change and we must make the situation explicit instead of relying on something which is implicit.
The last point that I should like to make is this. The enshrinement of provisions in law is not the end of the argument but the beginning. That is not to say that it is not vitally important but it is the beginning of a great task. That has been stressed by a number of noble Lords. We must pass on to the question of what the manner of religious education should be. What is it for? I believe that all noble Lords are agreed that it is not for proselytism. Religious education is not evangelism. In my view it is in order to open up the spiritual heritage of this country to children and young people so that they can have the possibility, if they so wish, of making spiritual and religious commitments. The purpose is to enable them to do something, not to force them to do something. Neither men, women nor children can be forced to believe. It was put pithily by Cardinal Manning in one of his great sermons. He said:Booted aspostles never yet converted nations".I believe that this group of amendments enshrines the rightful recognition of Christianity as the principal religion of this country. At the same time it gives a legitimate place to other religions. It would be quite wrong to go too far and to claim an exclusive place for Christianity. If those of us who are committed to the Christian cause attempted to do that, we should be undermining the very cause that we were trying to promote. The amendment is an example of fidelity to principle combined with tolerance to others who do not share those principles. As such I believe that it is a masterly piece of work and deserves our support.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I believe that I should apologise for raising an issue which is only a point of detail as compared with the great pronouncements of principle to which we have listened with so much interest and admiration. However, I believe that it is an important point of detail. I want to see schools having a collective act of worship. I want it to be one which will not cause anyone to feel excluded and thrust into a corner, neither so colourless as to dissatisfy many of those who take part in it.
I remember how we dealt with the problem in the school in which I taught some 40 years ago. About one-sixth of the boys were Jewish. Accordingly, the day began with whom I was about to describe as the "Christian" boys; but remembering some of them, I ought to describe them as the "Gentile" boys, 651 meeting in the school hall for prayers. At the same time, the Jewish boys met in a large room sufficient for their needs and carried out their own service in the presence of a Jewish member of staff. There remained two boys. The parents of one of the boys were atheists and did not wish him to attend any religious service. The parents of the other boy were Roman Catholic and did not wish their son to attend either of the forms of worship which were taking place in the school. The two boys therefore remained in the playground during prayers and the inevitable result was that they became fast friends throughout the whole of their school lives. One would have thought that that was the obvious, common-sense way of dealing with the problem. It came as near to satisfying everyone as one could hope.
I have looked at Amendment No. 69 and also at the text of the Bill. It appears that if today one behaved in such a way one would be behaving illegally. The amendment provides that there shall be arrangements for a single act of worship for all pupils or for separate acts of worship for pupils in different age groups or different school groups. The Jewish boys were not a different age group, nor were they (in the sense of the Bill) a different school group because the following definition is given in the amendment:'school group' means any group in which pupils are taught or take part in other school activities.The only purpose for which the Jewish boys met as a group on their own was for prayers and religious collective worship in the morning. They were not in any other sense a different group.
Therefore I cannot see that what we did, sensible as it was, would be in accord with Amendment No. 69. Nor for that matter would it be in accordance with the Bill now before us, because those parts are the same in the amendment and in the original Bill. Therefore, with great respect, I invite the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, to look at the Bill to see whether or not I am right about this. If one makes what seems to me a very sensible arrangement to satisfy everyone's conscience, is one in conflict with the law and, if so, can something be done to put it right before we finish with this piece of legislation?
My Lords, as with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, I have a purely drafting, concern about Amendment No. 3, which is the amendment about which we are meant to be speaking. I restrict my remarks solely to that amendment.
I am concerned about the inclusion of the words "religious worship" and that they go outside the scope of the Bill. The Long Title of the Bill is quite clear. It states:An Act to amend the law relating to education".If the right reverend Prelate believes that religious worship is a totally separate part of the nurturing of a child—and that is what the word "education" means—then, as such, the inclusion of that phrase could be deemed to be outside the scope of the Bill.
On the other hand, Amendment No. 69 seems to have been drafted under the impression that religious worship is part of religious education, which I 652 happen to believe is so from a legal and not theological point of view, because the cross heading in Amendment No. 69 is "Religious education" under which he traps, so to speak, the provision with regard to religious worship. I only rise to ask my noble friend whether she will be good enough to have a word with parliamentary counsel in order to ensure that there is no contradiction in a purely drafting sense with regard to these amendments.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, I speak to Amendment No. 3, and I do so deliberately because I was informed at 2.45 p.m. today about the grouping of the amendments. I was also informed in an informal way that my Amendment No. 8 had been included in that grouping—not with my encouragement and not according to my wishes. I raised the matter with the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees when he was on the Woolsack and he tells me that we shall vote on this amendment. dispose of the next three amendments and then I shall be free to move my amendment and to have a vote on it. All the other amendments are grouped. I say that because I do not wish to be told to sit down because I am out of order. This time I have made sure that I am in order.
Having said that, I am speaking to this amendment only and I wish to deal with some of the points that have been raised. Perhaps I may deal first with the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy. He spoke, talking about the West, I suppose, of the democratic countries of which we are proud, which would include the United States of America. Certainly I place an equal value on those democratic states. Perhaps I may point out to him that there is no question of religion in state education in the USA. Their constitution—something which this country does not have—has been credited to Thomas Paine, who wrote The Age of Reason.
I throw that in to prove that one should not listen to all statements that sound good. As the noble Lord said, one should look at the facts. The fact is that the United States of America, the biggest democracy in the Western world, is a secular state. One should bear that in mind when one is voting on this amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Home, said that we should tell children the story of Christianity. My first lesson was learnt in Liverpool. I was regaled with a little magazine issued by a certain denomination in Liverpool. At the top was a slogan which said:Hammer away, ye hostile bands, Your hammers break, God's anvil stands".That was issued by one Christian denomination and the hostile bands were the other Christian denominations. That was my introduction to Christianity. As a young child I really believed that Christianity, in some way or other, had been visited upon this earth by a divine being. It was not until I was 28 years of age that I heard about a committee which sat under the tutelage of the Emperor Constantine and which decided that the Christian religion, as we know it, or roughly as we know it, should become the state religion of Rome. That is teaching religion. I am all for teaching religion if we 653 are going to teach children about religion—all of it, warts and all. We should teach them about the wickedness of man.
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, I should like to remind the noble Lord that I not only lived in the United States but actually went to school there. I am very glad that I now live in England.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, I am talking about the United States Constitution. I almost feared that I was going to be told to sit down. While I have been reminded about the United States, I should say that there is a movement in the United States which should give very real concern to a great many people in this country. It is called the Moral Right. It makes money on television and stands and uses the name of God Almighty in order to make 10 million dollars. Therefore, one should be careful about the United States.
Of course the story of Christianity should be told. I am not going to take up any more time because I have made my speech and my argument is for Amendment No. 8. However, I should say that I had rather hoped before I entered this battlefield that I should have received some of the answers which somebody said I was to receive. I have not received them. There is still plenty of time because the debate could go on all night. I shall listen with interest to the replies to my questions.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I stood my ground because it is the turn of this side. Perhaps I may say a few words in relation to amendments which stand in my name and in the names of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, and my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. I shall be brief.
The concerns to which my noble friend Lady Cox has referred so eloquently and on which—and let us never forget it in this debate—the noble Baroness has sought specific, firm and categoric assurances from the right reverend Prelate are the concerns that largely prompted the amendments which stand in my name and in the name of the noble Lords who support those amendments. Those are Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, on religious education, and Amendments Nos. 339 to 341 on the collective act of worship.
The reasons behind the concern are simple to state. They are the principal reasons in which all noble Lords who support my amendments believe and it is on the principles involved that we seek a specific and categorical assurance. They marry inevitably and very largely with the concern of my noble friend Lady Cox.
The principles are, as we see it, that Christian children should be taught the Christian faith and should have their own Christian collective act of worship. The second principle is that children who adhere to other faiths—and I was extremely 654 interested to hear the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, because it marries with our second principle—should be taught such other faiths and have, respectively, their own collective acts of worship in such other places if it is reasonable and practicable to do so. The third principle—and that is all there is on the question of principles—is that all religious education, Christian or otherwise, should promote respect, tolerance and understanding for those who adhere to other faiths; but that there should be no multi-faith collective act of worship for all children irrespective of the faith to which they adhere.
It is on those principles, and those alone, which I and the noble Lords who support me take our stand; not to confront the Government and, least of all, not to confront the spiritual Benches. Indeed, everyone in your Lordships' House must be covered in admiration for the efforts that the right reverend Prelate has made to produce the result that he has. I say that without any false sincerity but with total sincerity. However, those are the principles upon which I and those who support me seek an assurance that they are met by the package of the right reverend Prelate.
Again I stress that I am not seeking any form of confrontation hut, looking fairly at the right reverend Prelate's package, I do not think that some of the proposals are merited. That is the problem. In due course we shall move our amendments in the irenic spirit, seeking accommodation. It is only if there is no accommodation and no satisfactory assurance that the matter might go to the House for an opinion.
If your Lordships will bear with me for one more moment, my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk, whose name appears on both sets of amendments and who I am delighted to see in his place, has specifically asked me to say at the earliest possible moment that he supports the amendments which stand in my name because he wishes to ensure that the three principles to which I have referred are safeguarded.
There is not much more that it would be proper for me to say because—
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, if I may intervene, does the noble Lord calculate that if the right reverend Prelate's amendment is carried it will be possible to have a debate on his amendment and a vote?
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I apologise to the House for any confusion that I may have caused. It was obviously in my mind that the House was not confused at all. Perhaps we can have some assistance from the Chief Whip. I understand that, when we have spoken briefly and in broad outline, in due course we can speak to our own amendments.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, this is a broad run on the general scope of religious education. When my noble friend's amendments are reached, although he will have made what is almost the equivalent of a Second Reading speech on the broad area, of course he may speak to his individual points.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Chief Whip. There is not much more that I wish to say, save to make two comments. First, on Amendment No. 3 surely it would be premature to entertain the detailed discussion which is bound to ensue on the other two sets of amendments. Secondly, I should want to support the amendment because it would pave the way to my amendments, but I cannot do that.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will again give way for a moment. This is the exact question that he asked me at the beginning of the debate. Amendment No. 3 is the paving amendment to the right reverend Prelate's group of amendments. If the House does not accept the right reverend Prelate's group of amendments and subsequently prefers my noble friend's amendment, it will be possible at a later stage, at Third Reading, to put in the paving amendment to make sense of my noble friend's amendment. That is the way it is done. What we are addressing ourselves to on this paving Amendment No. 3 is the right reverend Prelate's group of amendments. A vote for Amendment No. 3 will be a vote for those, and a vote against Amendment No. 3 will be a vote against those amendments.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, if Amendment No. 3 is accepted, the amendment of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway falls. I think that is the position.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, the position will be—and it will be for the House to decide—that if the right reverend Prelate's amendments are accepted, and they may subsequently themselves be amended by the amendments tabled to the individual parts of them, and the amendment of my noble friend Lord Campbell is not incompatible with them, then the House has every right to accept that, too. If it is incompatible, the House will have accepted the right reverend Prelate's amendments. Therefore, it would be unwise to put in two groups of incompatible amendments.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I am obliged to both my noble friends. I shall not say more about this rather complex matter. My noble friend Lord Renton has tabled Amendment No. 22, and others, and I shall be moving amendments to those amendments. My noble friend Lord Thorneycroft has tabled an amendment and I have an amendment to that amendment. We will deal with them on their merits in due course.
In conclusion, I want to say that if the great Archbishop William Temple, who was one of the architects of the 1944 Act long before we became a multi-faith society, argued that it was essential and of supreme value that children should know the teaching and traditions of the Bible, would he not have argued today, in a multi-faith society, that each child ought to be taught its own faith and that the supposed collective act of worship—multi-faith—is a confusing nonsense to the child? That is one of the matters which goes to the heart of what could be a divergent approach.
§ 6.30 p.m.
My Lords, in speaking to and supporting the right reverend Prelate's amendment, I should like to declare an interest. I lecture in religious studies at the extra-mural department of London University and I am past chairman of the World Congress of Faiths.
Perhaps I may first welcome the fact that RE has now at last been accorded a place in the Education Reform Bill as a basic subject. The question now is to what extent Christianity should be taught and to what extent other religions should have a place in the RE curriculum. I have no doubt at all that Christianity should have a prime place in any RE syllabus in this country. Our country is a Christian country and on those grounds alone the study of the Bible is essential quite apart from the importance of Christianity in terms of our heritage and culture.
However, having said that, I believe that a sensible proportion of the time allocated to RE should be given over to the teaching of some other major world religions. I argue for this primarily on education grounds. RE is now a basic subject and it should be as important as geography and history with a comparable amount of school time devoted to it. A child who left school without any knowledge at all of the history and geography of any country other than England would be regarded as badly educated. So also with the study of religion, a subject which is of immense importance in terms of history, spirituality and moral values—and I mean religion in its broadest sense.
Religions such as Judaism. Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism have centuries of cultural, moral and spiritual history behind them. We would be thoroughly impoverished in all senses if we were to be denied any knowledge of them, but selection here is very important. I believe also that the teaching of other religions should have an important but not a predominant place in the curriculum on the grounds that it provides very important background knowledge to current affairs. For example, I do not see how one can make sense of what is happening in the Middle East without some knowledge of Islam. How is it possible to understand anything about Iran today without having some knowledge of Shi'ism.
I also argue that a knowledge of the faiths of people in this country who are not Christian is essential for race relations and is very important in trying to deal with prejudice and discrimination. Though the numbers of people who adhere to a faith other than Christianity are very small (perhaps in the region of 4 per cent.) that does not mean that their religious beliefs and values should be ignored. In any case, in some areas of our country in this connection the population is very much higher. Ignorance and intolerance go frequently hand-in-hand as we have seen, for example, in Northern Ireland.
If Christianity were to be taught exclusively in our schools it would be an educationally retrograde step. It would undermine the teaching of RE as a subject and hence it would undermine the teaching of Christianity. Further, the degree of mutual trust which has been carefully built up between the various faith communities would be in jeopardy. One cannot 657 expect young people to respect one religion if, implicitly or explicitly, they are taught to disrespect others.
It is true that in some cases RE, including the teaching of religions other than Christianity, has not been well taught. This has led to accusations of Christianity being diluted to a multi-faith relativism or to being submerged in a multi-faith mish-mash. These accusations are neither fair nor accurate. RE has been badly taught in certain instances, but to nothing like the extent that has been implied despite a scandalous shortage of teachers trained in the subject.
Behind these accusations lies the view that when local authorities have adopted new agreed syllabuses, virtually all of them recommended world religions or a multi-faith approach. In fact, most make some provision for this, but between 1975 and 1987 the majority of LEA agreed syllabuses made specific statements about Christ and Christianity and the majority also gave prime place to Christianity in both primary and secondary school curricula.
Turning to examinations, the majority of GCSE and A-level candidates elect either a biblical subject or a subject related to some aspect of Christianity. To an extent RE has been badly taught in the past and it has even been ignored. In other cases its treatment can only be described as mediocre. The reason for this state of affairs is, first, that RE has had a derisory amount of time allocated to it in school timetables. How is it possible to treat a subject as important as this when on average, and including Church schools, only half-an-hour is allocated on school weekly timetables. In the fourth and fifth forms it almost disappears altogether. Only 3 per cent. of available pupil curriculum time is allocated for RE in secondary schools.
Secondly, and of at least equal importance, is the poor provision for RE. This is due to the lack of qualified teachers in the subject, over half having no specific qualifications at all. How can a subject be adequately taught in these circumstances? I would welcome clergy, Imans and Rabbis coming into the schools to teach RE, if required, but if they do so they must have proper educational qualifications. If they do not, then, with the best will in the world, the approach could become confessional and this would be a retrograde step. I am not advocating a cold, clinical approach to RE—far from it—for RE above all subjects must be taught with empathy and insight. Committed Christian, Moslem and Jewish teachers would do that. However, educational qualifications are essential and one looks here to the Government to provide adequate staffing resources in this respect.
Finally, perhaps I may refer very briefly to worship in schools. On balance I support the right reverend Prelate's amendment in this regard. I was in broad agreement with him when he spoke on the subject in your Lordships' House last month. Certainly, legislation must be avoided which requires pupils and staff to be insincere or hypocritical in their approach. Care must also be taken to avoid dividing the schools into religious groups which fail to foster mutual understanding.
As regards the right reverend Prelate's amendment, I have some reservations. It does not 658 explicitly make provision for British religious communities who are not Christian to plan and to take part in assemblies which reflect their own religious traditions and in which all pupils can be given the opportunity to participate. I am glad that he touched on this aspect in his opening speech. I agree with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, in this respect. However. I welcome the fact that the right reverend Prelate's amendments take account of what takes place in schools and I support them.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I believe that we have gone on almost too long. It is clear that there is a measure of agreement in your Lordships' House, with one or two dissentient voices, about the principles enshrined in the right reverend Prelate's amendments. This rejoices me both as an ex-teacher and as a committed Christian. There are later debates to follow according to the extent of the clarification which the right reverend Prelate can give to the meaning of certain terms in the amendments. It would be precocious of me to try to provide those in advance. I believe that they are entirely satisfactory and that what is provided answers the failure of the 1944 Act which arises from two principal causes.
One of the causes was the arrival in our society of large numbers of people of different faiths and the other was a retreat in our society from insistence upon traditional Christian values which may have flowed from a failure of the Churches to teach religion adequately in schools. It seems that the right reverend Prelate has done what he was asked to do at the Committee stage. We asked him, first, to see that all Christian children received unequivocally Christian education; secondly, that this should be done by writing the word "Christian" on the face of the Bill and, thirdly, that this should be done in a manner which retained respect for minority faiths. I believe that all those three things have been achieved.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I think he fails to appreciate—
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I do not believe that we need go into the detail of the next debate. I have to speak because my name is on the amendment. I believe passionately that it is right and later I shall give passionate reasons for thinking that other amendments are wrong. I beg your Lordships now to seize an historic opportunity to defend and promote the teaching of true religion in our schools in a way that does not subordinate but enrols the loyalty of the minority faiths to the education system of this country and at the same time does not dilute the faith of any one denomination or belief.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, as an Elder of the Church of Scotland, I do not know whether I have to declare an interest. However, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that I shall not say a word about Scotland being superior.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, we on the Opposition Front Bench agree almost entirely with what is in the right reverend Prelate's amendment. It is clear to everybody that Christianity has played a crucial role in the development of the history, ethics and morality of Britain. I would remind some of my noble friends that it has played (and still plays) an important part in the history of the development of the party to which we belong. Therefore I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that perhaps we should move on to the more detailed debates. I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on managing a virtually impossible job in achieving what he has achieved and achieving it by agreement. I hope that the amendments will meet with the approval of the House.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I speak in the absence through illness of the noble Lord the Chief Rabbi in order that the religious minorities so frequently referred to in this debate may have a voice. We remember his earlier speech on the Bill and the emphasis that he laid on the need for religion to be taught pure rather than mixed. Although I have no authority to speak for him, it seems to me that the right reverend Prelate has come a long way to meet those needs. I feel that any member of my faith would be justified in supporting the amendments.
I am also certain that the noble Lord would give his support to the amendments to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. They seem to flesh out the suggestions that the teaching and practice of minority faiths should be encouraged and that the teaching of all religion should be in a context which leads to due respect for those of different beliefs. In that sense, I agree that we are much further towards a consensus than might have seemed possible earlier.
There are one or two minor worries but they arise from the complicated nomenclature of our education system. For instance, the word "maintained" technically covers voluntary-aided schools so that a school that was publicly supported but for the teaching of Jewish children would be called a maintained school. For this reason one might question some of the wording of Amendment No. 25, and in particular Amendment No. 69A which is to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. It could make a school, all of whose pupils were Jewish, teach Christianity instead. I am sure that that is neither his intention nor that of the movers of Amendment No. 25. It suggests that some work will have to be done in putting the final touches to the agreement. I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, had to say about the Jewish pupils in his school. I hope that similar arrangements would be legal under the Bill in its final form.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Thorneycroft
My Lords, we have gone a long way, and we are indebted both to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and to the right reverend Prelate for having gone so far. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, rather encouraged me. I felt that we had gone further than I thought when I listened to him.
660 The right reverend Prelate said one thing of supreme importance. He said he believed that this was the end of the mish-mash approach. That was by far the most encouraging thing I have heard. There are in a way two possible approaches to this matter. One group of people—I do not attack either group—believes that the Christian faith should be taught undiluted; that it should be respectful and compassionate to other faiths, as Christianity teaches us to be, but that the faith should be undiluted. It should not be muddled by trying to teach it with overtones of something else infiltrated into it. That is one approach. It has its problems but it also has immense prizes.
There is another approach, and it is powerfully held. There are those who say that we were a Christian country and perhaps still are a Christian country but that we are all kinds of other things as well. They believe that it would be easier if we tried to devise a way of approach, whether in instruction or in worship, which somehow subsumed all these things. They believe that we must not offend anyone and that if it is Christian some people may not like it. They want to try to dilute it all and try to put it away. What we want is an assurance that that second way is out. Our amendments do not attack the right reverend Prelate. They are supposed to support his view that the mish-mash is out. When we come to look in more detail at these later amendments our test will be: is it Christianity that we are teaching; is it our Saviour that we are worshipping? If we are satisfied on those points we shall all be together.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Denham has made it clear that the amendments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London must be accepted or rejected as a package. I must make it clear that the amendments tabled in my name also represent part of that package. Without them the right reverend Prelate's amendments will not work in the way he has described to your Lordships. My amendments cross-refer to his, and vice-versa. Having said that, I should go on to say that the Government welcome and fully endorse the amendments tabled by the right reverend Prelate on both collective worship and religious education in maintained schools.
We are well aware of the considerable lengths to which he has gone to find agreement in this matter both in responding to the deeply felt concerns of so many of your Lordships and also in consulting with the leaders both of the Christian Churches and other faiths. I strongly believe that his efforts have been rewarded. He has been able to come forward with a formula which has met the legitimate concerns of all sides.
Many of your Lordships and others outside the House have felt that our Christian heritage has become undervalued in some of our schools. While Christian worship and religious education undoubtedly still occur in the majority, there is no doubt that what is provided by some schools is unsatisfactory. I believe that the amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate make it clear that such practices should not continue and that the concerns expressed by your Lordships have been met.
661 It is particularly relevant to our debate that the form of words proposed has been agreed not only by different Christian denominations but that they are also seen as a way forward by leaders of the other faiths.
Perhaps I may deal first of all with those amendments relating to worship. I wish to make it clear that they have the full support of the Government and that our support includes a placing of all the provisions relating to collective worship in Chapter I of the Bill. as the right reverend Prelate also proposes. We now see considerable merit in the provisions for worship being placed alongside those for the rest of the curriculum. There is undoubtedly value in the schools establishing links between worship and religious education, as well as on occasion with other areas of the curriculum. In saying this, I believe that I meet my noble friend's question.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, it is a minor point, but in the right reverend Prelate's amendments and the government amendments where "religious worship" is used and at other points where "collective worship" is used are the words intended to mean the same or is a distinction being drawn between the two?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, my understanding is that the worship referred to is the same. It is perhaps to some extent historical that it is referred to differently on different occasions.
I was about to refer to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Morris about collective worship, which has been in the Bill from the start and is in what is now Clause 97. I am assured that worship, as it is provided in schools, is related to their educational provision.
As the Government have indicated previously, we attach particular importance to a daily act of worship being provided for all pupils in maintained schools. That is why, while proposing greater flexibility for schools in some respects, we have resisted pressure from some quarters to make daily worship discretionary. We have no doubt of the value of such a daily gathering; it has as much relevance in 1988 as it did in 1944.
The content of the worship is of course the crucial factor in determining its worth. That is what the right reverend Prelate's amendments are intended to get right. But given the agreement which he has reached with the leaders of other faiths, we believe that his amendment also allows worship to be a truly collective act. This is important in order to foster tolerance and understanding among pupils. The Government would certainly not wish to see a significant number of pupils withdrawing from worship. We strongly believe that the form of words suggested here makes this much less likely.
However, the amendment does that while also addressing the concerns expressed by many of your Lordships about protecting our traditional Christian faith and practice. I therefore believe that your Lordships should recognise, and indeed many have done so, the efforts made by the right reverend Prelate and give full support to his amendments.
662 I am very glad that my noble friend Lady Cox has been able to welcome what has been achieved by the right reverend Prelate. I hope therefore that other noble Lords will consider seriously whether to press their amendments on this matter. At first sight the alternative amendments put down by other noble Lords have considerable merit, but I believe that the right reverend Prelate's amendments achieve what they rightly seek and that their other amendments, if approved, could create practical difficulties for schools in a way that the amendment of the right reverend Prelate will not.
There is no doubt in my mind that the other amendments on religious worship which are before us could increase the number of withdrawals from collective worship, perhaps substantially, and as a result sharpen divisions within schools. I am sure that this was not the intention of the noble Lords when drafting their amendments. The amendment from my noble friend Lady Cox could additionally allow for separate acts of worship for children of different faiths. But to enshrine provision of this in statute would create major practical difficulties for schools in trying to organise and accommodate separate acts of worship. It would also place an unfair burden on governors in having to determine when demands for separate worship are justified, given the numbers of pupils involved.
I believe that these difficulties apply equally to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Somers. I hope therefore that he will also agree to withdraw his amendments.
Moving on, I should refer to the proposed government new clause after Clause 6. This rewrites what is now Clause 6 of the Bill in order to reflect a government commitment given at Committee stage to my noble friend Lady Cox to place a duty on local education authorities, school governors and head teachers to secure delivery of the statutory requirement concerning collective worship. We shall be considering in due course a further government amendment to Clause 18 of the Bill to provide for complaints relating to collective worship to be covered, as religious education is now, by the local education authority complaints machinery which that clause requires the authorities to establish. This will fulfill the second part of the commitment which the Government made to my noble friend at Committee stage.
I turn now to the amendments concerning religious education. All of these are important and worthy of your Lordships' attention. The most important, however, is the new clause put down by the right reverend Prelate. As he promised at Committee stage, he has come forward with a form of words which places Christianity on the face of the Bill in relation to religious education. As with his proposals for collective worship, this new clause is the result of his careful consultation with the other Christian denominations and with leaders of non-Christain faiths. He has again produced a form of words which is seen as a workable way forward by those whom he consulted. In the Government's view this new clause fully addresses the concerns expressed by so many noble Lords at Committee stage. It represents a 663 notable achievement for the right reverend Prelate by meeting the concerns expressed when the House was in Committee.
This has been generally acknowledged and I hope therefore that other amendments tabled on religious education will be withdrawn in due course. In saying this, however, one cannot doubt the personal conviction behind the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton. But I think your Lordships will agree that his amendment fails to acknowledge the widely felt belief and concern that the Christian faith should receive particular attention within religious education because of the traditions and history of this country.
My Lords, the amendments tabled by other noble Lords to strengthen the position of Christianity within religious education are now, I suggest, unnecessary given what the right reverend Prelate proposes. They also bring with them difficulties which might not have been recognised in the drafting.
I now turn to the Government's amendments about religious education. These are large in number and in large part consequential. Your Lordships will see that we are fulfilling our commitment at Committee stage to amend the provisions of this Bill and existing legislation in order to refer to religious education rather than religious instruction. We are also for clarity proposing to rewrite a number of provisions of the 1944 Act on the face of this Bill and to bring into Chapter I all the general provisions relating to religious education and collective worship in maintained schools, including those for grant maintained schools.
I turn now to the amendments tabled concerning the standing advisory councils for religious education. I should like to give the Government's wholehearted support again to the amendments tabled by the right reverend Prelate concerning the operation of these councils. As in the case of his earlier amendments, these are once again the result of comprehensive consultation. I believe that it is a sensible addition to the duties of the standing advisory councils for them to be responsible for advising local education authorities on religious worship in schools and on the application in individual county schools of the requirement that worship shall in the main reflect the broad traditions of Christian belief. This could be a difficult task for schools which contain many pupils who are not of the Christian faith. It is right therefore that they should have the source of informed and helpful advice which is proposed here.
The amendments would change the Bill in two further ways. First, Amendment No. 77 improves the reference in Clause 7(4)(a) of the Bill to the other denominational group. If accepted by your Lordships, it would read:such Christian and other denominations as, in the opinion of the authority, will appropriately reflect the religious traditions in the areaThe Government's new Schedule 1A, applies the same words to the other denominations committee of a conference which the LEA calls to prepare an agreed syllabus. Secondly, Amendment No. 81 removes the requirement for a unanimous vote of the 664 non-local authority groups of the standing advisory council before the standing advisory committee can require a local education authority to set up a conference to review its agreed syllabus.
I urge the House to support these amendments. I hope that my noble friend Lady Cox and other noble Lords will, as they have indicated, accept that the alternative amendments that they have tabled are now unnecessary. I invite them to withdraw their amendments and to join with the Government in supporting those moved to Clauses 7 and 8 by the right reverend Prelate.
To conclude, I urge your Lordships to acknowledge the substantial progress that has been made since our debates on religious and collective worship on Second Reading and in Committee. I believe that the House should welcome that progress and give it its support. I must emphasise that the government amendments and those from the right reverend Prelate stand as a coherent package affecting county, voluntary and grant-maintained schools. It would be inconsistent in terms of the requirements of the Bill for noble Lords to support these amendments and then vote in favour of amendments on these matters from other noble Lords.
The right reverend Prelate has achieved what we all hoped might be possible. He has produced amendments to the Bill which recognise the rightful place of Christianity within religious education and worship. But he has been able to do this with a wide range of support from the leaders of different Churches and faiths. This is a notable achievement. It is an achievement that has been welcomed by many in the course of our debate. Perhaps I may be permitted to mention in particular the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, and my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, who expressed their concerns so convincingly at an earlier stage and who now see the way forward and indeed have reminded us that it is the implementation of these provisions which will be all-important now. I believe that that should be recognised in giving full support to the amendments of the right reverend Prelate and to the government amendments.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, will she say why she referred to my amendment when it has been neither moved nor debated?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I am speaking to the group of amendments which are listed with agreement. I understood the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, to make reference to his amendment.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, with all due respect, I specifically said that I had not agreed on any of the amendments. It was purely an informal arrangement, and I certainly had not agreed to it being grouped.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I do not think that I heard the Minister respond to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, which is also of very considerable interest to me. The noble Lord, 665 Lord Stewart, referred during the discussion on the amendment of the right reverend Prelate to separate acts of worship for pupils in different age groups or in different school groups.
He asked whether this would or would not mean that he could continue the practice of having a separate act of worship for his Jewish pupils. I am afraid I also had thought that this provision meant that it was possible to do so. But from what the noble Baroness said it occurs to me that in fact it would not be possible. All that would be open to the Jewish students would be to withdraw entirely and not to have a separate act of worship.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, with the leave of the House, my understanding is that the provision for withdrawal from religious worship is contained in government Amendment No. 67, and that the existing rights of parents in this respect are preserved.
§ Lady Saltoun of Abernethy
My Lords, I rise to seek the clarification which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked for.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, I should like to express my gratitude to all those who have taken part in this debate and my very warm appreciation of the spirit which has been evident in it. There is need for me at this stage to comment on only one matter, which is the phrase "in the main", which clearly has concerned a number of noble Lords.
Before I do that I should make it clear that Amendment No. 3 is a paving amendment for Amendments Nos. 66, 67, 68, 101, 273 in the name of the Minister and my Amendments Nos. 69, 74, 76, 270, 336, 442 and 443, to which I have already referred.
I have another introductory point to make, which is that the Minister very kindly referred to the consultations which have taken place. She referred to those between the Churches and the other faiths. I wish to stress that there have also been consultations with the authorities, with educational organisations and with representatives of parents and governors. We saw this as essentially an education exercise and not a purely religious one. We did not see this as purely a Church concern. Therefore, we thought to draw in the widest possible consultation with all who are concerned with our educational system.
The use of the term "in the main" is, I am told, to be found elsewhere in legislation. I am told that it does not present legal problems. That is one reason why we used it. As regards the agreed syllabus, the term is descriptive. It refers to the factual situation in this country—which no one has disputed—that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian. That is the use of the term "in the main" there. That, we say, has to be reflected in the content of the agreed syllabus while taking account of the teaching and practice of the other principal religions.
666 But in the case of worship it is prescriptive. We say there that the worship should reflect the broad traditions of Christian belief. I did not have time to make this point before. We believe that worship and religious education of any kind should spring from belief. It is not something which is arbitrarily produced out of the blue. It does actually reflect people's beliefs. It should be reflected in ways which are appropriate to the age, aptitude and family background of the pupils involved. We have taken a descriptive situation which is applied to the agreed syllabus and then is made prescriptive for worship. As regards the agreed syllabus, as I understand it and intend it—I am told that the amendments fulfil that intention—it means that for all pupils a study of the Christian faith and traditions will have a fundamental place in all agreed syllabuses. That goes without question.
Further, it is recognised that certain areas of our country, because of the situation as it now stands, have particular requirements and demand particular provisions. My amendment for agreed syllabuses gives flexibility to take account of this without in any way impugning the position of the Christian faith in the country. I must emphasise that it is school worship we are talking about. That is the significance of the word "collective" to which the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, referred just now. It is the collective worship of the school that we are talking about. It is not simply a collection of groups of individual Christians indulging their own private devotions in the way that they or their parents think best.
There is an element of worship in our schools which reflects, if one likes, the school itself. That has been built in right back. That will be Christian. Again that is provided for in this amendment. But again, if the nature of the school demands it—and one can think of certain schools where the vast majority of pupils are of another faith—then that is their family background and that would be taken account of in the collective worship of that particular school because it is a proper and appropriate approach for that school in the light of the faith of the pupils.
But I wish to make it quite clear that the term "in the main" does not mean that one looks at the whole country and says x per cent. will be Christian and y per cent. will be something else. That is not what is intended and it is not what the law states. The phrase "in the main" means that account can be taken of the needs in particular localities. However, the overall requirement is necessary.
Perhaps I may conclude by making one important point. I do not believe that the problems we are discussing can be met by the use of withdrawal or making separate provision. That divides the school community and it can contribute to dividing the community at large. I asked myself two questions. The first was: How can I provide properly for my group and for those of other faiths to worship in their own way without in any way impeding the Christian tradition of this country? The second was: How can other groups worship, not as a group which has been pushed to one side as though it was not part of our community but as part of the educational system and part of the community being educated in a particular school?
667 I believe that my amendments provide for that. They enable us to take such concerns seriously and properly. We are not saying to such groups: "Go and do what you want to do somewhere else. You are not really and properly members of -our nation". The amendments say that we shall take account of those groups because of the nature of a particular school in a particular place. I believe that the emphasis on schools is very important and that, for that reason, our amendments meet the situation in a way that amendments that are based on partition do not.
I am grateful for the response which my amendments have received. I hope that they will receive the warm approbation of the House, showing that they reflect the intention of the House for our schools at this time.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6 not moved.]
Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 7:
Page line 23, after first ("of") insert ("all").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment was moved at Committee stage. However, it was not pressed to a Division. I have tabled the amendment again for two reasons. First, there is still considerable concern in the whole field of special educational needs about the effects of the Bill on children with such needs. Secondly, I have read with great care the Minister's reply at the time and I have found it less than satisfactory.
The inititial clauses of the Bill set out the fundamental educational philosophy on which the Bill is based. We can all agree that the phrasing must be logically sound and must emphasise the basis on which all children are to be offered an appropriate curriculum. The Warnock Report pointed out that:
The purpose of education for all children is the same: the goals are the same. But the help that individual children need in progressing towards them will be different. Whereas for some the road they have to travel towards the goals is smooth and easy, for others it is fraught with obstacles. For some the obstacles are so daunting that, even with the greatest possible help, they will not get very far. Nevertheless, for them too, progress will be possible, and their educational needs will be fulfilled, as they gradually overcome one obstacle after another on the way".
To give a practical example of the point which was made by the Warnock Report, perhaps I may quote from one of the many moving letters which some of us have received from the parents of handicapped children who are still worried about the effect of the Bill on the education of their children. I shall quote from a joint letter written by three families in Wales. All the children concerned have Down's syndrome and other handicaps. The letter states:
For Tom to say his own name; for Nicholas to tie his own shoelaces; for Billy to sit and draw anything would constitute real achievement".
At the end of the letter, the parents say:
We would point out that our children, Tom, Neil, Billy and Nicholas are in fact the consumers of education and have a fundamental right to a normal pattern of life. This includes attending their local mainstream school, which is also to the benefit of their peers as it enables them to overcome the fear and ignorance of handicap".
The amendment emphasises the point that the aims of the whole curriculum should be to promote the
development of all pupils, including those with special educational needs. At the Committee stage, the Minister said, on 3rd May 1988 at col. 457 of the Official Report:
Although the phrase 'all pupils' is not stated explicitly in Clause I. it is there implicitly, and the clause would be interpreted as if it were included… We accept wholeheartedly the need for the national curriculum to cater for pupils of all abilities and in a range of circumstances: in particular those with special needs whether as defined in the 1981 Education Act or otherwise".
§ If the meaning is implicit in the Bill, why should we not put at rest the fears of parents, teachers and educationists who are concerned with special educational needs by making the statement explicit? If it is the Government's intention that the Bill should cater for all children, surely it would be easier to say so. I beg to move.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carter. I realise that both the 1981 Education Act and this Bill should apply to all children. It may be said by the Minister that the amendment is not necessary for that reason. However, we must look at history and experience. Unfortunately, we must face frankly that, since the 1981 Act was passed, it has been well implemented in some areas, in some areas it has not been implemented at all and in some areas it has been badly implemented. For that reason, we ask for the word "all" to be put on the face of the Bill in order to reinforce what is contained in the 1981 Act and what we know is intended to be the effect of this Bill. We ask for that because we know that to date the 1981 Act has not been fully implemented.
§ Lord Hastings
My Lords, I rise to seek information. Is Amendment No. 7 to be considered a paving amendment for Amendments Nos. 84, 92 and 99? I ask that question because at Committee stage it escaped my attention that important amendments were going to be discussed on the basis of the inclusion of the innocuous little word "all" and I missed the entire debate. I should not like to have that happen again.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, I too support the amendment. It seems to be very much in the spirit of the 1972 and 1981 Acts. It is favourable to the integration of handicapped children into normal schools. That has been a matter of public policy for quite a long time. Perhaps I may quote briefly from a letter from the chief executive of the Somerset County Council of 11th April. He wrote:There is a further need to ensure that the curriculum can be modified to take account of those children with special needs. There has been an acknowledgement in principle that the special needs point is recognised but as yet no amendment has been proposed to back that acknowledgement".I support the amendment.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I understand the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, in proposing the amendment. I am only sorry that he did not find my response adequate at Committee stage.
Whatever its intentions, I have to say that the addition of the word "all" as proposed does not alter 669 the meaning of the Bill in any respect. Since "pupils" is not otherwise qualified, it is taken to mean all pupils at the school, and so the duty to offer a good curriculum extends to all pupils, as we all intend.
Every care has been taken in the drafting of the Bill to ensure that its provisions are sufficiently flexible to accommodate all pupils. The national curriculum, for example, has been designed as a broad framework within which pupils of almost every ability or aptitude may be accommodated. That is made clear in the report of the task group on testing and assessment. Provision has also been made for disapplication of its requirements for pupils such as those with special educational needs who would do best under some other approach.
The very fact that exceptions are provided for means that the general provisions of the Bill include all pupils. So I believe that the Bill as drafted ensures that its provisions are sufficiently broad and flexible to give all pupils the best possible education without the need for the addition which the noble Lord proposes. Therefore I am unable to accept his amendment.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, I have listened with great care to what the Minister has said. I have to admit that I fail to understand, if it is implicit in the Bill and would put at rest the fears of a number of people concerning some aspects of the Bill, why she cannot accept the amendment. However, I understand what she says. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston moved Amendment No. 8:
Page I. line 23, after ("society") insert—
("( ) promotes an understanding of various religious beliefs and living beliefs such as humanist and secular points of view, but does not promote any particular religion or belief;").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I noted a statement made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London to the effect that an act of worship springs from a belief. I accept that entirely. I also accept the right reverend Prelate's remarks that:
we in the Churches cannot expect the state to do our work for us".—[Official Report. 3/5/88; col. 414.]
§ I assume that by "us" he meant the Churches.
At col. 417 the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is reported as saying that it was taken for granted in 1944 that when one referred to religion one referred to Christianity. In that debate the noble Lord the Chief Rabbi—who I see is not in his seat; I suppose that I should have told him that I intended to quote him and I apologise to him for not having done so—said:
the principal enemy of all religion is no longer heresy… it is simple paganism…. That leads to the moral anarchy which is now so rampant and pernicious".
In the same debate the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, (reported at col. 421 of Hansard) said:
We are talking about what should be taught about religion in state schools".
§ He went on to say that it is the job of the Church to teach religion.
§ At that point in the debate I spoke but was stopped. I am not too sure why I was stopped. I have had several explanations and I accept that it was in 670 good faith. I do not believe for one minute, as some people have suggested, that I was stopped because I was saying something that was unpopular—not in this Chamber. If I had been allowed to finish—and two or three minutes would have been enough for me to finish I should have tried to point out some of the contradictions which exist between long-established religions and modern knowledge.
§ I was very concerned because I had had a letter from a school teacher who complained about the fact that he was expected to teach about Christ and God when he did not believe in them. My reply of course was, "Don't teach it". However, he felt that there was undue pressure on him socially and in the job.
§ I am so glad to see that one of the amendments specifically deals with the fact that there must be no penalty visited on any teacher who does not believe in or have the ability to teach various religions.
§ I tried to show that in two areas alone—Genesis and the Resurrection—there was a dispute as to their authenticity even in the Church, and therefore it would not be right in the light of modern knowledge to expect children to be educated in a subject about which even the Churches had doubts. Having established that point, I was quite prepared to sit down and say no more about it because I follow the principle that if you think that something should be said, you should say it. One need not necessarily go through the time-honoured formula of moving Motions.
§ Having been prevented from making that point, I now feel compelled to put down this amendment. Noble Lords have the amendment, I shall not take much time over it. I put the amendment down because I believe it relates to intellectual integrity. I have listened to debates on the Education Reform Bill about freedom of tenure for academics, which concerns intellectual integrity. It concerns the people who teach at a high level and the ability of those people to teach without being subjected to the possibility of being given the sack. I believe that intellectual integrity is important in religion, and it is extremely important in education. No man anywhere, regardless of his title or rank, has the right to stand up and give support to something he does not really believe in. People will ask themselves that question and decide whether or not they should do so.
§ I resented being told that as a pagan I was responsible for the moral anarchy which is now so rampant and pernicious. That compels me to inform the Members of this House of my position as a pagan, a man who cannot believe in God. I cannot believe in God. I excuse those people who have had a revelation; I accept that they have had a revelation and I would not quibble about it, but I cannot believe anybody who says to me: "I believe in an omnipotent god; I believe in an all-powerful god; I believe in a creator". To believe that means that you have the intellectual ability and skill to understand all. That is how I see it. Because I see it that way, I cannot accept a god. I just do not know. But to honestly stand and say that I do not know does not mean that I am responsible for those perversions of human nature.
§ I have a religious creed, a belief, which is as good as that of anyone in this Chamber. I accept for 671 instance the Decalogue. There is nothing wrong with the Ten Commandments as far as I am concerned. The only thing that is wrong with some of the commandments is that these days we do not pay very much attention to the implicit spirit behind them. I do not believe for one minute that they were brought down on tablets of stone for Moses. But I do believe that within the culture and the society that existed at that time, when mankind was beginning to struggle away from a primitive civilisation into a modern civilisation where he was placing on record for the first time his thoughts and aspirations and beliefs for future generations, that in that atmosphere a morality was beginning to grow.
§ So when thinking about the Ten Commandments I always search for the meaning implicit within them. Let us take "Thou shalt not kill". I have no dubiety about the rightness of that but I know that people are killed in war even when it is considered a just war. I know that people are killed in the heat of the moment and people kill when they are provoked. But that is a different story from urging judges in a court of law coldly and clinically to pass sentence of death upon someone who has killed another. So far as I am concerned "Thou shalt not kill" is not a commandment that is always adhered to. I do not forget in that respect that not many years ago certain proponents of certain religions thought that the world would come to an end if we stopped executing people or stopped deporting them to Australia for the offence of stealing a lamb.
§ Let us take next "Thou shall not commit adultery". Apparently the real lesson to be learnt about adultery comes not from someone telling you when you are young that it is wrong; it comes from not being honest with your partner. One does not necessarily have to be married to commit adultery—not in the spirit behind the act, and we are not speaking about technicalities. If one has vowed to one's partner that one will share everything with him or her, then one does not go out of the house at night and meet one's secretary or someone else and have a sexual relationship with that person without telling your partner. That is why I believe that one should not commit adultery.
§ Then there is theft. I dissociate myself from the idea that theft is merely stealing something from somebody else. It also has something to do with taking from other people wealth to which you have not contributed by your efforts. What does that mean in practice? To my mind it means usury. It would not be a bad idea if the Church looked back into its history and its attitude toward usury. I do not wish to be told that the meaning of usury concerns excessive interest because I do not believe it. I am equally opposed to the City of London today. I would accept my own guilt if I were to pay some money into the bank and earn interest on it. I raised that point with the former Archbishop of Canterbury and asked what the Church did with the interest that it makes out of the funds it invests. I regard that as theft.
§ As regards false testimony, I follow the same line of argument that I used earlier when speaking about adultery. One should not give false testimony because that is breaking down a concordat with one's fellow 672 man and there is no way of building the brotherhood of man in that fashion.
§ Let me deal with the commandment that I learned at my mother's knee: "Honour thy father and thy mother". Of course one should honour one's father and one's mother in equal proportion. One should not in that respect distinguish one from the other. Certainly one should not, as the Church once did, consider a woman as being full of sin when she has had a baby. I was brought up with the idea that my mother had to go to church to be churched because in some way or other she had to be purged of that sin.
§ I am a unionist. I do not know God. In the last few minutes of my introduction I should like to turn to some of the reasons why religion should not be taught in state schools. As I said in replying to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, I have no objection to children being taught about religion. One should tell people about religions and tell them how they spring up, what they have done and what is still being done in the name of religion. One should let people understand. However, one should tell them about all religions and about the other beliefs. They should be informed about humanist beliefs and the person who is a secularist.
I do not intend to frighten your Lordships but I must tell noble Lords that I spent days going through the booklet called Education for All. Your Lordships will be glad to know that I extracted a few pages from it. It is the Swann Report and it says at paragraph 2.2:
The phrase itself 'religious education' seems to be almost a contradiction in terms, the task of education being to teach children to exercise flexibility of mind and to seek rational explanations for situations while the essence of religion is seen by many as belief and in many faiths as an acceptance of revelation".
The passage continues:
By 'religion' we mean some pattern of belief and behaviour related to the question of man's ultimate concern. For some it is an Eastern religion, for some it is Christianity; for others it is agnostic humanism".
The Durham Report, which incidentally was produced under the sponsorship of the Church of England states:
To press for acceptance of a particular faith, belief or system is the duty and privilege of the Churches and other similar religious bodies. It is certainly not the task of a teacher in a county school".
§ Those are not my words; they are from the Durham Report printed in the booklet Education fir All.
Lastly, perhaps I may quote the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who said in 1980 that:
a truly pluralist society, if such we are, should not merely tolerate diversity but value and nurture it".
§ Those are quotations from a body of people who spent literally months studying religion and its relaitionship with education.
§ I move this amendment with a specnic purpose in mind. I am becoming tired of it being implied that if one is not a Christian and if one does not worship in any religion then somehow or other one has to be associated with all the bad elements of life. I resent that implication. I move this amendment in order to point out that morality is ingrained in a man even if he honestly admits that he does not know God, just as much as it is ingrained in anyone else. It is absolutely wrong for anybody to suggest that it is not. Until we get over that idea we shall never understand some of the major problems affecting the modern world.673
§ I said before—and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who is not in his place, would I think agree with me—that there is no need for me to raise the question of Northern Ireland or speak about the Lebanon. There is no need to make a point to this House about the divisions that have occurred in the world which in some way or another have their origin in religion. I have deliberately restricted my time to the same length as the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London so no one can accuse me of abusing a privilege, but there is one last matter that I want to raise. The other evening I was sitting in the comparative security of my home and watching television. Some words that I learned at my mother's knee came into my mind. She was a Christian and none better. The words were: "Suffer little children to come unto me". The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who accorded me the honour of telling me to shut up the last time this matter was debated was appearing on television that night. They were talking about our trouble spot, Northern Ireland, and she said almost as a prayer that if only we could get the children in one generation to learn together.
§ My amendment seeks a wider understanding of moral and ethical issues. I ask your Lordships to think about the children of Northern Ireland and what keeps them apart—it is certainly not atheist and certainly not secular. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I referred to the amendment of the noble Lord in the course of my contribution to the general discussion. I cannot recommend to the House that his amendment be supported.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, am I to understand that in this House that is the only comment on my amendment? If so, I can only conclude that everybody in the House must agree with it. We are not talking about the price of stocks and shares on the London Exchange. We have been talking about a matter that is absolutely fundamental to the understanding of people and their relationships with each other. I am therefore strengthened in my view. I have heard no case against my amendment. I press the matter to a Division.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ On Question, whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 31; Not-Contents, 120.674
|DIVISION NO. 3|
|Airedale, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Birk, B.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Mulley, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Oram, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Peston, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Rea, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Russell, E.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B. [Teller.]||Sefton of Garston, L. [Teller.]|
|Foot, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Howie of Troon, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Joseph, L.|
|Arran, E.||Killearn, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Kimball, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Beloff L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Layton, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Lindsay, E.|
|Blease, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Borthwick, L.||London, Bp.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Long, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Longford, E.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Buxton of Alsa, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Carlisle of Bucklow, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Cathcart, E.||Morris, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhys, L.||Morton of Shuna, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Combermere, V.||Munster, E.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Nelson, E.|
|Cox, B.||Norfolk, D.|
|Craigton, L.||Northhourne, L.|
|Croft, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Oxfuird, V.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Pender, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Reay, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Rees, L.|
|Elles, B.||Renton, L.|
|Elton, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Enniskillen, E.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Rodney, L.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Ferrers, E.||Sharples, B.|
|Ferrier, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Southwark, Bp.|
|Greenway, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Thurlow, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Tonypandy, V.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Torrington, V.|
|Harris of High Cross, L.||Trafford, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Hastings, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Havers, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Henley, L.||Truro, Bp.|
|Hesketh, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Hives, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Hooper, B.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Wynford, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Young, B.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, perhaps this is a suitable moment at which to break for dinner. I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned until 8.45 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 7.50 to 8.45 p.m.]675
Lord Hatch of Lusby moved Amendment No. 9:
Page I, line 23, leave out second ("and").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment stands in the name of myself, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and my noble friends Lord Soper and Lord Rea. Unfortunately neither the right reverend Prelate nor my noble friend Lord Soper can be here tonight. I couple Amendment No. 9 with Amendment No. 12 so that it makes some sense.
§ We debated this amendment at Committee stage. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, in reply to the debate said that it had undoubtedly been a lofty and noble debate. I agreed with him. Unfortunately the reply was ignoble rather than noble: it was a sterile reply. It answered none of the very pertinent questions that had been put from all sides of the Committee and it left the Government looking arid, insular and parochial. It is for that reason that my noble friends and I have put down this amendment.
Among the many things to which the noble Earl did not reply was why the Government found it necessary and advantageous in publishing their White Paper Better Schools to put in the exact words that are contained in the amendment:
helps pupils to understand the world in which they live, and the inter-dependence of individuals, groups and nations".
§ The Government later agreed that the general aims of their White Paper had been accepted educationally. Why then, if this provision has been drafted in the White Paper and if it has been approved by the Government, did they not wish it to be in the Bill itself?
§ The noble Earl did not answer. I hope that tonight the reply given to this amendment will be by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, who I know has had discussions on this subject with a number of organisations, rather than by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, who answered last time.
During his winding up the noble Earl said that these were very important aims for the school curriculum. If they are important aims for the school curriculum surely they should be in the Bill as a lead to the whole educational world. He went on to say, defending his Government's opposition to the amendment:
But can it seriously be suggested that, 'the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life' to which Clause I refers do not already cover life as members of society and inhabitants of the earth, or the need to understand the world and the complicated and diverse relationships on which our existence depends? I think not".—[Official Report, 3/5/1988: cols. 479–80.]
§ I think so. There are many educationists, many teachers and branches of the education service who have not yet recognised the importance of the global view in the teaching of all subjects and in the preparation of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren for the challenges which they are bound to meet in the world we are bequeathing to them. Yes, it can be seriously suggested, and it ought to be the Government's lead to the educational world, that the global view, the internationalist view, the concept of citizenship of the world, be put into the Bill as a lead to the whole education system of our country.676
§ I make one special point about this issue. How many of our teachers have ever been trained to consider their subject from the international point of view? Some years ago I used to go to Balls Park Training College for Teachers where there was a special course on the third world. So far as we could discover at that time it was the only course on which teachers could opt for training in the problems of the third world and the relationship of the third world to this country and to Europe. How many teachers today are given such a training? How many teachers have the opportunity to learn through each one of their subjects that there is an international dimension, that the nation's state is becoming outdated and that our children and grandchildren have to learn to be citizens of the world if the human race is to survive and if they are to have any opportunity for a happy and positive life? I do not need to go into the number of issues which have a global dimension. Every issue is now an issue of international importance.
§ When the noble Earl replied to me on the last occasion he suggested that education for international understanding is a very important aim for the school curriculum. Yes, it is, and that is why the amendment has been tabled and is being moved tonight. What are the Government doing about it? What are the Government doing to ensure that the important aim for the school curriculum, which was included in their White Paper and approved by the educational establishment, is laid down in the Bill so that they are seen to be giving a lead to the educational establishment to ensure that throughout the education world, through all courses and subjects, children are being taught in a global context and in a global environment?
The noble Earl also said that the amendment represented some of the important anxieties which the school curriculum must address. He said:
We intend that it shall do so and indeed within the national curriculum shall take steps to ensure that these issues are appropriately covered. They will be dealt with in many subject areas."—[Official Report, 3/5/88; col. 480.]
§ This is far more important and significant than "these issues". It concerns the whole meaning and significance of education for the next generation. When the noble Earl says "in many subject areas", why does he use the word "many" and not the word "all"? Is there a single subject area in which the international dimension is not of vital significance?
§ After all the pious words that have been spoken on behalf of the Government in favour of the concept of the amendment, I should like to know tonight what the Government are doing, and intend to do in practice, to ensure that our education system is internationalised. So far as I know there is no evidence that the Government have demonstrated their belief in the importance of that vital issue in any practical form—not in words but in practice.
§ Although the noble Earl referred to two specific working groups, so far as I know the subject working groups that have now been established in science, maths, English and technology have not had the global perspective brought to their attention. The Government have included environmental and multicultural education up to a minor point. However, to 677 my knowledge they have said nothing about development education upon which the future of the world and of this country depends.
§ I should like to ask the Government this specific question. If they are still so stubborn as to resist the amendment which they drafted for their White Paper, will they give a promise, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in the last debate, that the international dimension, the global dimension, will be brought to the attention of every working group? Will the Government also promise that every subject working group will be given a brief and an instruction to frame its terms of reference so that the global concept, the global dimension, of its subject is included in its recommendation?
§ If the Government will not refer to that issue in the Bill, and if they fail to ask the subject working groups to incorporate that dimension when devising the curriculum for their particular subject, what will the Government do? What encouragement will they give to teachers to have the opportunity of being trained in internationalism in their subjects? What is the Government's intention as regards what they have laid down as an important issue in the new education system which they are devising?
§ Will the Government pledge themselves tonight to instruct all the working groups in every subject area to include in their discussions and recommendations the global dimension of the subject that they are studying and so report to the Secretary of State? I beg to move.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I support this amendment. It is perhaps most strongly supported by the foreword to the Brandt Report which states:We are convinced of the great role education has to play. The commission feels that schools all over the world should pay more attention to international problems so that young people will see more clearly the dangers they are facing, their responsibilities and the opportunities of co-operating globally and regionally as well as within their own neighbourhood".We have had an example of that very recently in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's, as we understand it, successful move to help the poorer countries by the action at the Toronto summit. That kind of action is to be encouraged and, it is to be hoped, understood. Unless that kind of approach is understood and taught in education, it is very difficult to see how it will happen.
Perhaps I may make a short point. I find it difficult to see how in each of the working groups in the foundation subjects in Clause 3 as it stands it is possible to put these matters in. However if one took Amendment No. 2 which the House turned down and which was spoken to by my noble friend Lady David and used the more appropriate modern language of the Scottish divisions, one could easily cover these matters in social and environmental studies which include history, geography and economics. However, I strongly support the amendment.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I should like briefly to support this amendment. It would relate to the entire curriculum, but particularly to the two foundation 678 subjects of history and geography since, as my noble friend said, social studies do not appear in the curriculum.
There is a need to relate teaching to today's worldwide problems in a constructive way. One major benefit is that it makes the subjects taught much more interesting and relevant to the pupils and children to whom it is taught. I believe there is a need to set the approach of tomorrow's citizens to new knowledge in a framework which respects the values and rights of other peoples and nations and which emphasises that a co-operative approach is best. That applies both locally and in an international world sense. I believe the wording of this amendment covers most of those aims and needs and I strongly support it.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, I should like to say that from these Benches we also support this amendment. There are three areas which are lacking in this Bill and this is one of them. Another is the environment and the third is life skills which children should be taught and we shall discuss that later. However, we strongly support the amendment.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, accused me of having uttered the words in Committee: "in pious hope" or at least of having used the word "pious". I may have used that word but the piety with which I spoke or the manner in which I spoke at that time I happened to feel was correct and I considered it to be totally accurate and truthful.
We are heartened that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and other noble Lords attach such importance to widening the educational horizons of pupils beyond their immediate environment, to include the understanding of the world in which they live and the interdependence of individuals, groups and nations.
I am sure that we all share their belief that there is a need to promote tolerance and understanding. The recognition of an individual's place within the world and the need to take into account the needs of others is an essential ingredient of the preparation for adult life. Indeed, many of us need to be reminded once we become adult. But it is because we have already covered in general terms the "preparation for adult life" in Clause 1 of the Bill, that we cannot commend the amendment to your Lordships' House.
As noble Lords will recall from earlier discussions in the House, we have deliberately set out to phrase the wording of Clause 1 in the most general form. By this means we hope, in the way that similar wording was used in Section 7 of the 1944 Act, to establish general principles which will stand the test of time.
I cannot believe that the present wording of Clause 1, concerned as it is with the promotion of the development of pupils and society and the preparation of pupils for adult life, is insufficient to cover the intention of the amendment.
Those who have moved the amendment will recognise, I know, that there are other, equally worthy, objectives which need to be dealt with in the context of the school curriculum. We intend that they shall be. But we do not want, in Clause 1, to give 679 special weight to any particular subject, or cross-curricular theme, however important. We have resisted earlier attempts to embellish Clause 1, and we remain convinced that this is the right approach.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, will accept the strength of this argument, which I am sure he will appreciate does not seek to devalue his concern, and will agree to withdraw the amendment.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Earl, Lord Arran, whether he can imagine anything wider than helping pupils to understand the world in which they live? That is all-embracing, if ever anything was, and there surely can be no harm in adding it. It surely makes the point that whereas 100 years ago people would not have been thinking in these terms, we are now concerned with a world which, as people constantly say, is growing narrower and narrower. As regards the general statements which we are making in Clause 1, surely this very general statement which gives full recognition to the fact that we are living in a world which is very interdependent is worth recognising on the face of the Bill.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, with the leave of the House, in reply to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, I have already said that that point is covered on the face of the Bill as it stands, which is extremely comprehensive and all-embracing. To add anything further would be completely pointless and would destroy the meaning.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to intervene and to ask a question, assuming that the noble Earl is referring to subsection (2)(a) or perhaps (a) and (b). Can the noble Earl give a further explanation because, from my reading of it, the subsection is completely impossible to interpret in the way that he says. Does the noble Earl not agree that it simply does not cover the points made by my noble friend and by the noble Baroness? I am perfectly willing to be persuaded by the noble Earl about the all-embracing nature of the subsection, but from my limited knowledge of English it simply is not as he says it is. Perhaps the noble Earl can give an explanation that we can all understand.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, I do not think one can get much more explicit than what is on the face of the Bill. Subsection (2)(b) states:prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.I cannot see how one can get more all-embracing than that.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, one can get more all-embracing than that by including my amendment. That makes the subsection more all-embracing and makes it much more specific. It gives a much clearer lead to those of us who believe that the future of the children of this country depends upon their understanding from an early age of their position in the world as a whole, not just in this country.
I do not accept the noble Earl's response to my amendment that I will realise that there are many 680 other subjects of equal importance. There are not. There is no subject whose importance is equal to that of understanding the world in which children live and the interdependence of individuals, groups and nations. I stress the word "interdependence". If the noble Earl, who, I believe, has some connections with Scotland, will go to Bathurst and ask the workers at British Leyland why they do not have work, he will be told that it is because the Nigerians cannot afford to buy the products that the plant was tooled to build for them. That is why British workers are out of work; it is because the Nigerians cannot afford the goods which British workers wish to make. That is interdependence. One could extend such examples all night.
I am extremely disappointed that the Government are taking this narrow, parochial view. I gave the Government the opportunity in Committee to think again on this matter and on the words which the Government themselves used. I have asked the noble Earl tonight for a specific answer to a question on the Government's guidance to the working parties, and he has not given an answer. In the circumstances, I am left with no option but to ask for the will of the House.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ On Question, whether the said amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 41; Not-Contents, 81.681
|DIVISION NO. 4|
|Airedale, L.||Longford, E.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||McCarthy, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||McNair, L.|
|Birk, B.||Morton of Shuna, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Mulley, L.|
|Blease, L.||Parry, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Peston, L.|
|Carter, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Combermere, V.||Rea, L. [Teller.]|
|David, B.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Russell, E.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Seear, B.|
|Falkland, V.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L. [Teller.]||Underhill, L.|
|Hooson, L.||White, B.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Carnegy of Lour, B.|
|Ampthill, L.||Carnock, L.|
|Arran, E.||Cathcart, E.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Cowley, E.|
|Auckland, L.||Craigavon, V.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Craigmyle, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Craigton, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Davidson, V. [Teller.]|
|Blatch, B.||Denham, L. [Teller.]|
|Borthwick, L.||Dundee, E.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Eccles, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Eden of Winton, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Elton, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Enniskillen, E.|
|Caithness, E.||Faithfull, B.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Ferrers, E.|
|Carlisle of Bucklow, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Gridley, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Harris of High Cross, L.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Harvington, L.||Pender, L.|
|Hastings, L.||Reay, L.|
|Henley, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Sharpies, B.|
|Hives, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Home of the Hirscl, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Swinfen, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Joseph, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly,||Torrington, V.|
|Lindsay, E.||Trafford, L.|
|London, Bp.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Long, V.||Trumpington, B.|
|McFadzean, L.||Truro, Bp.|
|Mersey, V.||Ullswater, V.|
|Middleton, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Monk Bretton, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Moyne, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Munster, E.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 9.15 p.m.
Lord Morton of Shuna moved Amendment No. 10:
Page I, line 25, at end insert ("in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Lockwood is unable to be present today, I wish to move the amendment standing in her name on the Marshalled List. It seeks to add the words,
in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society".
In reply to the previous amendment, the noble Earl, Lord Arran, invited us to look at Section 7 of the 1944 Act. I took the opportunity of doing just that. There is a remarkable difference, which perhaps reflects the philosophy of this Government in the change from the government of Mr. Churchill, as he then was. Clause 1(2) refers to a curriculum which,
promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; and (b) prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life".
The amendment suggests that we should add,
in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society".
The comparison with Section 7 of the 1944 Act could not be more precisely put. It refers to the community. It says:
it shall be the duty of the local education authority for every area, so far as their powers extend, to contribute towards the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of the community"—
not of the pupils but of the community—
by securing that efficient education throughout these stages shall be available to meet the needs of the population of their area".
The individual pupil is not mentioned in that sentence. It speaks of community need and it is perhaps unfortunate that we now have this individualistic flurry that each pupil must be considered.
§ This amendment is of crucial significance because, whatever was the position in 1944, we are now in a multi-cultural society and the education system must recognise that. The pupils or the society, whichever way we look at it, must accept the reality of a diverse multi-cultural society. In his 1985 report Education for All the noble Lord, Lord Swann, said that the role 682 of education in relation to prejudice is to equip the pupil with knowledge and understanding in place of ignorance and to develop his or her ability to formulate views and attitudes and to judge situations on the basis of this knowledge. The report recognised that such education would have to face the problem of correcting any mistaken impressions or inaccurate hearsay evidence which he or she may have acquired within the family peer group or more broadly from the local community or in the media.
§ There have been reports about the frightening picture of young people facing unemployment and insecurity who drift towards racist or fascist attitudes. In this context, the need for a clear reaffirmation by the education system of the goal of an open pluralistic multi-cultural society cannot be overstated. Perhaps even at that stage the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, would admit that Scots may have a word in edgeways at times.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I am sorry hut no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Home, will quarrel with too many words.
We should never forget that the pupils of today are the citizens of tomorrow and that our education system should enable them to respond to the issues what will confront them in adulthood. We must have a general statement in the Act if it is to last for any time that it is a multi-cultural and multi-racial society in which we live and that the education system must meet that. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I had my name down to a similar amendment in Committee. I support the amendment. I am sure that the Government will say that it is unnecessary and that the point is already covered. The situation is relatively new. It did not exist in a similar way in 1944. There can be no doubt that we are a multi-racial society, multi-cultural society. There can be no doubt that in parts of the country that fact is not accepted, and there are alarming signs of racism in certain areas. It can only do good to have the statement included. If the Government refuse to accept the amendment now that it has been composed, that will be interpreted by many of the ethnic minority groups as showing that the Government do not care to promote a multiracial society.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I hope that there will be no support for the amendment because it has a tendency to push into an inferior position the ethnic and religious minorities which exist in this country and to encourage prejudice against them. There is a great difference between saying what is obvious—that we have become a country of many races and religions—and saying something different, that it is multi-cultural, because we are then suggesting to those minorities that they cannot participate in the mainstream of the culture in which they and their families will live.
We know from experience throughout the world, from Sri Lanka to Ulster, from Azerbaijan to Armenia and wherever else we like to look, that 683 where a society is multi-cultural in the full sense—that is to say, a society in which the people believe themselves, not only in religion, race or colour, but in their attitudes to life and in their general understanding of their position to be a separate group—democratic principles cannot flourish.
Surely our aim towards the minority communities—ethnic, racial or however we define them—should be to say that the doors are open, that our constitution is colour-blind and that we hope to make our employment laws colour-blind. An amendment of this kind goes strongly against the natural and, I hope, tolerant instincts of the British people towards the latest accretions to what, after all, has been the course of British history—the assimilation to a single culture of generations of migrants, from the Anglo-Saxons onwards.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 12, but I doubt whether the Bill is the appropriate place for them.
§ Lord Hylton
I thank the noble and learned Lord. A more appropriate place for expressing such important sentiments would be in circulars, in guidance, in teacher-training, in in-service training for teachers and in preparation for school governors as they take office. I feel that the amendment should not be written into the Bill.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, I support the amendment, mainly because such preparation is going on within the maintained school sector. I come from Birmingham where there is a large ethnic minority component in the schools and where in some schools the overwhelming majority of pupils are from the ethnic minorities. For that reason, the schools are facing up to the need to spread multi-cultural activities. These start more often than not with music, dance and art in schools.
Only in the last month there was a television programme in the Central Television area showing the schools in Stratford-on-Avon which are perhaps not the kind of schools which would be found in the inner parts of the city of Birmingham. They were spreading out to make quite sure that pupils were well aware of what they call the cultural activities of the people who have come to live among us.
I must repeat that the majority of schools in this country are good and enlightened schools. We have heard on many occasions during the course of the debate on this Bill of bad schools and atrocious schools, but nobody ever names them. In supporting this amendment, I say that it is recognised by schools, by staff and by parents that their children are bringing their friends home from school these days so the parents need to understand the background and cultural activities of the ethnic minorities. It is because the schools are doing so that I support the amendment.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I should like to say a short word in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. Long before there was a substantial number of immigrants into this country from the ex-British Empire, we had a multi-cultural society. There is no British culture; there is a culture in Northern Ireland, there is a culture in Wales. In parts of Wales there is a separate language. There is a culture in Scotland. All that has happened over the last 30 years is that additional cultures have enriched the life of British society. We were a multi-cultural society; we are now and even wider multi-cultural society. Children in schools should recognise, know about and understand the nature of our multi-cultural society. This amendment would help them to do so and help their teachers to lead them in that direction.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, in the Bill, paragraphs 2(a) and (b) in my view cover all that is required of the educational system to prepare our children for the society in which they live. It seems to me that if we get right much of the debate which we have been dealing with earlier today—the religious education debate—and if we encourage the full spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of our young children as individuals, that will make us a much healthier society. It will promote tolerance and a healthy attitude to minorities, whether they are ethnic minorities, mentally or physically handicapped children or whatever. This breeds a tolerance and understanding, and a harmonious way of living for our children. It will make ultimately for a better society.
I believe that an amendment such as the one proposed will be divisive. I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Beloff when he says that this amendment will put the very people about whom noble Lords opposite are concerned at a disadvantage. The last thing we want—and, frankly, this is one of the fears I have about the amendment—is that at the end of the day it will mean subordinating much of our own culture. We shall end up not just with a mish-mash of religious education, but with a mish-mash of almost everything else. including history and geography. I believe that we must concentrate very strongly on bringing up spiritually and morally healthy individuals and we must breed a tolerance for other people. In that way, we shall have a much healthier society than by introducing artificially divisive methods to bring our peoples together.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, while we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, for moving this amendment in the name of his noble friend Lady Lockwood, I have to tell him straight off that the Government's attitude towards this amendment is very similar to their attitude towards the previous amendment. As stated in Committee and indeed in relation to the previous amendment, the wording of Clause 1 of the Bill is designed to be very general.
While the Government have every sympathy with the intentions behind this amendment, we believe it is again an unnecessary addition to the comprehensive 685 list of educational purposes described in subsection (2) of Clause 1. That is because, given the nature of our society, preparation for adult life, and indeed the promotion of the cultural development of our society, must automatically include those attitudes and activities which this amendment seeks to encourage. The amendment therefore has only declaratory force, and we do not wish to start identifying separately particular skills or particular attitudes which might be given a boost by a mention in the Bill, however laudable they may be.
The words suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, reflect certain important concerns, but these are only some of the important concerns which the school curriculum must address. We intend that it shall address them, and within the national curriculum we shall take steps to ensure that these important issues are appropriately covered. It was made clear in Committee, and we shall reiterate here, that our unwillingness to accept this amendment is no reflection on our commitment to its underlying objective. That commitment is every bit as strong as that of the noble Lord. This Government have set in hand in the light of the Swann Report numerous initiatives to meet educational needs in a multi-ethnic society. These include projects supported through education support grants and a new national priority area for in-service teacher training. The need to take account of ethnic diversity has also been included in the criteria used by the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education for the approval of initial teacher training courses and the national criteria for the GCSE.
In the context of the national curriculum, the first subject working groups have been asked to bear in mind in their drawing up of attainment targets and programmes of study is the multi-ethnic nature of society. Furthermore, we know that the task group on assessment and testing has also considered these issues very carefully. We shall certainly ensure that all future detailed work follows these same principles.
However, we believe that Clause 1 already offers the right context for this detailed work and strikes the right balance between the various objectives of the school curriculum. We have consistently resisted the attempt to hang upon it additional trappings, however worthy the cause in question, and we remain convinced that this is still the right approach. I hope therefore that, having made his case and in view of the reasoning of the Government's case, the noble Lord will agree not to press his amendment.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I shall ask at the end leave to withdraw this amendment but certainly not as a result of the reasoning put forward by the Government. If one looks at Clause 1(2) and considers the very unlikely but possible chance that a 686 National Front government took power in this country, one can see that there is nothing in subsection (2) to offend M. Le Pen or anyone who thought like him.
Where is there anything to stop such people saying that all coloured people must be sent home to their patrial areas? There is nothing there. I am very much obliged for the help that I have received from noble Lords —that is perhaps the wrong sex to mention but it is the tradition—such as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Seear and Lady Fisher of Rednal. I think that we obtained some clue from the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, as to the thinking behind this Bill. She said that we must not have anything that would subordinate our own culture. What we have is a whole variety of cultures.
We have had cultural input from the many kinds of people who have come to this country. They have benefited the country in many ways and no doubt they will continue to do so. There is no single culture in this country. There are certainly people who have come to this country within the last 50 or 60 years who have not been wholly assimilated. They have their own culture, be it Chinese, Indian, Cypriot or whatever. They will help the development of this country just as the people who escaped from the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s and just as the Huguenots have helped it.
Perhaps I may speak for a moment as part of an ethnic minority. The difficulty is that the English have always said: "As long as you join our culture, that is fine. However, don't bring your culture to us. We shall be totally tolerant if you will try as hard as you can to become good English people". Perhaps the noble and learned Lord wishes to intervene.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I heard the noble Lord speak in this interminable debate earlier this afternoon and say that we should join the Scots. Now he complains that the English want to do their own thing.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I was attempting to say—I apologise for having said it so often—that on occasion the Scots have something slightly better than the English. The ethnic minorities of this country continually say to the English: "At least consider what we have, what we are doing and what our lives are like. Don't just say: 'We are perfect and you must come up to our standard' ". I shall not take the matter any further. I do not wish to widen the Scottish-English divide. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.687
§ 9.45 p.m.
Lord Craigton moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 1, line 25, at end insert ("as individuals, members of society and inhabitants of the Earth").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 11 stands in my name and in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who regrets that he cannot be present. The amendment would change the subsection to read:
prepares such pupils for … adult life as individuals, members of society and inhabitants of the Earth".
§ With this amendment I seek to improve the drafting and the scope of the Bill, which, as the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, said earlier, may have to stand for the next 40 years. It has become all too apparent that the physical and biological systems that make life possible on this earth are being progressively degraded and thrown off balance by the increasing population and its ever-growing demand for natural resources. We want every human being to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. Conventional belief is that that can be achieved by economic development. The snag is that we cannot have economic growth without increasing the exploitation of the world's natural resources.
§ Those are not my words. They are the views of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, President of the World Wildlife Fund, now the Worldwide Fund for Nature, on 17th May. He added that at the present rate of exploitation it was difficult to imagine how much would be left for the people inhabiting the earth two generations from now. For future generations some world deterioration is inevitable. The next generation must be informed and prepared to cope with this not only as members of society but as inhabitants of the earth.
§ Those last dozen words were the words I wanted to add at the Committee stage and which my noble friend Lord Arran declined to accept. He gave detailed reasons for refusal which are reported in the Official Report of 3rd May at cols. 479–480. If I am to prove to this House and the Government that my amendment should be accepted I must show that my noble friend the Minister and the Government were not entirely correct in their reasoning.
The Minister described Clause 1—and he did so again this evening—as very general and done on purpose. He wished:
our wording to stand the test of time in the way that very similar words in Section 7 of the 1944 Act have done".
§ The wording of Section 7 of the 1944 Act is not very general. It lays a specific duty on every education authority to contribute etc., etc.—the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, has already quoted the section to the House—to meet the needs of the population in the local authority's area. That is, the local education authority had to secure efficient education in the community to meet the needs of the population of the local authority area. This Bill is broadly in line with Sections 1, 2 and 2(a) of the 1944 Act although the Bill adds the development of the pupil and refers to the development of an undefined 688 society instead of the area community. Clause 1(2)(b), which I seek to amend, really is in general terms and there is nothing remotely similar or like it in Section 7 of the 1944 Act.
At Second Reading and in Committee I complained about the correct interpretation of the word "society", which in this context is not as clear as it should be. In fact it has been differently interpreted by two Ministers. The Minister of State, Mrs. Angela Rumbold, speaking at the Committee stage of this Bill in another place (as reported in Standing Committee Hansard of 15th December 1987 at col. 114) on an amendment to remove the words "and of society", gave the following as the Government's interpretation of "society" in this Bill:
The 'society' encompasses the different communities that make up our society today …I hope that by using 'society' we shall ensure that… children are educated in such a way as to promote the ultimate development of all the communities within our society".
That is admirable but there is no thought of the wider world at all. However, my noble friend on the Front Bench could not have realised the narrowness of that interpretation. When talking about the needs for the present very general clause, he said (at col. 479) that he wanted future generations to develop an
understanding of what 'the responsibilities of adult life or the needs of society' involve".
I am sure that he did not mean his colleague's "different communities" that now make up the local education authority areas.
§ My amendment clarifies the confusion by defining society as the pupil society. Earlier this evening my noble friend Lord Eccles referred to society in the context of the whole world. Society is not the whole world. As I explained at Second Reading, "society" is defined in the dictionary with a narrower interpretation.
§ I now turn to subsection (2)(b), concerning the preparation for adult life. While subsection (2)(a) follows the 1944 Act in being fairly specific about the educational development of the pupil in society, there is no guidance on the scope of the curriculum also to achieve preparation for adult life. As now worded the curriculum prepares for adult life the pupil developed as a member of a society which is not defined. Theoretically, there is no obligation—and certainly no instruction—for the teacher to prepare the pupil to understand and perhaps contend with the responsibilities and experiences of world problems.
In declining in Committee to accept my amendment, which would have added the words:
as members of society and inhabitants of the earth",
the Minister was right to point out to me that, by emphasising only the social and collective, my amendment might appear to devalue the pupils' individual experiences and achievements. Consequently, I have added to this amendment the words "as individuals".
§ My noble friend the Minister was also right in saying (as reported in Hansard at col. 480) that he did not wish to emphasise in Clause 1 any subject or 689 cross-curricular theme, however timely or important, nor to mention certain important concerns, but only some of the important concerns which the school curriculum must address. I agree entirely that such a list, however long, could never be comprehensive. That is why I did not support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. To prepare pupils for an adult life in the situation in which they are in fact individuals, members of society and inhabitants of the earth can add no particular subject or theme to the curriculum by being added to this Bill, but they do give badly needed clarity and direction.
§ I suggest that the added clarification which I have given would improve the whole purport of the Bill by making it a little more specific. The Minister was wrong to say that my wording could not reasonably extend the scope of the clause. It defines "society", as does the dictionary, as "the pupils' society in which the pupils live with others of similar interests". It widens those interests by adding those other societies in the world of which the pupils are not and cannot be members but about which, in the interests of all the inhabitants of the earth, there may be reason for action or concern.
§ Perhaps I may recapitulate. There is no precedent in the 1944 Act for a provision which is so loosely worded and undefined as in subsection (2)(b). The precedent in the 1944 Act was for the definite instruction in subsection (2)(a). The right curriculum must have three essential elements: the pupil as an individual is in this Bill but he was not in the 1944 Act; the pupil as a member of his society—which must be clearly defined in this Bill, and in the 1944 Act it was the pupil's local education authority area; and the pupil as an inhabitant of this complex and changing world. This is a comparatively new situation which could not have been envisaged in 1944 and which already assures us of changes and dangers for the next and future generations.
§ To stand the test of time this Bill must surely acknowledge that fact. My amendment meets all three essentials without altering or emphasising in any way a single word or subject in the Bill, but it conveys an overall impression about how those words and subjects in the Bill could be interpreted in action which is in the best interests of our pupils, our society and the inhabitants of this earth. I beg to move.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, one of the very best speeches at Second Reading was made by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, who has moved this amendment. I should like to assure him of the support of these Benches. A more wide awake and forward-looking drafter of the Bill could surely not have overlooked the painfully obvious fact that in the next quarter or half century our wise stewardship of the small planet on which we live will have to be our main preoccupation.
We live in alarmingly increasing numbers on a thin crust of topsoil supplemented only by the harvest of the seas. Both are endangered by our ignorance, greed, nationalism and pigheaded refusal to look 690 ahead more than a year or two. When life-threatening dangers to the air we breathe and the atmosphere that surrounds us are pointed out to us, we pay far greater attention to preventing disruption of the production lines in our factories or the pattern of our trade than to the protection of this earth. This earth is all we have. That should be recognised somewhere in the Bill. I believe that Clause 1 is the right place.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I wish to be perfectly impartial and perfectly consistent. I have listened to my noble and admired friend behind me and I have listened to the other debates on the three preceding amendments. When I first saw them on the Marshalled List I realised that I was implacably against them all. I gave them absolutely full marks for intention and absolutely no marks for definition.
The truth is that education is co-extensive with life both in school and in adulthood. One can go on talking about multi-racial societies until the cows come home. One can go on talking about being an inhabitant of this earth until the cows come home. One can go on talking about multi-ethnic and multiracial societies until the cows come home. I believe that, with about half an hours' work, I could have drafted 150 amendments or so all of which could have been in Clause 1 and not one of which would have added anything to the sense of the Bill.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I should like to support this amendment and the theme of the three amendments about which we have been talking. Whatever the noble and learned Lord may say, there are many people who feel that something is missing from the Bill. It is a recognition that the world has changed considerably since 1944, and so indeed has this country. If the noble and learned Lord could have drafted an amendment which would have covered this, it is a great pity that he did not take the trouble to do so, because that might have saved us a great deal of time. Perhaps he may still try to do so and that would be a help to all of us.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I do not wish to interrupt the noble Baroness. However, the point that I was trying to make was that if I had drafted my 150 amendments I should be beating the air as she is doing now.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord still fails to recognise the problem which the people who moved these amendments are trying to address. That is a pity and in a way it shows the narrowness of this Bill about which we complained a good deal in Committee and are now complaining at Report stage. All I wish to say is that here is a problem. It has not been resolved. I should like to voice my support.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I have listened with interest to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham. I wonder whether he has taken on board that the point of this amendment is that one day the cows will not come home.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, surely the amendment is totally unnecessary. It is covered by the word "responsibilities" in Clause 1(2)(b).
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, one thing has been forgotten by noble Lords who criticise this amendment. The noble and learned Lord said that he was impartial and consistent. No doubt he is consistent, but what he means by "impartial" will defy any range of definition.
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I intended to express that I was impartially hostile to all these amendments.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, in fact the noble and learned Lord was wrong at every point. Has he asked himself why there should be amendments of this kind? It is because there have been certain important changes in the world since the last great Education Act. We have become much more aware of the fact that we live in one world, that the actions of one nation can affect the rest of us. That is truer now than it was in 1940. We have also become more aware of the dangers of the way in which we are devouring the resources of this planet.
These considerations are of importance. They ought in some way to be mentioned in the Bill. It is quite easy to pick out one method of doing so and to say that it is not right; it ought to have been done in some other way. I am saying that there ought to be some recognition in this Bill of the change in the world since 1940. It is the failure to realise that which accounts for the triumphal return of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, to the wrong end of the stick on every occasion.
One of the great evils of the way in which the present Government are asking us all to regard the world is that they think of man as if he were chiefly an individual, which is rather like trying to write the biography of a fish out of water because mankind is by nature a social creature. As one of the blessed spirits in paradise said to Dante,Is it not good for man to be a citizen?Dante, who had had experience of being a citizen and a magistrate at one time and an exile at another, replied:Indeed, and of that I need no proof".It is good for man to be a citizen. He needs to be reminded of it and he needs to be reminded of it more emphatically now that he has become aware of the dangers of living as if he were living for himself with no regard to the planet as a whole. He needs to be reminded of that more emphatically than he did in previous generations.
We have had various amendments offered to us, and the case to be made against any one of them individually. I do not believe that there can be a case for not having anything in the Bill to draw attention to the increasing demands which are made on man by the fact that he is a member of society and an inhabitant of the earth.
§ 10 p.m.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, I am truly grateful to my noble friend Lord Craigton for his genuine desire to improve Clause 1 which I know he does with feeling and with compassion. But despite the Government's firm commitment to his worthy objectives, nonetheless we must once again disappoint him by speaking against his amendment. In doing so, I hope, albeit briefly, to be developing a somewhat different argument.
The words that noble Lords would have us add cannot reasonably extend the scope of the clause, worded as it is in such general terms. The three strands of preparation for adult life that my noble friend's amendment would highlight are already implicit in the wording of Clause 1. Preparation for the demands that adult life will make upon them as individuals is clearly included in the specification, in the first part of subsection (2)(a), of the need to encourage pupils'spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development".The subsection goes on to widen the scope of this requirement to include the encouragement of these values in a social context as well as an individual one. Noble Lords have contended that this widening is not sufficient and that the Bill does not define "society" in such a way that would ensure that the curriculum made sufficient reference to concerns of a global nature.
Clearly that application of the concept of society to which a pupil's education will address itself first must be the child's immediate social context. It is to this interpretation of the concept that my honourable friend the Minister of State referred, as my noble friend said, during the Committee stage of this Bill in another place, when she spoke of education promotingthe ultimate development of all communities within our society.However, it is never possible to divorce a community from its wider social context. To understand fully one's own community one must be aware of that wider context and of the complex inter-relationships that knot together all humanity. An awareness of global concerns, those that affect all pupils as "inhabitants of this earth" is thus implied automatically by our reference to "society". So it cannot seriously be suggested that the references in Clause 1 to the development of the individual pupil and of society, and tothe opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life",do not already cover life asindividuals. members of society and inhabitants of the Earth",and the concomitant need to understand the world and the complex inter-relationships on which our existence depends.
What the suggested words do is to reflect specific concerns; certainly they are important ones, but they only constitute some of the important concerns which the school curriculum must address. For this reason it would be wrong to single them out in the Bill's preamble. We are just as determined as the noble Lords that these issues should be addressed, and shall take steps to ensure that they are appropriately covered within the national 693 curriculum. They will be dealt with in many different subject areas. The science working group has already been reminded of the need to help pupils develop respect for the environment and the care of living things, and we can expect relevant attainment targets to be developed in geography, history, and elsewhere.
We believe that Clause 1 has struck the right balance between the various objectives of the school curriculum. Here at the Committee stage, and in another place, we have resisted attempts to hang additional embellishments upon it, however worthy the cause in question, and I must repeat that we remain convinced that this is the right approach.
In view of the reasoning and understanding of my argument against this amendment, I particularly ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl a question. He did not answer a. question that I asked during the debate in respect of my amendment. Will he answer it now in the context of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton? The noble Earl mentioned the Government's concern regarding "many" subjects. Should not that be "all" subjects? Will he also answer this question? Do the Government intend to give any guidelines, any encouragement, to all the working groups on all the subjects within the curriculum in order to bring to their attention the necessity of including a global dimension in their research, discussions and reports?
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I can go no further than to repeat the arguments which I put forward in respect of this amendment and the previous amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. The Bill stands as it does at the moment and there is no going back on that; there is no change.
§ Lord Craigton
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his careful reply, as I am sure are other noble Lords. I am sufficiently satisfied with his assurances and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 12 not moved.]
§ Clause 2 [The National Curriculum]:
Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 2, line 5, leave out ("and").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 13 and, with the leave of the House, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 15. The amendment was put forward in Committee and withdrawn. At that time we recommended that home economics should either be included in the core curriculum or it should be a foundation subject. In this amendment we recommend that provision should be made:
for all registered pupils for Home Economics which includes personal and social education, and lifeskills, and may or may not be part of the National Curriculum".
§ Although we should like home economics to be part of the core curriculum or the foundation subjects we are not asking for that. However, we are asking that any pupil who wishes to study the subject should be able to do so. It might be said that this is possible now. However, I must point out to the House that there are a number of courses throughout the country at either universities or polytechnics which are closing down. If courses continue to do so it will not be possible for students to learn home economics at school.
§ Perhaps I may say, as I said in Committee, that home economics has two sides to it which are interrelated. There is the practical side requiring imagination, skill and intelligence. So often in this debate today we have talked about academics. I believe that practical skills need intelligence. The setting up of a home, the buying of a house, arranging insurance and indeed the activities of home making. healthy diet, cookery, and so on, require much teaching. That teaching is often received in the home and indeed should be so received. However, reality faces us. It is not always received in the home. Last year the NSPCC spent £ 1 million on family centres for parents, all of whom had passed through the education system and did not have practical skills in running a home, caring for the children and looking after the husband.
§ The noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, who is the president of the National Children's Homes, will know the kinds of case with which his organisation deals. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, is concerned with the Children's Society, and he also will know of the problems that are dealt with. Why should we have to spend money on children and families, teaching them in adult life what they should have learnt in school?
§ There is another side to this matter. There is the whole question of commerce and industry. Many home economists advise commerce and industry and the statutory services on equipment, diet and the layout of homes and houses. It is very important that there should be this input. I believe I mentioned in Committee how much British Gas is indebted to the home economists for the help and advice which they give.
§ When we had the great debate on intellectual freedom I could not help but look at the tremendous number of quite outstanding and notable vice-chancellors—all outstanding people. I happen to know that a number of their students in their colleges were ill-fed and not receiving a proper diet because their colleges were not properly looked after on the home economics front.
§ There is a second side of home economics which is, I believe, as important. That includes personal and social education and life skills. That cannot be dealt with on a cross-curricular basis which was stated by the noble Baroness, Lady David. This subject covers pupils' preparation for parenthood and family life. The subject should surely concentrate on the study of child development, on the role and responsibility of parenthood and the dynamics of family life. The introduction of this subject has never been so vital as it is now. Young people today carry uncertainty about norms, standards and expectations into their 695 parental role. Without the knowledge, training and appreciation of the subject, their children in turn will suffer in the families in which they live.
§ Our delinquency rate is high. People talk about the behaviour in our country of those who do not conform. The prisons are full. We have a great deal of care in our community; but we equally have a great deal of neglect. I believe that if this subject were to be taught, not on a cross-curricular basis but as a subject in schools, then we shall enrich our children, and in turn society will benefit. I beg to move.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, I speak in support of this amendment. Since the dinner break we have been debating, to my mind, the three most important subjects that children should be taught. So far, in each case the Government have produced a firm negative.
I cannot imagine that anything is more important than that children should be taught about the environment or about the fact that increasingly we live in one society. Now we have before us the proposition that children should be taught actively about how to live and that this should be on the face of the Bill.
I draw two factors to the attention of your Lordships. The world that children enter when they leave school these days is infinitely more complex, dangerous and difficult than the world we entered when we left school. I take one example to illustrate what I mean by that: the sexual licence that has come about in the permissive society. Perhaps two of the gravest effects have been the spread of AIDS and the spread of extra-marital births. I believe that over 45 per cent. of all births in the borough of Lambeth are extra-marital. Most, but by no means all, result in one-parent families.
There are many other dangers that we know about—drugs, child abuse and so on. In other words, leaving school nowadays is very dangerous. I believe that it is wrong that a Bill with the pretentions of the one now before us should have nothing to say on the face of it about this subject. I know that we shall hear that this will be treated in a cross-curricular manner. That is the reply we always receive. However, we want the subject to be on the face of the Bill so that it should have due prominence. We should indicate on the face of the Bill what I remember was the motto of one school in which I taught:We teach about life".The school did not teach just about history, geography, maths, technology and so on but about life. For those reasons I strongly support the amendment.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, North Yorkshire, where I live, is on the border of Cleveland. Those noble Lords who have read the Economist this week will have seen that the majority of child abuse cases there are likely to be confirmed when the official report is published. According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, it is not only in Cleveland that these appalling cases are on the increase.
§ Lord Trafford
My Lords, will the noble Viscount give way? He is misquoting the article in the Economist. The article did not say that the majority of the cases were true. It said that between 70 per cent. and, I believe, 90 per cent. may turn out to have some foundation in fact. That is very different from saying that they are true, with respect to the noble Viscount, as far as the parents of Cleveland are concerned.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. The quotation reads:Private evidences during last autumn's hearing suggested that between 70 per cent. and 90 per cent. of the cases had some foundation".However, child abuse is only one of the dangers against which young adults and adolescents should be warned. There is also the danger of promiscuity, AIDS and drugs, to name only a few. On the positive side, the subject of life skills embraces the whole field of creative human relationships; of marriage, friendship, bringing up children and making a home. It also deals with the need for budgeting and the need to avoid the debt trap into which it is so easy to fall these days. No one taught me about those matters.
However, Harrow, one of our major public schools, has for the past two years and after much thought and preparation decided to teach an excellent course called "The Way of Life" to all of the sixth form. As the school put it, it is a course designed to introduce young adults to an exploration of how to relate to our environment, to society, to ourselves and to God. It is taken in small groups of eight to 10 people for a year, much of it being done by group discussion. Though these young people will be slightly older than the ones we are considering, the reasoning behind the course will be the same for those taking GCSE. As the headmaster of Harrow put it:Millions of pounds are being spent on locking the stable door after the damage is done and nothing is being done to prevent it".What can be more important than giving all pupils the opportunity to learn about life skills?
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I am very conscious of the fact that at Committee stage there was a colourful list of subjects to be added to the core curriculum and foundation curriculum, but they got very short shrift from the noble Baroness. I put my name to this amendment because I feel the subject is of such importance that if we can, get any further assurances we should try to do so. My particular concern is that which has been expressed so well by noble Lords who spoke earlier; namely, the problem of home and family building, personal relations, home care and the care of children among them. These are the kinds of skills that used to be passed on from parents to their children. But with broken homes in the inner cities constituting perhaps between 30 per cent. and 40 per cent. of the family units, these skills have to be taught at school.
The only way to break the cycle of deprivation is to give priority to this group of subjects in schools especially for children in the third and fourth periods of their school careers. Perhaps I may read to your 697 Lordships from the speech which the noble Lord the Chief Rabbi made at Committee stage. He said:I believe that particular attention should be given to the moral dimension in preparing the rising generation for responsible marriage and responsible citizenship. For example, these days, youngsters receive little if any guidance on dating, courtship, the choice of a partner and the expectations within marriage.He goes on to say a little later:Broken homes cost the nation far more, socially and economically, than [the scourge of] AIDS."—[Official Report, 3/5/88; col. 420.]I believe the inclusion of this subject in the curriculum of every child should not be left only to the decision of heads or governors of schools, but in some way should be either written into the Bill or into government directives. It should be part of the curriculum of every child in the third and fourth periods of his or her school career.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, we have before us a group of amendments; namely Amendments Nos. 13, 15, 35, 70, 131, 452 and 453. I shall mention them afterwards. I should like to speak now to Amendment No. 35 which has my name and that of others attached to it. Because this amendment has a star I should not like your Lordships to think that we have just tabled it. I spoke to a similar amendment in Committee at 4 a.m. and not many Members of the Committee were present at that time.
After attending a conference last Thursday on addiction in Newcastle-on-Tyne, I discussed the amendment with head teachers and health educators. We came to the conclusion that these words now before your Lordships were better words. What we wish to see is something positive written into this important Bill to make clear this vital part of life education which is helping to prepare our children of today for the future in the big, pressurised society that they must learn to live and to compete in. With the recent upsurge of violence and alcohol abuse and the problem of solvent and drug abuse, children need to learn to respect their bodies. To do this they need to know how their bodies work.
Last week our parliamentary committee on drug abuse watched a video on the life education programme started in Australia. This country is slipping behind other countries in realistic health education. Nobody could speak out more about healthy eating than the Health Minister, Mrs. Edwina Currie. Have we not one of the highest death rates due to heart disease in the world? Why do government departments not work more closely together for the good of the country?
There are many aspects of learning which help to encourage a responsible member of society—aspects such as how to handle money, how to write a cheque, how not to get into debt, how to cross the road safely, how to avoid spreading AIDS, how to run a family and budget and how to prepare a meal. This could be included in home economics. All these and many other important aspects of life skills would be covered by the amendment. These are aspects of life that the brightest to the most handicapped child 698 should learn at different stages and at different levels of their school life, starting from an early age at primary school.
If the Government do not place importance on this matter I am sorry for the future of this country. With rising costs in health care and the spread of violence in society, every effort should be made to leave no gap in our children's education. They should learn respect not only for themselves but for their neighbours and for society at large.
I hope that the Government will accept Amendment No. 35. If not, I hope that your Lordships will see the importance of it. Amendments Nos. 70, 131, 452 and 453 on road safety, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, are important because of the increase in and pressure of traffic on our roads. They could be included in my amendment if stated in regulations. Amendment No. 15 is not positive enough. It only says "may". There is nothing in the Bill to say that these subjects may not be taught and therefore it seems unnecessary. My amendment, Amendment No. 35, says "shall". It is positive and flexible and many people from the teaching and health professions feel it is necessary.
What is the point of the Government spending millions of pounds on advertising about the dangers of drugs and AIDS and not giving our children the necessary education to understand all these important matters? I ask your Lordships to look at pages 1 and 2 of the Bill. Health is not mentioned but many other things are. I consider good health more important than anything else. It is an investment. With the scourge of AIDS and the possibility of some even worse virus there may not be many people left in the world in 40 years.
§ Lord Carlisle of Bucklow
My Lords, I do not wish to denigrate anything that has been said by the noble Baronesses, Lady Masham and Lady Faithfull, but I hope that the Government will not accept this series of amendments. I say that because with this clause we are looking at what should be in the national curriculum in the core and foundation subjects. It is easy to add continuously to that list subjects such as home economics. I accept the importance of home economics, as the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. said. However, our curriculum has been criticised often both for being too narrow, in that it encourages pupils to give up subjects too soon, and too wide, in that we fail to concentrate on what are the necessary basic subjects at school.
Parents should be able to expect in all our maintained schools a curriculum that will provide for a standard of attainment in certain basic subjects. I believe that they are accurately portrayed in the core subjects and the foundation subjects, as set out in Clause 2. If we start to add subjects such as home economics, we shall dilute the importance of the national curriculum. I do not deny the importance of home economics and the teaching of personal and social skills; but I think that in the national curriculum we would be right to concentrate on those subjects which appear in the Bill at the moment. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will not accept the amendments.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, at an early stage in the Bill I asked the Minister whether there was a possibility of appointing someone from the Health Education Authority to the National Curriculum Council. She was kind enough to write to me on 17th June. She referred to the commitment made by Mrs. Rumbold in another place to the chairman of the Health Education Authority concerning the remit to be given to the National Curriculum Council to look at personal and social education at an early stage. I assume that that commitment will remain in place.
Another matter which occurs to me as relevant to the debate is the press release put out by the Secretary of State, Mr. Baker, on 20th May. He said:I have chosen not to fill all the places available on each council —15 if the Bill is passed—because I wish to consider further appointments in the light of the councils' early experience and of further comment about interests which should be reflected".He continued:I also intend to ensure that people knowledgeable about special educational needs are appointed to both bodies".That is one area that the Secretary of State recognised.
When one turns to the back of the press release one finds that eight people out of the proposed total of 15 have been appointed to the shadow council, which leaves a little leeway. Will the Minister make a commitment that in the appointments that remain to be made consideration will be given and importance will be attached to the appointment of someone who has genuine expertise in that area which can be brought to bear on the council's considerations?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I agree entirely with what my noble friend Lord Carlisle said about the national curriculum. Will my noble friend the Minister say that the point raised in her amendment by my noble friend Lady Faithfull about home economics, or however the subject is described, could be met by the use that is made of the time left after the core and foundation subjects have been completed? That is a point to which a school must address itself.
Everyone will recognise the importance of the issues that have been raised. The amendment does not suggest that the subject should be an obligatory part of the national curriculum. It is something which may be a part. It would be for the school to determine. It is a subject that would not necessarily be taught from 5 years to 16; it could usefully and properly be taught at certain stages of a child's school life. It could be taught in the time that is left over from the other subjects. I should have thought that that would meet the point raised in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, which, as she properly pointed out, is not the same as the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Faithfull.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I support the amendments tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Faithfull and Lady Masham; but I should declare two interests. First, I am a practising doctor—I am a general practitioner. Secondly, I am vice-chairman of the 700 National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Prevention which links 30 national organisations which have an interest in preventing that disease. As the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, said, it is the leading cause of deaths in this country. As a doctor, I find that more than half of a list of 20 patients in a surgery on some occasions may have a social problem underlying the reason for their consultation. I echo very much what the noble Baroness said about the need to prepare young people for adult life and for all the stresses and dangers to which they will be subject. I feel that schools are the place where some headway may well be made and in which some progress is already being made in good schools.
With regard to coronary heart disease, it is now becoming quite clear that we must do something in this country. Northern Ireland and Scotland lead the world in mortality from coronary heart disease, with England and Wales trailing not far behind. Our rate has not gone down like the rates in the United States, Finland, Australia and some other countries which have taken measures to do something about it. It is now fairly clear that at least part of this epidemic is preventable, particularly in that not unimportant section of the population aged 75 or less; 30,000 people under 60 die from coronary heart disease at the moment.
There are three main factors which I think the population is beginning to realise are important: smoking, diet and exercise. There is increasing evidence that childhood is the time when these habits start and when one can already detect the origin of troubles which will later develop into arterial disease.
I should like to quote one or two remarks from a recent report produced by the National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Prevention, Action in the UK 1984–87. It says with regard to health education:the Government's recent proposals for reform of the education system"—this Bill—appear to have relegated health education and home economics to a non-essential role, and downgraded physical education".This is despite a major programme of curriculum development which the Health Education Authority has been working on, costing over £1 million per annum. As I was saying, there have been the beginnings of some success in some schools.
The report further says:Sustained efforts to influence the key gatekeepers of local education authorities and school policies are essential if the present promising beginnings are to be developed".The gatekeepers, the local education authorities, will surely take note of the need to pay more attention to health education if the words are in some way written into the Bill. I am not pressing the words of either of these amendments, but I hope that when the noble Baroness replies, she will assure us that these very important aspects are being taken into account in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked.
Later on this evening, I shall also be talking about the same subject. I have put down an amendment asking whether a member of the Health Education Authority can be a member of the National Curriculum Council. This again was a way of asking whether the Government could indicate to us that 701 they take this whole matter seriously. I hope that this can be taken as part of the general subject when the noble Baroness replies to us.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, I should like to support in particular the amendment put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, on health education, to which I also have put my name. It is admirably grouped with another set of amendments under the heading of road safety. These would have been spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, who is unfortunately not able to be with us today.
The amendment put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, is very timely and very important. I do not believe that many people could ignore in this day and age the rising scenario of alcohol abuse, particularly, as the statistics show, that which occurs within the 15 to 19 age group. Indeed it has now been taken up conspicuously by organs of the press which had, up to now, remained rather lukewarm about the whole subject of alcohol abuse.
There is now in this country a picture of young people whose ignorance about alcohol and whose abuse of alcohol shows us in a very poor light in comparison with other countries and particularly within the European grouping. It seems that one of the major factors in this situation is the complete lack of knowledge and of educational background from all schools—not only those covered by this Bill—as to the nature of alcohol. I doubt whether, if one took a random selection of pupils in many schools today and asked them whether alcohol was a stimulant or a depressant, they would be able to give a correct answer. The ignorance of the nature of alcohol is staggering.
In the complete education of children the place of health education, in particular with regard to alcohol and drugs, is something which should be considered very carefully indeed. This situation will not suddenly improve. The problem seems to be growing to almost epidemic proportions. We see young people coming from schools, going out and, as a form of relaxation—I am not talking about football violence particularly—buying alcohol and consuming it with the specific object of getting intoxicated. We all know what the results of that intoxication are. I doubt whether very many of those children understand the consequences of their actions in terms of intoxication and its immediate effects, let alone the health damage which can result from consistent abuse of this kind. I support the amendment of the noble Baroness wholeheartedly.
I wish to move on to the road safety aspect because it is so closely connected with the abuse of alcohol. The appalling situation that exists on our roads is of concern not only to the motoring organisations, to Government and to schools, but to everybody who has children. The number of accidents which occur every year is really horrifying. These accidents concern not only people who are in charge of motor cars—many of those these days are young—but those who are vulnerable to being injured by motor cars.
Here again there is ignorance of the age in which we live. There will be more and more motor cars, more and more speed and more and more necessity 702 for young people to have a thorough background and a thorough knowledge of what it means to be in a society where cars and other motor vehicles are commonplace, where the roads are becoming more and more crowded and where it is becoming more and more possible to have accidents with motor vehicles.
It is also important that people should be taught how to conduct themselves. My children are certainly taught how to conduct themselves on the roads and I think most responsible families make sure that that information is imparted to their children. But I think there is a role in the schools for teachers in making children understand something not only of the dangers of the motor car, but what it means to own and to drive a motor car and the kind of responsibilities which they take on when they become qualified to drive cars. Of course this ties in very strongly with the points about alcohol which I was making earlier.
If we are educating people for a complete life, and if they are going to live to enjoy that quality of life for which we all hope that we are educating our children, surely it is fundamental that we should make sure that children are educated about the dangerous substances to which they will be exposed. They should also be educated about the dangers of the vehicles which they are likely to encounter and to drive when they reach the age of 18 or so. I believe that that is very important. If the matter is not dealt with and if the Government do not take those arguments on board, I believe that we shall see some sad results in short order.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, can the Minister say what arguments, as opposed to assertions, she will advance against the proposition that at the age of 14, with the agreement of teachers and parents, youngsters should have the option of dropping one of the foundation subjects—geography, for example—and putting home economics in its place? I have not given the Minister warning of my question. Therefore, if she cannot give the House those arguments now, perhaps she will bring them back at Third Reading.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I am glad to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is back in her place. She argued that the subjects under discussion could be dealt with in the time left over from the subjects in the national curriculum. If that argument were capable of carrying conviction on these Benches, these amendments would never have reached the Marshalled List.
There is a widespread feeling that there will be very little time indeed left over from the core and foundation subjects unless there is a significant drop in the standard to which the core and foundation subjects are undertaken. I therefore fail to see how we can talk about having time left over. That is the problem with specifying a list of subjects; inevitably, however little you intend it, you devalue all the subjects that are left out. That is why there is such a rush of subjects trying to get in before the guillotine falls.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I have listened carefully to all that has been said. I recognise the concerns which have been expressed about what the Government have consistently acknowledged to be an important area of the curriculum—home economics, personal and social education, life skills and so on. However, I must dispute what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, suggests—that the response to previous amendments was negative and that he expects a similar response here. I believe that we have been very positive and clear in explaining how, in what is a framework Bill, we believe that these important topics are capable of being covered.
As regards the group of amendments now before us, I explained at Second Reading that elements of home economics such as food—science and textiles are valuable contexts for scientific and technolgical work and both the science and the design and technology working groups have been asked to take account of these links in making their recommendations. Personal and social education and the various topics covered by the term life skills touch on many parts of the curriculum, including several foundation subjects. Health education, for example, is another area where the working groups have been asked to cover the scientific and technological aspects of health education within their recommendations on attainment targets and programmes of study. Other working groups will be asked to cover health and safety matters, as appropriate, as and when they are established.
I hope that I have also made clear previously that some of the issues likely to be covered within a course of personal and social education will eventually be covered within the national curriculum as cross-curricular themes. That has been acknowledged during the course of our debate. For instance, we would expect the development of interpersonal and social skills to be a matter to be covered in different ways throughout the national curriculum. However, I do not believe that it would be appropriate to single out home economics or personal and social education from the many important cross-curricular themes and make them the subject of a separate provision in the way proposed in Amendment No. 15.
Nor would it be right for personal and social education to be a foundation subject as proposed in Amendment No. 35. The range of topics which can be covered within PSE can include highly sensitive areas of the curriculum which should rightly be left to the schools themselves to determine. Sex education in particular is a case in point, where the law already requires school governors to have responsibility for determining what, if any, sex education is provided in schools. Our proposals for the national curriculum will not change this in any way. Other aspects of PSE might be equally sensitive and the schools themselves should be left to determine whether and how such matters are dealt with.
As the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, reminded the House, we anticipate that one of the first tasks of the National Curriculum Council will be to look at cross-curricular themes as a whole so that they have proper frameworks for considering the working group's recommendations. We also envisage that personal and social education will be one of the areas 704 which the NCC will want to consider at an early stage, not least to improve general understanding of what should normally be included in what schools provide under the title of PSE.
To respond to a specific question, the Secretary of State is looking further at appointments to the shadow NCC. While I can give no commitment I can assure the noble Lords, Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Rea, that I shall draw their remarks to the attention of my right honourable friend. But, in any event links can be made at specialist committee level. The NCC will be setting up various committees to cover different aspects of the curriculum and the health education authority input to an appropriate committee can certainly be considered. Furthermore, staff links between the bodies will be important.
I hope that my noble friend will accept from the remits given to the existing working groups that these matters are not going by default. There will be opportunity during the consultation process set out in Clauses 15 and 16 of the Bill for further representations to be made on matters of this kind. Furthermore, there is that part of the timetable not taken up by the national curriculum to which my noble friend Lady Young referred which enables schools that so wish to teach subjects other than foundation subjects.
I now turn to the subject of road safety. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, tabled identical amendments at Committee stage. As we said then, the Government take seriously the need for safety education of which road safety forms an important part. I cannot believe that the noble Lord or any of those who have spoken to his amendment intend that it should be studied as a school subject like English or mathematics. As your Lordships will recall from debates on Clause 1 of the Bill in Committee, there are a number of important topics and themes which are not spelt out in the Bill. Our intention is that the teaching of these will be considered, as I have already explained in relation to home economics, by appropriate working groups with guidance from the Secretary of State and in due course from the new National Curriculum Council. I have no doubt that elements of road safety education can also be dealt with effectively in the course of teaching foundation subjects or through other subjects which schools may provide in the time available outside the national curriculum.
Furthermore, local authorities already have a statutory duty under Section 8 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 to carry out local road safety work, including dissemination of information and advice relating to the use of roads and giving practical training to road users. Parents, voluntary organisations and schools as well as the local authorities all have an important part to play in instilling proper habits of road safety in children and in preparing them to be considerate road users.
In answer to the specific point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, I would say that it is our hope and intention that in planning the school timetable, schools will take into account that at a certain stage—possibly in the fourth and fifth years—it will be possible for children to follow the various subjects of the national curriculum at varying levels. We 705 certainly have never said that we envisage that all subjects should be taken to GCSE level and there is therefore scope for time to be allotted in a different way. It may well be that certain schools would then give more emphasis to topics such as those which are the subject of these amendments.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, is the Minister saying that it is agreed that some subjects can be dropped from the foundation curriculum and not taken up to the age of 16? If that is what she is saying it is very important indeed.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I was only reconfirming what I said previously in that all subjects in the national curriculum will not necessarily be taken up to the same standard—that is to say, to the GCSE standard. Under the testing and assessment arrangements that we shall be discussing later there are various levels of attainment which allow for certain flexibility in planning the timetable. Having said that and given all the circumstances, I trust that my noble friend and movers of the other amendments will not feel it necessary to press them. If they do, I must urge your Lordships to reject them.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may say a few words about Amendment No. 70 in the name of my noble friend Lord Tordoff. He did not ask that this should become a school subject. The amendment seeks to insert the words:The Secretary of State may make regulations requiring schools to provide road safety education for their pupils in such form and manner and at such times as may be prescribed".In other words, can we have an answer as to whether the Secretary of State will make regulations to that effect?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I believe I said that it is possible that this matter might come up in terms of a recommendation to working groups on various curriculum subjects in connection with the criteria that are to be given to them. It is quite possible that it will come up in guidance from the department subsequently.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I am very grateful to all those noble Lords who have spoken to this amendment. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, that we did not recommend in Amendment No. 15 that it should be either in the core curriculum or a foundation subject. The point of Amendments Nos. 13 and 15 was to argue that there are so many boys, girls and parents who want the subject home economics and the allied subject of personal and social education and life skills that if we believe that this is a Bill for children and their parents, that subject ought to be available to be taken in the schools should it be so wished. From discussions during the Committee stage of the Bill we realised that it would not be a core or foundation subject; but for it not to be available in the schools so that parents and children can ask for it would, we think, be a great mistake.
706 I cannot speak for other noble Lords who have spoken to other amendments, but I can say that we are very grateful to have had this debate today and hope that the National Curriculum Council will take note of all that has been said. We are disappointed to think that home economics and personal and social education and life skills will be cross-curricular themes instead of a subject on its own, but we leave that matter to the National Curriculum Council. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 14 to 17 not moved.]
§ 11 p.m.
§ Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 2, line 15, at end insert ("which shall be nationally agreed targets within which teachers will have freedom to tailor specific provisions to the needs of the pupil").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, with your Lordships' permission I should like also to say a few words on Amendments Nos. 19 and 20. In doing so, I move back to what I suppose one might call the mainstream of the curriculum.
§ Both during the Committee stage and earlier this afternoon I was aware that, having considered what many noble Lords believed to be improvements in the national curriculum—and, I might add, improvements which would achieve the objectives which the Government say they have in mind—your Lordships rejected them, whether they were those of the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, or my noble friend Lady David. I do not want to leave noble Lords in doubt that I regret that course of action, because I think that those amendments were attempts to achieve the ends upon which we all agree. That is now water under the bridge, and—to mix metaphors—I do not wish to be accused of flogging a dead horse.
§ I then proceed to the next tack: that if we cannot make wholesale changes to what we are doing then the least that we can do in dealing with the rather irrational and archaic position that remains with regard to the curriculum is to try to produce some minor changes to improve the position. That is the role of these and—perhaps I may anticipate—one or two other amendments with which I shall be connected.
§ I have found it frustrating to listen to the debates concerning the nature of the national curriculum. If noble Lords often—from this side—rise to say that the curriculum as specified is not flexible enough, the Minister rises and says, "Yes, it allows fully for flexibility." If, however, noble Lords—often on the Minister's side—say that they want something inflexible, then the Minister states that the curriculum is completely inflexible; it stops people changing things and so on. I have found it more and more irritating that this national curriculum does whatever any noble Lord rises to ask that it should do: it is the most perfect of curricula. It is rather like other responses that we receive when we criticise the wording. We are guided to some word that can always be interpreted to cover almost anything. Perhaps I may say philosphically that things that 707 cover almost anything are ipso facto vacuous. However, that is another matter that I draw to your Lordships' attention.
§ We have in mind something of which the noble Baroness said she was in favour and which the Government had in mind. It is to emphasise, first—and it seems a pity to have to do it but I think that we must—the needs of the individual pupil. So much of the national curriculum is written as averages, norms and so on. Many of us have pointed out that it seems very strange that those of us on these Benches are the ones who have to emphasise the needs of the individual pupil, especially as we have not made our intellectual living out of emphasising individualism. Others have done so—often noble Lords who have not taken part in these debates.
§ However, we must emphasise the needs of the individual pupil. If we consider how this will be taken into account, it must take place through the actions of teachers. For teachers to do this, it must be stated explicity that this is their role; and that within the national curriculum they have the freedom to do this.
§ I am a person who favours a national curriculum. There need be no doubt about that. Having said that, we need the role of the teacher reiterated in taking cognisance of the requirements of the child. Indeed, the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, in a different context, raised that issue earlier in the day. Somehow one seems to have forgotten what it is that teachers do; or perhaps those who have talked on those subjects have no idea what teachers do because they have never seen teachers do it.
§ That is the purpose of these amendments. I could read out various quotations that I have to hand from the columns of Hansard where the noble Baroness has said more or less what is in these amendments. It will come as no surprise to the noble Baroness that their origin is to make explicit in the Bill precisely the points that she herself has made.
§ In summary, as regards the national curriculum, we must focus on the needs of the individual child or pupil. We must not stifle initiative. Indeed quite the contrary; we must encourage the teacher to do the job of the teacher which is precisely as specified in these amendments. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, the three amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, seek to introduce into the Bill a declaration that the framework established by the national curriculum will be broad enough to leave teachers with the freedom to interpret the curriculum to suit the needs of individual pupils. As the noble Lord has said, the Government are committed to the maintenance of that freedom. The dedication and professionalism of the individual teacher are crucial to any education policy. And it is essential that teachers should continue to be able to operate within locally and nationally defined policies as professionals allowed to make their own judgments about the needs of pupils and how best to meet them. But I believe that there is no need to amend the Bill in this way in order to achieve those objectives.
The Bill itself and the provisions of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 establish a framework which does 708 not threaten the professional status of teachers and which gives head teachers specific responsibilities to determine and organise the school curriculum. Under the Bill at present before us, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State cannot constrain teachers' freedom to choose their own teaching styles and methods or the materials that they wish to use. We are very clear on that point and had it not been so we should have amended the Bill to secure that effect.
We did amend the Bill in another place in order that it should be clear that national curriculum orders cannot determine the time to be allocated to any subject nor the way in which it is timetabled; for example whether it should be in combination with other subjects, as a distinct module in a TVEI course, or as an individual examination subject. It is clear, therefore, that the dangers against which the amendment purports to protect the teacher are not real and the protection is therefore not necessary. The details of the national curriculum will be the subject of extensive consultations leading to the making of statutory orders. We have said that the degree of prescription in such orders will be different for different subjects, and the consultation and ultimate test of parliamentary scrutiny will ensure in each case that the level of prescription is appropriate.
We believe that that process would not be helped by these amendments and I hope therefore that the noble Lord, having made his point, will consent to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her answer and I am glad that she has placed it on the record. I believe that all of us, not least the teachers, would be more reassured if it were in the Bill. However, I do not wish to delay your Lordships at this time, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 not moved.]
§ Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 2, line 23, at end insert—
("(3) Subsection (1)(a) above shall not apply in the case of a maintained special school.")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Renton moved Amendment No. 22:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Religious education.
§ .—(1) Subject to subsection (2) and (3) below, Christianity shall be the basis of Religious Education in every maintained school, provided that teachers, clergy or other qualified people are available to teach such education in the school. School governors may make provision for clergy or other qualified people to give such education with or without remuneration. No teacher who declines or is not competent to teach religious education shall be directly or indirectly penalised for not teaching it.
§ (2) Where a maintained school has been established as a denominational school, Christian or otherwise, the religious education in that school shall be of the denomination concerned.
§ (3) Parents shall have the right to withdraw their children from religious education at a maintained school.").709
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment deals with religious education. Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, which are amendments to it, will be moved by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. I welcome and accept them. I join other noble Lords in acknowledging the efforts of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, my noble friend Lady Hooper and the Secretary of State—I know what part he has played in these matters—which have resulted in the amendments in the name of' the right reverend Prelate and of my noble friend.
§ However I am sure that neither my noble friend nor the right reverend Prelate would claim perfection for their amendments. It would not be in character for them to do so for one thing, nor would it be in accordance with the tradition of your Lordship's House, which seeks to improve our legislation all the time.
§ Having said that, I believe that their amendments require clarification and amplication. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 is to obtain that. Also we feel that there are several gaps to be filled in their amendments and those are dealt with in our amendments. We hope to obtain from my noble friend an undertaking to consider what is said in this debate with a view to further amendment at Third Reading. If no such undertaking is given, we shall of course have to consider in the light of this debate what it will be best for us to do at Third Reading.
§ I should like to turn to the specific proposals in Amendment No. 22. Several matters of principle are raised. The first is that, subject to what follows, Christianity shall be the basis of religious education provided that teachers, clergy or other qualified people are available to teach it. Earlier today my noble friend Lady Cox asked most eloquently for clarification of the phrase "in the main Christian". It appear in Amendment No. 71, which deals with religious education.
§ Will my noble friend consider introducing an amendment at Third Reading to ensure that Christianity is the basis of religious education in our schools and that there is not just a vague reference to it being a religion in a country which is in the main Christian? If religious education is being taught to Christian children in a country in which there is an established Christian Church, we believe that we should ensure that Christianity should be the basis. We acknowledge that other religions have the right to have their own religious education. However, that is a separate point.
§ Secondly, in Amendment No. 22 we suggest that school governors may arrange for clergy or other qualified people to give religious education as well as teachers being able to do so. I should like to ask my noble friend whether the Government agree with that suggestion. If so, can she say whether it is already covered in other legislation or in other amendments? I have not found it to be covered in other amendments. If it is not already covered, I should be grateful if my noble friend would say that the Government will give an undertaking to move an amendment at Third Reading to provide for it.710
§ Thirdly, we suggest that no teacher who declines, or feels that he or she is not competent, to teach religious education should be penalised directly or indirectly. I acknowledge that the point is dealt with in Clause 78(5) in relation to grant-maintained schools. Surely it is an important principle which should apply to all schools. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will agree with that suggestion and ensure that it is applied in all schools.
§ Fourthly, we say that in a denominational maintained school, Christian or otherwise, religious education should be of the denomination concerned. That is a pretty obvious proposition, I believe. There is a reference which I find to be too oblique in Amendment No. 101 on page 20 of the present Marshalled List. It is there referred to in subsection (4)(a). We believe that that important principle, which is a statement of the obvious, should be spelt out more expressly. I hope my noble friend will agree that that should be so.
§ Lastly, we say that parents should have the right to withdraw their children from religious education. However, I shall not trouble my noble friend with that point because it is already covered in subsection (3) of Amendment No. 67 on page 12 of the Marshalled List. Therefore, we can leave the matter at that. I shall leave it to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway to describe the welcome ways in which Amendment No. 24 amplifies Amendment No. 22 and, indeed, amplifies the amendment already presented by the right reverend Prelate and by my noble friend. However, I look forward to assurances from my noble friend on the first four principles which I have described. I beg to move.
§ 11.15 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Alloway moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 22, Amendment No. 23:
In subsection (1), line 1, leave out ("and (3)") and insert ("to (5)").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, after that studied and authoritative introduction by my noble friend and sponsor Lord Renton, there is very little to say, save this. Of course one does not claim perfection. We are entering into an area where every 30 years or so we have to devise, as best we can, a law to govern the next 30 years; it is difficult.
§ I had the advantage of an informal and inevitably very friendly discussion with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, by chance, in the corridor. I found him, as we all do, most sympathetic but he pointed out that this amendment is somewhat adrift as it stands because it refers only to maintained schools. That could cause a form of differentiation which would be unfair. I am not here to divide the House on the amendments standing in my name. Indeed, I have asked noble Lords who had attended to support this amendment on a Division to go their ways if they so wished. It is a matter of objective, constructive discussion.
§ My problem arises from the groupings. Your Lordships will realise that at an early stage I was in some trouble. I acknowledge with gratitude the help I received from my noble friend the Chief Whip and from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and of course 711 I accepted their decisions. However, there has been no true in-depth, objective discussion on the principles which affect this matter.
§ It is not for me to criticise the procedure of the House. One accepts it as it is. However, this is a matter to which, no doubt, we shall have to return on Third Reading with an amendment to the amendments in the name of the right reverend Prelate, if so advised.
§ There are gaps, as my noble friend Lord Renton said. As regards this amendment, I accept everything that he has said. In fact, it reflects the first principle which I raised with the right reverend Prelate that Christian children should be taught the Christian faith and, in a sense, it is all one problem with the collective act of worship. They should have their own Christian collective act of worship. I have asked the right reverend Prelate to respond to that question.
§ The amendment raises other questions which, as my noble friend says, are perhaps not wholly relevant. But the amendment also raises the other question of principle. It is a crucial question of principle for which, frankly, I would go to the stake. I would divide the House with two Members, or one, with me against the rest. That principle is that children who adhere to other faiths should be taught such other faiths and have, respectively, their own collective acts of worship in such other place if it is reasonable and practicable to make such a provision.
§ There has been no true effective discussion of that principle, or any of these principles. The reason is the amendment groupings. They come in from the government departments and the Whips have to get the Bill through the House. There is no possibility of a fair, reasonable and objective discussion on a matter of principle that will affect the education of our children for the next 30 years. I reserve my position on this matter to come back on Third Reading, always subject, of course, to the wisdom of the right reverend Prelate and to what he has to say on this principle. I shall of course listen with respect and reverence as one of his flock. But there has been no due discussion in your Lordships' House on this principle.
The other matter concerns subsection (5) in my Amendment No. 24. This proposes:
The Governors … 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.
That applies to all religious education. I confess that the amendment is my own hopeless drafting. Nobody told me how to do it, save my own belief in what my own religion dictates. Inevitably, it is inadequate.
§ However, surely the amendment is worthy of discussion. Surely it is worthy of consideration. Surely someone can criticise and improve it. We have had no opportunity for such discussion. I reserve my position on this amendment for Third Reading for the reasons that I have given; but, again, always subject to the observations of the right reverend Prelate. I shall listen with attention to what he says.
§ This is perhaps one of the most serious decisions that we can make. I am not an educationist. Frankly, 712 I have always sought to avoid it. What little education I have had allows me to say that this could be one of the most important provisions for the future welfare of this country and its children over the next 30 or 40 years.
§ I shall not divide the House tonight. However, in the light of what is said, I reserve my position for Third Reading. I beg to move.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said that his amendment was not a compromise. As a statement of his intention I entirely accept that. However, I believe that the right reverend Prelate would probably agree that the agreement of this House to his amendment was a compromise. If that compromise should break down in one quarter of the House, it may also break down in others. It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, is not the only person in this House who wishes to reserve his position.
It seems that this amendment crosses a very narrow and important boundary. I entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London that it is important that people should know a great deal more than they now do about the Christian inheritance of this country. It seems that the boundary is crossed when one moves from that to proposing—as I understand is proposed in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway—to teach that a particular religion is true. That seems not within the proper functions of a school.
Those are areas of legitimate dispute and where such areas arise it is not within the proper functions of education to commit academic authority to teaching that one of those disputed views is true and the others are not. I was glad to hear what the noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Alloway and Lord Renton, said about the rights of those of other religions. I would take it kindly if they would also add "the rights of those of none".
§ Lord Thorneycroft
My Lords, in supporting my noble friends, perhaps I may put one point to which I should like an answer. I am in a rather curious position. The right reverend Prelate will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that he himself believes that Christianity should be the basis of religious education. I shall be very surprised if he says anything else. However, he has a very real problem which faces not only him but everybody, namely, that in a certain number of areas of this country there are very large populations that are not Christian.
If that situation did not exist I am absolutely certain that the right reverend Prelate would accept this amendment. In fact, it would not have been necessary to table it. He would have said that in 80 per cent. of the country Christianity should be the basis of education. We have to face that problem because it is one that faces us all. What are we to do about those areas? Broadly speaking, there are only two ways of approaching the problem. One way is the way put forward in the amendment by the right reverend Prelate. He also put it into his speech, or the noble Baroness did.
The right reverend Prelate said that we are mainly a Christian country and therefore to deal with the 713 situation in those areas we should have a mainly Christian education. That is one way of looking at the issue. However, it inevitably means a mish-mash. Let us consider a Jewish situation—a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart. Let us suppose that there is an area where there is a large Jewish population in the schools. The amendment tabled by the right reverend Prelate says that we must still have a mainly Christian education, but tuned over a little to the Jewish side. The Jews dislike this aspect as much as the Christians. If there is a large Jewish population, they would much prefer those people to have a Jewish education. That is what my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway is saying.
There are two quite different approaches. One says that if you have a mixed population in the school you must have a degraded educational approach but one that is sufficiently degraded not to offend anybody very much. I ask the right reverend Prelate to think this over again. I know he has thought it through carefully but I ask him to think this over again. Is this really the approach we want? It offends some Christians perhaps but, more importantly, it bitterly offends a very great number of the ethnic minorities who dislike their religion being trivialised in this way.
Would it not be better to square our shoulders, face the situation, admit that there are these positions around the place and say that every child should be encouraged and taught his own faith to the maximum possible ability? That is the choice we seriously ask the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lady to think over between now and Third Reading. I do not think they have an answer this evening—I hardly expect it—but I ask them to try to come up with some considered approach to a really difficult problem that is central to the situation today.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, most of us have less problem with the teaching of Christianity as the basis of religious education in schools than with the logistics of carrying through that fine intention. It must be 13 or 14 years since this House discussed a Motion on the training and supply of teachers of religious education. It was one of the early debates in this House in which I took part. One of the difficulties of the amendment is that it says:Christianity shall he the basis of Religious Education in every maintained school, provided that teachers, clergy or other qualified people are available to teach such education in the school".Early in the decade after the passing of the 1944 Act we found little difficulty in the schools in which I was teaching in implementing the Act in its fullest form. Christianity was the basis of the teaching of education and it was not difficult to staff the curriculum. The position has changed a great deal.
When the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, caught the attention of the House this evening, as he so often does, he made a point which I can also underline. In a school in which I was teaching not only was it possible to teach the children of the various denominations in a service which was conducted voluntarily every day by various members of the staff, it was also possible for the Roman Catholic priest of the district, Father Green, who incidentally became the first elected mayor of a 714 borough in Wales while he was doing that work in the parish, to teach the Roman Catholic children in the library block. It was one of the amusing things about that school that the block was called "L-block". We were able as a joint group of many denominations, Catholic and Nonconformists, to join in a song at Christmas time, saying,Our religious life is free from strife and doing very well, And Father Green is daily seen on the stairs that lead to 'ell".It was a deliberate joke. We were able to implement the Act and we were able to staff the policy.
Today there would be great difficulty in the average school in finding people who cared enough about the Christian or any other religion to staff such a programme. It is not easy for headmasters to write into the curriculum the various subjects that we are asking for. It is not easy for them to find competence, nor is it proper for people to go into schools who do not have the qualifications that match the qualifications of the profession.
I shall be unable to support the amendment because I believe that the logistics are not possible at this stage. I believe that it is better to go along the road that is suggested in the original Act and to leave it to the right reverend Prelate, who has been fortunate in rallying to himself support from all parts of the House tonight, to work out an effective means of implementing it. Please let us not imagine, however, that merely by passing at this late hour of the night an amendment to an Act, even in so difficult a situation, we shall effect a change and make it possible to provide teachers of religious education where they do not exist.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I have the greatest respect for all that the right reverend Prelate has done in getting the amendment which we passed this afternoon, but I am left with one anxiety which has been highlighted in the proposed amendment. I am most reluctant to support it. I can follow, theoretically at least, how religious education could be conducted in the way that the right reverend Prelate has described. What worries me a great deal is his subsection (3)(a), which provides that the act of worship will reflect—I know that the words "in the main" are there—the broad traditions of Christian belief.
We did not have an aswer to what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, said, and I hope that there is an answer. How can that provision be made satisfactory for members of the Jewish and the Moslem faiths? If the act of worship is broadly Christian, is it appropriate to expect that Jewish or Moslem children will attend, however broad it is? I hope that the right reverend Prelate can reassure us on this point, because as it stands I cannot understand it.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I shall speak briefly to the amendments. For once, I did not follow the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, as to the relevance of the act of worship to the amendments, which seem to be dealing with religious education rather than worship, but perhaps that is being too pedantic. The amendment would drive a large hole in the compromise—if the right reverend Prelate will allow 715 that word to be used—that we agreed earlier. It would be unfortunate if, having agreed one situation, we went to another.
There are other difficulties. If to begin with one looks at Amendment No. 22, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, one sees that there is no definition of "clergy". What clergy? There are a number of people who put on dog collars, to take only the Christian religion, and one sometimes wonders whether they all have the same level of qualification.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, the word "clergy" has frequently been used, without qualification, in previous legislation. Its meaning has been understood throughout that legislation. It therefore seemed to be the right expression to use in the amendment.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, with respect, that does not seem to meet the point. I want to make clear that I speak as the son of a Church of Scotland minister so I am not totally biased against the clergy. But there are other smaller groups and one wonders about their qualification to teach. We are talking about the qualification of clergy to teach. As I read the amendment of the noble Lord, there is no test to be put on the clergy as to whether they are qualified to teach. Under the amendment, so long as they have a dog collar on, they can teach religious education.
Then we come to the next phrase, "other qualified people". The qualification is not defined. Is it qualification by belief or is it qualification by teacher training? The second of those is perhaps more important.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for permitting me to intervene. I only do so because I am the great-grandson of a Church of Scotland minister. Perhaps I might suggest that at this hour of the night these matters which the noble Lord is raising are fine matters of criticism; they do not go to the principles. We have vast important principles at stake. Perhaps it would not be profitable to pursue this much further.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, with all respect to the noble Lord, we have just one further opportunity to discuss this Bill at Third Reading. The rules of the House, so far as I understand them, are that the areas which we can discuss are sometimes slightly limited. Therefore I think it is proper to raise these issues at this stage. It seems to me difficult to know exactly whom we are dealing with, and it becomes even more difficult when one comes to the suggestion that these people are to give such education with or without remuneration. If a whole variety of people are to give it with remuneration, who is paying for this in a maintained school? That is a very serious problem, if there is—
§ Lord Thorneycroft
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? The noble Lord, Lord Parry, sitting behind him made an extremely well informed speech just 716 now about the really desperate difficulty that schools are in under any disposition, whatever we do about this amendment, to find the teachers to deal with it. The noble Lord is making a great point about the clergy, who after all have to be invited in; they cannot just walk in. What solution does the noble Lord have to the difficulty of the noble Lord, Lord Parry?
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I do not think that this amendment gives any solution to the difficulty of the noble Lord, Lord Parry. The solution is to increase the number of places for training teachers of religious education. But this amendment does nothing to achieve that result. I should have thought that it would certainly not help by adding a whole group of enthusiastic amateurs to teach religious education to children. I do not think that works. I am all in favour of religious education, but this could be interpreted as religious amateurs, I think that would be unfortunate.
§ Lady Saltoun of Abernethy
My Lords, as my name is also down on Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, perhaps I could seek some clarification from the right reverend Prelate. While in no way doubting his belief that his amendments, to which this House agreed earlier, will have the effect which he says they will and which was the same as the intention of our Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 (and incidentally 239 to 241) that is not, as I understand it, what his amendments say.
As they stand, it seems to me that the amendments will leave the way wide open for anyone who wishes to do so to interpret the act of worship as a multi-faith act of worship and religious education to be multi-faith education, both of which are quite unacceptable in our view. When the right reverend Prelate gets up to reply, will he please give us some clarification on these points because that is what we did not have earlier and what we feel we need now.
§ 11.45 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, may I first say that there is one part of this amendment which I welcome wholeheartedly that is subsection (5) which relates to the spirit of tolerance and other matters. I should not wish that welcome to be obscured. Secondly, I wish to make the point that I do not think it is fair of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, to say that the reason for our difficulties (such as they are) is the groupings. I think they are simply due to the way we have had to handle this whole thing. I ask your Lordships to realise that it is perhaps little more than a month since I was asked to perform this operation. When one thinks that there was consultation and discussion for nearly three years before the 1944 settlement, I am astonished that I have actually arrived here with something as coherent as this.
We have to discuss this matter not by looking at the whole package; we have to do it in the terms of the amendments as they are spread out through the Bill. That does make it very difficult. I tried to keep my opening speech on Amendment No. 3 to 15 minutes. I am not sure how nearly I succeeded, but I tried to do that as I understood it was proper for me to do. 717 But I must confess that the brevity which I was expected to maintain must have led to considerable obscurity.
I said at one point that I believed that his package could signal the end of what has been described as the mish-mash approach to religious education which those of other faiths, as well as Christians, deplore. Then to be told again this evening that this is the way to the mish-mash is very unfortunate. People may not agree with me, but to be told that is nevertheless very unfortunate. The difficulty hinges partly on the words "in the main". I spoke to those words in replying to the debate on Amendment No. 3. That phrase does not mean "mainly" as I said then. It does not mean that there will be a percentage of Christian teaching spread throughout the country with a proportion of other faiths. It means what it says which is that in the main, looking at the country as a whole with its present multi-cultural composition, the bulk of it will be Christian. The norm will be Christian if one likes to put it that way. But there will be exceptions because of local areas and what is proper to them in the educational setting. That is what we mean by "mainly"—not "mainly" in the sense of two-thirds rice and one-third tapioca or something like that. This provision is not in that sense a mish-mash at all. It is a matter of applying it directly to the situation in the country.
I certainly believe in the Christian faith—I hope that goes without question. But at the same time, in considering an education matter, one has to look—as one must in any place where one exercises Christian discipleship—at the situation where one is actually exercising it. In this case we are concerned with the education system. I hope that these amendments will not be pressed, although I am prepared, I hope again with the Government, to look at any possible points. As a matter of fact the actual wording of this provision needs serious attention. "Maintained" includes county and voluntary schools. The actual phraseology is very loose. There are other amendments—not these particular ones—which if passed as they stand would require, as was said earlier, a Christian act of worship in a Jewish school because it was a maintained school. There is obviously a looseness there which will need to be tightened up.
The point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, worries me. It referred to opening the door to anyone whom the governors chose to ask to serve. The package I produced relates to local authorities, the standing advisory conference, the partners to that conference and the governors. They should all have one concern—to ensure that the provisions set out in the package are maintained. In effect, that cuts out the standing advisory council and the governors will be free to invite anyone whom they wish.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of qualifications—although I very much welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, has said on that subject—I should be very worried about such a provision. In answer to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, perhaps I may say that I know only too well from my work in the diocese of London 718 the large number of little churches which set themselves up and ordain people whom they call clergy. Some of them are of rather extreme sects and of varying nationalities. They might well gain control of local governors and people would be invited to serve who, frankly, are not suitable to come into our schools and teach either the Christian faith or whatever the agreed syllabus provides. I am worried because I believe that that system is much too open. It does not appear to relate to the responsibility of all those who are concerned with educational standards.
As regards the conscience clause for teachers and the provisions for denominational teaching, they are either contained in the unrepealed part of the 1944 Act or repeated in the amendments to this Bill. They seem to me to be unnecessary. Also, there is a provision in Schedule 1 for withdrawal for denominational teaching. That is clearly set out. The provisions of the 1944 Act are repeated there.
Earlier in our debate, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, asked me about the three principles. Partly due to lack of time, I did not reply as clearly as I should have done. I believe that I can give him the assurance that he requires on that matter with respect to the package which I have proposed. It is the purpose of that package that Christian children should receive teaching in the Christian faith. Secondly, it is the purpose that children of other faiths should be taught their own faiths.
However, I made the distinction earlier between denominational teaching, which is in a sense a withdrawal, and the recognition that there are other faiths within our society which are part of our nation. The arrangements to be made will enable account to be taken of their needs within the provisions that are made for agreed syllabus teaching. I believe that that is a very right and proper thing to do. It is done without prejudice to the distinctive nature of the Christian faith in this country.
As regards the question of worship, perhaps I may make two points. First, it is precisely to answer the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that we have brought worship under the standing advisory councils which will decide what the right form of worship will be for a school of a given character. That does not mean that we shall have a mish-mash but the council will ask what is right for a particular school given its situation, composition and so on.
The other point that I want to make I have really made already in my remarks about the mish-mash. It is not the intention of this package—in fact it is designed to avoid it—that what is taught should be a mixture of Christianity and other faiths. It is a recognition that in our country there are situations in which it is right to acknowledge that there are those of other faiths and to ensure that proper instruction is given to them while maintaining the basic principle of religion being the main tradition and heritage of this country.
I do not know how far I have gone to meet the concerns of those who propose these amendments. I for my part am prepared to look at anything again. I said when I introduced my amendments that they were not perfect; they cannot be perfect in fact. They 719 are the result of extensive consultation. I am prepared to go on with that consultation for as long as need be. I hope that that assurance will satisfy noble Lords. I think that we are aiming at the same thing.
It is important to ensure that we do not try to solve a religious problem independently of the education system in which it will operate. I think that that is a fundamental principle, and that I believe we have to maintain.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the consultations which the right reverend Prelate has generously offered to continue may possibly be helped if I try to take what he has said a stage further. It still seems to me that in some people's minds there is a gap between his intention and the language in which it is expressed. I think it is proper for me to speak because the difficulty to which the amendment of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Renton is addressed seems to me to lie in the two amendments to which my name is added, namely Amendments Nos. 69 and 71.
In the first of those two amendments, Amendment No. 69, on page 14 of the Marshalled List there is reference in subsection (3)(a) to collective worship reflecting in the main the broad traditions of Christian belief. The second Amendment No. 71, on page 15, in subsection (3) states that religious education shall reflect the fact that religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I think that at this stage one should point out that we are discussing only religious education. Discussion of religious worship will come on later amendments.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am merely following the noble Lord's supporter who sits immediately behind him. I am happy to mention either or neither. The principle is now the same. I have adduced it. In each case we can refer simply to education.
The words "in the main" when referring to an event or procedure suggest that it shall partake partly of the nature of one thing and partly, though to a lesser extent, of the nature of another. It suggests the pudding to which the right reverend Prelate referred. Incidentally, I was sorry that my noble friend Lord Renton retracted his original definition, which was "the right relevant Prelate" because I thought that under the circumstances that was quite appropriate too. The right reverend Prelate said that it was not intended to produce something which was largely tapioca but partly sago.
As I understand the phrase "in the main" it means as nearly as possible the same as normally. In other words the agreed syllabus shall normally provide a Christian education, but in the exception it shall provide something else. That something else is achieved by the composition of the standing advisory committee on religious education, which includes representatives of the minority faiths among the denominations other than Anglican. They are in a position to produce within the syllabus that part of it that will be applied for those children which my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway so compassionately and rightly wishes to preserve.
720 It seems to me that if the language and structure is understood, what is produced by these amendments —not the ones that we are discussing but those which the right reverend Prelate and I seek to persuade your Lordships to adopt—is in the first instance a structure in which if there is a majority of Christian children there will be a Christian syllabus and a Christian form of worship, which is not in the main Christian but Christian full stop. That is what happens in the main. On the other occasions the provisions that the right reverend Prelate has worked out and agreed with other minority faiths allow for their contribution to the SACREs to provide a valid syllabus for those children.
This is not a mish-mash. It is exactly the reverse. It is designed with the same purpose in view as that of the drafters of the amendments now before your Lordships' House. I am in my peroration; but of course I shall give way to the noble Baroness.
§ 12 midnight
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I wish to raise only one very important point that I should like to be clarified. What happens to the minority in all those cases? I agree that where there will be an overwhelming number of Jews or Moslems in the case of a non-Christian religion, there will be a residue—will there not?—of Christians. What is to be done about them? Do they just not come?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, as now, they withdraw. This is neither an advance nor a retreat; it is a maintenance of the status quo, which may be a good or a bad thing; but I believe that it is acceptable under the circumstances. I wish to persuade your Lordships —and in particular my noble friends who tabled these amendments—not just of the bona fides and good intentions of the right reverend Prelate and myself, which I hope are not in question, but that what is now before your Lordships delivers what all these people want. Our difficulty lies in explaining how it does it.
I hope that I have gone some way toward doing that. I do not doubt that my noble friends will be besieging London House between now and Third Reading, and I hope that I shall be involved in those discussions. I trust that I have started to convince them not only of our good wishes but also of our success in providing what they want.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, I should like to speak very quickly to support the spirit behind Amendment No. 22 and both the amendments to it. I was extremely worried when the right reverend Prelate wound up on Amendment No. 3 because my impression was that 100 per cent. of any one religion would not be taught to children of that religion but that all children would in the main be taught Christianity and also taught other religions. I may have mistaken what he said, but that was my impression.
721 As I read the amendments before the House at the moment, they show that each child has the opportunity of being taught 100 per cent. about his own religion and also toleration of other religions. As I understood the right reverend Prelate when he wound up on Amendment No. 3, if for instance a game of soccer was being played it would be quite legal and relevant if the person in charge of that game thought fit suddenly to bring in the rules of rugger. It does not make an awful lot of sense.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, I really must insist that the noble Lord has quite misrepresented what I said in winding up. I do not have the text because that is not yet available, but I think that if he will look at it, it will be made quite clear that I was suggesting nothing of the sort. I was simply making the point that under my amendments one will not be in a position to look at every individual place and say that here is x per cent. Christian, and x per cent. of something else.
If one looks at the country as a whole, one will see that there will be areas in which it is 100 per cent. and areas in which it will be less, and so on. Perhaps I should not have spoken in that way and I think I am out of order, but I am trying to intervene.
Perhaps I may put a question in order to make myself respectable! Would the noble Lord kindly look at Hansard in the morning?
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, if in the main the interpretation placed on the words by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is indeed the correct interpretation, would it be possible to ask the right reverend Prelate to consider introducing an amendment which would express this intention on the face of the Bill rather than in these words which are not entirely clear?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I realise why my noble friends have felt it important to move their amendments in spite of the earlier extensive debate, and indeed the unanimous agreement to the amendments of the right reverend Prelate and the Government. I am grateful to them for the spirit in which they have moved them.
In discussing the earlier amendments of the right reverend Prelate and the Government, I believe that it was generally recognised that they form a coherent package and fit within the legislative framework already set down in the 1944 Act for the provision of religious education. It would be difficult to revise it as a package since that would unravel the careful agreement reached with all the interests and Churches. I therefore urge your Lordships not to ask us to do that. I do not believe that we should therefore add further to the Bill in this respect.
Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, which are amendments to the new clause proposed by my noble friend Lord Renton, seek to meet some of the difficulties which are inherent in that new clause. However, even if those changes were made, I do not believe that the House should put the new clause on the face of the Bill. Furthermore, I am advised that 722 the amendment of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway would also be inconsistent with Amendment No. 71 in the name of the right reverend Prelate.
I believe that the important factor now, as my noble friend Lord Home said earlier, is to accept the spirit of the package and to seek its effective implementation on the ground with co-operation, as has been promised between the Churches and all those concerned. I trust therefore that my noble friend Lord Renton will forgive me if I do not attempt to respond to his detailed questions. I believe that the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, have responded to the other substantive points raised. I recognise the deeply held convictions of my noble friends on these issues, but I hope that they will feel able to withdraw their amendments.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I should like to thank all those noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have spoken in this debate. It has been a full, interesting and, I believe, a very worthwhile discussion. I was particularly encouraged by the statement of the right reverend Prelate that he would continue consultation with the Government over the exact wording of his amendments. He suggested that he would consider the matters raised in this debate. I hope that that will indeed be so.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, perhaps I may say to my noble friend that, at the moment we are discussing the amendment of my noble friend Lord Campbell, are we not?
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)
My Lords, the amendment before the House is Amendment No. 23.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, perhaps I may say this to my noble friend. Amendment No. 23 in the name of my noble friend Lord Campbell is an amendment to Amendment No. 22 in the name of my noble friend Lord Renton. If my noble friend Lord Campbell has the right to reply first, then my noble friend Lord Renton has the right to reply to the substantive amendment.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, to save a lot of time, I can adopt every single word that my noble friend and sponsor Lord Renton has just said. However, I wish to emphasise—as my noble friend the Chief Whip and others know—that I had serious reservations as to whether on this vitally important issue there had been an opportunity for fair, reasonable, full, objective discussion as to what we should do.
Having heard the right reverend Prelate and the contributions to this debate, which, albeit in a thin House, has been a very interesting one, I withdraw all those objections. I am totally convinced that now this matter will be taken back, as a result of our discussions, for further consideration in the right 723 spirit. Good Heavens! How do you get any legislation right? This is perhaps some of the most important legislation with which we have been confronted for years. If it is accepted by the right reverend Prelate, if it is accepted by the Government—I was not prepared to believe that it would be accepted—that what we have said will be considered and that we should try to improve on it before Third Reading, then this House has served its purpose.
§ Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 24 to the amendment not moved.]
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I put your Lordships' minds at rest. I propose in due course to withdraw Amendment No. 22. I shall not repeat what I had started to say but shall continue with the few remarks that I intend to make.
My noble friend Lady Hooper, unlike the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, did not give any hope about further consultation. But, in view of what the right reverend Prelate said, I think that she and the Government would find themselves very embarrassed if they entirely ignored what had been said in the debate.
I wanted to say a few words about some of the issues raised. It would be wrong for me to take up time commenting on all the speeches, but I start with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Parry, who was very realistic and spoke from long experience. He said that there are many teachers who simply are either not qualified or are unwilling to teach religious education. He is right and that is one of the problems with which the right reverend Prelate has been faced and with which we are all faced. It is a problem which I and my noble friends who have been working with me have attempted to deal with realistically in the amendment.
When I referred to,teachers, clergy or other qualified people",being available, these words were very carefully considered. Let me give an example. I speak as an Anglican. In the Anglican Church, we have, besides the clergy, who are known to be qualified people in the Anglican Church as they are in the Church of Scotland, what are known as lay readers. They would be qualified people. In any event it would be for the governors of the school in each case to decide whether the people who, because there were no teachers available, they were inviting into the school to teach religious education would be suitable. The responsibility would lie upon the governors.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, the noble Lord is very gracious. I thank him. They would be qualified as Christians. They would not be qualified as teachers, one would imagine.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, one could have people who were qualified as teachers and not as Christians. One could have Christians who were not qualified as teachers. It could be either way round, but we would hope to have people who were both teachers and qualified to teach and who were Christians. That is the obvious situation and, quite frankly, it is a point that is hardly worth arguing about.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, surely the House will give me the right to speak. Although it is Report stage I have every right to do what I am doing but I shall be guided otherwise. The point I am making is that the Secretary of State insists that teachers in schools should be qualified. If lay readers who are qualified in teaching are available they will be welcomed in the schools, otherwise they would be illegally in that office.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, the noble Lord has made his point, although I have reservations about it.
I hope that my noble friend Lady Hooper will take the matter back to the Secretary of State. The right reverend Prelate has an open mind. Various important matters of principle have been referred to in the debate which if considered further by the Government might lead to further improvement in the amendments tabled by the right reverend prelate. He was not present during the first few minutes of my opening speech which lasted only seven minutes. Therefore I should like to assure him that we admire and acknowledge what he has done and we are grateful for it. However, as there is no such thing as perfection first time round, we hope for something better as a result of the debate. With that in mind I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, be leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 25 not moved.]
§ Clause 3 [Foundation subjects and key stages]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 26 to 28 not moved.]
Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 29:
Page 2, line 30. leave out ("music, art") and insert ("the Arts").
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in dealing with this amendment we move to another subject and I hope that it will move rather faster than the last one. We come now to the question of the arts in education. The case for the arts has already been established in these debates and Ministers have repeatedly expressed their personal commitment to the arts in education. Indeed, they have said that the arts are safe in the national curriculum. Yet the place of the arts, as formulated in the national curriculum, is dangerously uncertain. The Bill neither reflects the best of current practice, nor does it encourage the extension of that practice; it is rather the reverse. Drama and dance teachers in particular see the Bill as a direct threat to the very existence of their subject and Ministers have failed to reassure them.
§ The amendment, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and in my name, proposes that the words "the Arts" be substituted for the words "music art". Such an alteration would be entirely in keeping semantically with such other collective terms as science, mathematics and technology, all of which subsume a number of separate subjects. Even English is taken to include at least two examination subjects; English language and English literature.
§ The term "arts" is commonly and popularly understood to include art, music, dance and drama. No one has any difficulty with the idea of an Arts Council or a Minister for the Arts. Replacing the present wording in the way we propose would sustain the claims of music and art and protect those of dance and drama. In failing to provide specifically for dance and drama the Bill effectively cuts them out of the curriculum. Those subjects are comparatively new in schools and have made enormous strides in recent years. For instance, drama is the fastest growing subject among 16-plus examinations. Dance teachers have recently formed their own national association in order to cope with the expansion of dance in schools and colleges.
§ The Bill introduces a most unwelcome hierarchy among arts subjects where none exists at the moment. It is art and music at the top and the rest nowhere, or at best in feudal relationship to other subjects not centrally concerned with the aesthetic in education.
§ Mentioning only music and art runs directly counter to recent trends in curriculum development. School and local education authorities' management structures, the new GCSE examinations and technical and vocational education initiative arrangements, all show increasing recognition (as of course does the work of many distinguished contemporary artists) of the principle of the commonwealth of the arts. However, maths, English, science and technology are the presiding deities as the Bill now stands. In those areas the new working groups are either already in place or shortly will be with the task or determining the content and testing of curricula. I understand it could be two years before the arts are looked at. The excuse currently given is the lack of personnel at the DES available to service the exercise. I should like to ask the Minister whether that is really the case.
§ The amendment will ensure a future for dance and drama in the curriculum and will reinforce the principles of breadth and balance, as stated in the Bill, in the arts curriculum itself. The amendment would give fresh impetus to much-needed improvement in the initial and in-service training of the primary generalist and the secondary specialist in the arts. The amendment would also enable schools to pay proper attention to the fuller aesthetic development of their pupils.
§ So far the Government's response has been unacceptable. Ministers have said that drama is to be catered for within English lessons. That never works. That is why the DES published its own special report on drama in education and appointed a senior inspector with special responsibility for drama. Drama taught by English teachers tends to be a 726 minor branch of literature instead of a performing art in its own right, with its own special history, tradition and conventions.
We were told by the Minister in Committee:
Dance is best left to PE teachers or should be taught by the music department".—[Official Report, 3/5/88; col. 352].
Apart from the fragmentation implicit in such a dismal proposal, it is ridiculous to suggest that either of those departments would have the trained staff or the time to give to the proper teaching of dance. As a recent Gulbenkian National Foundation education research report pointed out, PE main course students training for the primary sector can receive as few as 20 hours of dance in four years.
§ As I say, in Committee the Minister dismissed this amendment saying that it threatened the individual arts. I hope that I have now demonstrated that she has failed to understand the intentions of my proposals which were of course precisely the opposite; that is, to preserve a full range of the individual arts subjects. I do not believe that is surprising because this matter was raised at 2 o'clock in the morning among an enormous group of amendments covering a wide variety of subjects. It would have been very difficult for the Minister to deal with them all—which she did—in one winding up speech.
§ The Government have repeatedly stated that the Bill does not encroach on the delivery of the curriculum, upon what the teachers will do or how the subjects will be taught and yet, in the same breath, they claim that this formulation will threaten what they call "rigour". Breadth and balance are not inherently damaging to rigour, otherwise how could the Bill cite those as among its central tenets? The proposal is in no way inimical to the pursuit of the higher standards of arts education.
§ The National Curriculum Council would offer schools guidelines on what would constitute a broad and balanced arts education; guidelines which would facilitate rigorous teaching and secure the sovereignty of individual arts subjects without placing impossible demands on schools. A generalist teacher in infant or primary schools will be able to continue to provide children with a full range of artistic opportunities and scope, both to sample all the major art forms suitable to their stage of development and to begin to develop a special relationship with some media rather than others. The same principles would be maintained through the early years of secondary education. Option systems would then operate to allow a measure of selection and specialisation. For that to happen, schools would have to provide a full range of arts teaching.
§ The GCSE examinations would continue to offer art, music, dance, drama, creative arts and designcentred studies. Full specialisation in the sixth form would be complemented by general arts courses for non-specialists since there would be an adequate supply of trained teachers available.
§ Finally, we are asking for the most modest of amendments to be accepted. It is one that in no sense can be seen as threatening the Bill's practical objectives. Quite the reverse is the case, since it would substantially enhance the general character of the 727 national curriculum, bringing reform where it is genuinely necessary and encouraging the best of current practice.
§ I hope that that reason rather than obduracy will prevail and that a principle that has widespread endorsement among arts teachers and commands the support of the main head teacher organisations will now, in the light of that explanation, commend itself to the Government. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, at this late hour I shall speak only briefly. I put down my name to this amendment because I think that it would be extremely helpful at this stage of the Bill to have a much clearer definition of what is meant by music and art. I agree very much with what the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said on the subject. I am grateful also to my noble friend the Minister for our discussion on this matter and for the copy of the letter she sent to me setting out the further views of the Government. I hope she will be able to elaborate on those views when she replies to the debate.
Much has been said about the criticism that has been made of the education system, but I for one would say that one of the great developments of the education system, certainly since 1944, has been in the realm of the arts. Music in schools has been simply transformed over the past 40 years, as well as painting, art, pottery and a great variety of arts unknown before then which reach an extraordinarily high standard in schools.
I am particularly interested in this amendment because my attention has been drawn to the role of drama and dance in the curriculum. There are many schools which offer these subjects as courses and it would be a great pity if they came to believe that art and music somehow excluded dance and drama as separate subjects, not as part of PE or something else.
I feel certain that that must be the Government's intention because, if I understand the Bill correctly, the testing and assessment arrangements will not apply to art and music as they will to other subjects. But this is an opportunity to have a broad but at the same time an effective component of the curriculum by including music and art. What is important is the definition that is given to those terms.
This becomes increasingly important of course as pupils reach the age of 16. It is obviously absurd to continue an art subject for which a child has no particular talent when there could well be an art subject, or at any rate an appreciation of an art subject, which he or she could enjoy very much indeed. It would be most helpful to know from the Government whether when they refer to art and music it means the arts in the wider definition which has been given. That would be a great assurance to teachers of all these subjects and to many in the House today who are concerned about the definition of music and art.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, I add my support to the amendments from these Benches. I was a teacher of drama and I have seen the transforming power that drama has on children, particularly on those who lack confidence or who 728 speak badly. To discover that they can perform on a stage in front of an audience, that they can lose their identify and have their imaginations fired, has a most remarkable effect. It is a great pity that the words "art" and "music" used in the Bill do not make clear that drama, among other things, including of course dance, is covered. I cannot imagine that the substitution of "the arts" for "art and music" could possibly raise any objection. I defy even the gnomes of Elizabeth House to find a reason why this change could be in any way objectionable or could be in any way against the spirit of the Bill.
§ 12.30 a.m.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, perhaps I may add my support to what has been said. Anyone who has seen a primary school where the arts are taken really seriously knows that, where work that excels is taking place, it is quite impossible to say, "This is music, this is painting", or whatever. Often there is an amalgam of drama and music and also painting and crafts coming in. People move in different parts of the room, moving from one territory to another without there being any distinction between them.
Something similar happens even in a secondary school, where the arts are treated as a totality and where there is not this kind of mad subject definition and narrowing that goes on if people think they are just learning music, visual art or whatever and nothing else. The point of the arts is that they should be all-embracing or at any rate should cover a very large range and not even stop at what are conventionally thought of as the arts but should merge with crafts and design. The distinction between arts and crafts is a very arbitrary one which very few people devoted to the arts wish to make. I add my support to what has been said already and express the hope that there will be agreement that the proposal made in the amendment is superior to what is said in the Bill.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, may I also very briefly express my support for this amendment on the ground that it provides an alternative to the compulsory study of music? I have no lack of sympathy for music. I followed my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge into the Lobbies for music in the course of the debates on this Bill. However, it is something that some of us simply cannot do. One can take a horse to the water but one cannot make it drink. That is a proposition in which I declare an interest.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said, we had a short discussion on a similar amendment during the Committee stage. I believe I then said that I was glad the noble Baroness felt able to welcome the inclusion of music and art in the list of foundation subjects. I hasten again to reassure your Lordships that the Government attach importance to the arts in schools and we certainly do not intend our proposals to have 729 an adverse effect on what may already be happening in the area of the arts and which in many schools is exceptionally good.
We have named music and art as foundation subjects because we intend that at the primary stages and in the early years of secondary school pupils should be enabled to build on their artistic or musical talents or, at the very least, to have a better appreciation of those subjects.
In terms of the phasing in of the national curriculum subjects—something about which the noble Baroness asked specifically—it is envisaged that this phasing in will happen over a number of years. We expect that by the autumn of 1989 all foundation subjects will be taught to all pupils in the first three key stages, even if attainment targets and programmes of study are not yet available on any of those subjects. This will apply to the fourth key stage by the autumn of 1990.
The fact of naming music and art as foundation subjects does not imply that dance and drama are squeezed out. Drama is firmly in the terms of reference of the National Curriculum English Working Group, which was set up just after Easter. It is there not only in the context of the great dramatic works of literature but also as a medium for the development of a range of oral skills which are relevant to all subjects.
I know that my noble friend Lady Young is particularly concerned about the place of dance. I have also received representations from the directors of a number of dance schools and companies. Let me stress that, where dance is already established in the curriculum of a school—and this is by no means universal—there is no reason for its place there to be threatened by the introduction of the national curriculum. While it is not named as a foundation subject, it may nevertheless feature within some of the other foundation subjects, especially music and physical education. We also intend that it shall be part of a broad-ranging arts course in years four and five. Some pupils in those years will be taking one or more of the expressive arts subjects to GCSE, but for the majority we intend a course that would cover dance and drama as well as art and music. We shall certainly make plain our intentions in this respect to any group set up to make recommendations on the areas pupils should cover in the arts and on what they should achieve. This would also feature in any subsequent guidance offered to schools by the department.
Let me assure both my noble friend and the noble Baroness that we do acknowledge the claims of the various forms of the arts, and I hope that I have been able to reassure them about the place of the arts in the national curriculum.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I am extremely disappointed. I do not think that the Minister's answer met any of our concerns. Am I correct in assuming from what the Minister said that visual art and music are the arts subjects that will be considered to start with in primary schools and that the others—with luck, dance and drama—will probably come in later? Am I correct?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, yes, in so far as art and music are specifically stated as foundation subjects. However, as I have attempted to assure the House on a number of occasions, there will be time outside the national curriculum subjects for other subjects. In any event, physical education will be one of the foundation subjects as well and there is scope in that for dance.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, if the Government intend drama and dance to take place, why do they not say so by using a general term "the arts"? What can be the objection to it? That is what I cannot understand.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, with the leave of the House, the terms "art" and "music" are sufficiently wide to cover the various points that have been made in the course of the debate.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, if music and art cover all things, what is wrong with the words "the arts"? Do they not cover music and art? I should have thought that they did. Why have we wasted 20 minutes on this matter? I should have thought that the Government could have accepted it without any difficulty.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, with the leave of the House, the danger of going for "the arts" as opposed to what we have gone for is what the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, referred to as a sampling of many things, an arts mish-mash, with no real knowledge or expertise necessarily developed. We have said that pupils should have exposure to music and attempt to develop appreciation if not skills. We believe that dance and drama will be present throughout the curriculum in the ways I have attempted to suggest.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, the only good thing to come out of that reply was the tentative way in which the Minister made her last remark. She may not have been as unhappy as I am, but she did not sound firm or happy about what she said. It is clear from what she said that dance and drama may be brought in later. She talked about the English group discussing drama and said that physical education covers dance. It was for those reasons that I brought forward the amendment once again.
It is an old idea, not a forward-looking one, to include dance with physical education. They are two different subjects. The Minister said that drama is being discussed by the English group. It is not being discussed as a performing art at the moment. She said that we would end up with a mish-mash. There is no reason why that should happen any more than it will happen when we take any number of subjects under the headings of mathematics, science or technology.
I feel badly about this point because I thought that we might get somewhere. The guidelines do not cover the point. I must apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who joins me in moving the amendment, because I did not intend to divide the 731 House on this matter. I thought we would achieve something better or that at this stage the Government would accept what is a minor amendment but one which makes sense to so many people, not just in the House but outside, especially teachers. I am sure that the Minister has had many more letters than I have from teachers who are worried about this issue. I am afraid that I shall have to ask the House to divide.
§ 12.42 a.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 29) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 29; Not-Contents, 31.
|DIVISION NO. 5|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Morton of Shuna, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Parry, L.|
|Birk, B.||Peston, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|David, B.||Ritchie of Dundee, L. [Teller.]|
|Faithfull, B.||Rochester, L.|
|Hastings, L.||Russell, E.|
|Hooson, L.||Seear, B.|
|Leger, B.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Young, B.|
|McNair, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Arran, E.||Ferrers, E.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Hesketh, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Blatch, B.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Long, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Monk-Bretton, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Caithness, E.||Renton, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Cox, B.||Trafford, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Trumpington, B.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 12.49 a.m.
Lord McNair moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 2, line 32, leave out (", a modern") and insert ("at the latest, one or more").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a very short and simple amendment but it packs quite a lot into its four or five words. Perhaps I may as quickly as possible describe how it works, what it seeks to do and why. It refers, as you will have noticed, to Clause 3(2)(b) which is about foreign languages. We should like to add the words "at the latest" after the phrase:
in relation to the third and fourth key stages".
§ In plain language this means at the age of 11 or earlier. We are suggesting, or even asserting, that 732 there can be no good reason why children of eight, nine or 10 should not in suitable circumstances be gradually introduced to the idea that English is not the only language spoken on this earth. Some primary schools are doing this. I ask whether that is to become illegal. Surely many of us—I should have thought all of us—know from experience or from observation that the younger one is when one tries to learn a foreign language the better.
§ This part of the amendment simply states that a primary school with the right staff may, if it wishes, teach a little French or even a little Latin to some of the children. Or of course it may teach a little Welsh if it happens to be a non-Welsh speaking school in Wales. Can noble Lords imagine living in Wales with all those lovely place names all around which are totally meaningless unless one knows a little bit of Welsh? There is no compulsion; like everything else in this amendment, it is purely permissive.
§ The next point is that by altering the words "a modern foreign language" to read "one or more foreign languages" we are trying to achieve two objects. First, why is the Bill so restrictive? Why limit it to one foreign language? There are many children who will never become Fellows of the Royal Society or eminent technologists, whatever that may mean, but who have a gift for languages. We all know such pupils. This is a useful skill; it can even be commercially useful. It is also a matter of courtesy and convenience. There can be few of us who have not often had cause to regret that we could not speak this or that language or understand it a little bit better, or even that we could not speak or understand it at all. Surely it cannot be the policy of Her Majesty's Government that we are going to embark on this new era which is opening in 1992 still relying on the deplorable tradition that all foreigners can understand English if one just turns up the volume to a shout.
§ The second intention behind this part of the amendment—the words "one or more foreign languages"—is to get rid of that curiously unnecessary word "modern". We know that nine-tenths and more of the time spent teaching languages will be spent teaching modern languages—French, German and others. There is no need to say it. So why the word "modern"? The only logical reason for its presence in this subsection would be to reflect an anti-classical bias. And yet every single Minister who has said anything about Latin or the classics has assured us with unmistakable sincerity that there is no hostility towards these subjects in the department or in the minds of the Government. So how did the word "modern" get into the Bill? I am forced to the conclusion that it got in by mistake, like a gatecrasher, when nobody was looking.
§ I think I can understand how that might have happened. To educationists the term "modern language" is so familiar and trips so unthinkingly off the tongue that I believe we are in the presence of one of those conventional epithets such as are found in Homer. Those well-loved adjectival clichés helped Homer with his scansion. They suited the rhythm of hexameter and it saved him a lot of work if he could know that dawn was always rosy-fingered, that the sea was wine-dark and that the goddess Athene had eyes like a cow.733
§ In just the same way, to an educational boffin drafting a Bill, languages have to be modern. However, there are also classical languages and I devoted the whole of a none-too-short Second Reading speech to the threat under which those languages and subjects lie and to the necessity of protecting them against it. Today I must be ludicrously brief.
§ Latin and, if possible, Greek have proved themselves potent weapons against the creeping tide of illiteracy and sub-literacy which we see and hear all around us every day of our lives. They unlock the door to an understanding not only of the romance languages—French, Italian and Spanish—but also to a sophisticated understanding of our own language and thereby to mastery of the terminology of any academic subject you like to mention, and not least the sciences. It is a matter of deep regret that the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, who supports the amendment, has had to take a train to Cambridge and cannot be present this evening. I was very much looking forward to his contribution from the scientific point of view.
§ At Second Reading I also put forward the proposition that just about everything that we have in our Western culture which is worth preserving can be traced directly back to its origins either in Athens, in Rome or in the Christian tradition. Christianity has not been starved for time in our deliberations, and there may be more to come. This amendment offers the House the only chance it will have to say whether or not the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome are to remain part of our inheritance or are to be consigned almost casually to educational oblivion.
I hope that we shall not be told that our fears are groundless because the national curriculum is meant to take up only X per cent. of the timetable. Any such figure is arbitrary and meaningless. Indeed, the Secretary of State seems to me to have recognised that when he goes out of his way, somewhat uncharacteristically, to prohibit himself:
from requiring that any particular period … of time should be allocated … to the teaching of any programme of study".
Those words are to be found in Clause 4(3)(a). The chosen, prescribed subjects listed in Clause 3 and the tests which will be done on them will, whatever anybody says, dictate the priorities for the allocation of scant resources in every LEA, staff room and governing body in the country. The minority subjects will be inexorably squeezed out. I do not know a single teacher who would disagree with that statement.
§ I also hope that we shall not be offered a kind of consolation prize with the argument that clever children will be able to take up Latin or a second language in the fourth key stage. Two years to GCSE is quite impossibly demanding. The take-up would be negligible and the result would be that no school would find it cost-effective to employ a teacher. I honestly believe that the only escape from that dilemma lies in this amendment.
§ Perhaps I may close with one or two general remarks. First, the amendment's party political 734 content is the square root of zero. Secondly, it is purely permissive. It would not make anyone do anything they do not want to and it leaves the Secretary of State with the last word on everything and with his national curriculum intact. Finally, perhaps we can apply to it the two touchstones chosen by the Government. The Bill is designed to raise standards and to improve choice. Would the amendment raise standards? Naturally if I did not think that it would I should not have tabled it, but I admit that that is a matter of opinion. When one asks whether it would improve choice, undeniably it would. I beg to move.
§ 1 a.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I notice that the noble Baroness seems anxious to rise. Before she gets up to say no, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words in support of the noble Lord who so ably and persuasively moved the amendment.
I should like to begin by repeating his point that it is a purely permissive amendment. It cannot be said that anyone will be dragooned into anything. In the first place it will allow schools to begin the study of foreign languages when they like. I think that there is a great deal to be said for that because in my judgment the capacity to learn a foreign language, although it obviously makes demands on the intellect, is not a matter of the intellect alone.
Perhaps I may relate an anecdote which relates to someone whom I dare not mention by name because he was Foreign Secretary of another country. Although he is now long since retired it would not be tactful to mention his name. I was interested in him because, although he had spent a good deal of time being educated in this country and had taken a degree at a British university, his command of our language seemed to be very poor. When I got to know him better I saw that the reason was that, although he talked a great deal, he hardly ever listened to anybody.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I think that noble Lords would agree that the Government would have great sympathy with that person.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, he has not become a member of the present Government.
The point I was making was that the capacity to learn a foreign language depends not only on the intellect but also on the quality of personality and being the kind of person who is willing to listen. When for a time during the war I was in the Intelligence Corps I met a number of men who had become very proficient in foreign languages. I noticed very often that those who were best were also some of the most sympathetic characters, the kind of people who did listen. They had the ear and sense of imagination that enable one to capture the idea of a foreign language and to move easily into it.
A clause that would enable schools to start with a foreign language whenever it seems likely to be useful to do so is a helpful one. It will give pupils the opportunity to study more than one foreign language. I do not know how many would wish to do 735 so but I cannot believe that the decision to study another foreign language rather than any one of the present foundation subjects would be a drawback.
Then there is the question that it is not merely to be a foreign language. In fact the amendment would permit the teaching in schools of Latin and ancient Greek. To put it the other way round, without the amendment the study of those languages would disappear from our schools altogether. I do not think that there is any doubt that if they are not foundation subjects they will not be tested. A school will not take on subjects that are not to be tested knowing how much importance the Government attach to testing and the results of testing.
Unless there is a clause of this kind, we shall find that the study of Latin and ancient Greek will disappear from our schools. It may be said that they will be preserved in the independent sector of education; but I do not see why they should be restricted to that very narrow base. If they were, I am not at all sure how much longer they would continue to be studied in the universities except by specialists such as those people who study Egyptian hieroglyphics or ancient Assyrian. I believe it would be a great loss to the world.
Of the two languages, my personal preference, as a matter of the heart, would be for ancient Greek because I believe that it is the more beautiful language and came from a much more attractive people; but one is obliged to admit that on practical grounds there is a good deal more argument to be put forward for Latin. Latin is the base of a good many Western European languages. A facility in Latin is of assistance to anybody who intends to study any of the modern Western European languages. Also, with every new invention a new word comes into our language and it is nearly always a word of Latin origin. Our language is peculiarly distinguished by the fact that it is a mixture of the Germanic and Latin tongues—and I suppose that for that we must thank William the Conqueror for winning the battle of Hastings. But as time has gone on it has become an increasingly Latinised language. Every new idea that has been brought into the language has been given a name that is nearly always taken from a Latin root.
For a time I was a Member of the European Parliament, in the days when it was an indirectly elected body and a kind of Hansard of the debates of the Parliament was published in a document called something like the Rainbow Times. In that document each speech was published in the language in which it was delivered. One had to wait a little before there was a translated version available. It was interesting to turn over the pages of that document and see the differences in the mere appearance of the words between languages such as Italian and French, which are obviously Latinate languages, and those like Dutch, Danish or German, which are Teutonic or Germanic in stock. English appeared to be about halfway between the two; but steadily as time has gone on it has become more and more Latinised.
I think that there is an assistance to the understanding of the structure and make-up of our own language to be found in the study of Latin. Winston Churchill once said that he thought that one 736 should insist on boys learning how to write an English sentence well. He said nothing about girls and I do not know whether he had any interest in girls being educated. He said that he would whip the boys well if they did not learn English, but would let them learn Latin as a lover and give them Greek as a treat. There is something to be said for that point of view.
While I have tried to urge that there are certain practical reasons for wanting to keep Latin alive in our schools and universities, there is the further reason that even if one does not need to know Latin in order to become a lawyer or a doctor—I think that such an idea is long-since out of date and one does not really need to learn Latin in order to know what sine die means, or use various other tags which no Roman ever used—there remains the fact that if one does learn Latin, the door has been opened to the enormous treasury of Latin literature and all that it embraces. When one reflects on how that literature was built up and how, over some 11 centuries or more, the Roman power, ideas and language spread, one realises what a vast part of the whole library of human knowledge is written in the Latin language. I base my case mainly on Latin; one could base it on Greek. That is again one of the flexibilities of this amendment.
I most earnestly hope that while the noble Baroness may not feel prepared to say yes now, she will talk this over, and perhaps recommend it to her right honourable friend. She has not gone as far as that, so far as I know, on any point in the whole of our discussions. It is time that we had—if I may use a word that is fashionable—a little flexibility in the Government's handling of proposals to amend the Bill. I most earnestly commend this gentle, permissive, civilised amendment to the noble Baroness.
My Lords, as a former diplomat, I should like briefly to support this amendment. All of us would agree the immense importance of languages. I would emphasise in particular the tremendous commercial value of languages which is constantly being emphasised. Most of us—those who travel abroad or who have worked abroad as diplomats, or in commercial capacities—would agree that we Britons are probably the worst linguists in the world with the possible exception of the Americans. Anything that can be done to remedy this very serious defect is obviously extremely worthwhile.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I should also like to support this amendment. I should like to offer support on all three limbs of it. On the proposition about learning languages young, there is a considerable body of educational research as well as a considerable quantity of anecdotal evidence to support the proposition that languages are more easily learned at a younger age. My father at the age of three spoke French, German and English approximately equally well as a result of having a Swiss governess who on one occasion distinguished herself by asking Herbert Gladstone the way to the Lost Propriety Office.
737 I shall not develop at length the case about the economic importance of languages. The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, has touched on this as a point of some significance. However, it is worth saying that the Government have been concerned recently about the behaviour of English tourists abroad. It is sometimes more difficult to behave well in a country whose language one cannot speak. The frustration tends to show in forms of behaviour which we regard as undesirable. In some ways knowing more languages could avoid trouble.
I should also most strongly like to support the points that have been made in defence of Latin and Greek. If we close those off, we close off a considerable part of our own heritage. If people wishing to do post-graduate research in Tudor and Stuart English history, do not know Latin, I simply cannot accept them. They cannot do the work. To take one single, obvious example, one cannot do a thesis on Milton without reading Latin. A considerable proportion of this output was in that language.
Finally, I should like to support most strongly what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said about the effect of testing on school education. It is the subjects which are included in the tests on which the teachers will spend the time. Those are the subjects on which the teachers themselves will be judged, and judged, so far as we can discover, frequently and in earnest. Therefore if any subject is left out that subject may be threatened. In this case the consequences could be extremely serious.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, during 15 or 16 years of speaking on education subjects in this House, I have heard a great deal of nonsense talked about various education subjects and no doubt have contributed my own share. Of the various subjects talked about, a great majority of the nonsense has been on language teaching, and the necessity for teaching languages to children almost universally.
The history of teaching languages in this country, and to a certain extent in other countries, should be enough to show that we waste endless man-hours and children-hours in teaching subjects of which virtually nothing remains with the pupils, even intelligent and cultured people like Members of your Lordships' House. One will find Members in this Chamber who spent hours and hours learning French and/or German and who cannot speak either language at all fluently.
For that reason I look very sceptically at anything which suggests that we should have more language teaching. But I am totally convinced by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McNair, because it is that very rare thing, an amendment which encourages those who want to learn languages and those who have the ability to learn languages to he able to do so. It gives them a fair wind and it gives them a backing and that is very worthwhile indeed. I urge your Lordships to support the amendment.
§ 1.15 a.m.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I also should like to support the amendment. It seems to give a certain amount of flexibility. It allows, which the foundation subjects appear to prohibit, people to learn, let us say, French and German simultaneously before the age of 16—a possibility which appears not to be included. If it is the intention of the Secretary of State to keep ancient Greek and Latin out, he can still do it even if he accepts the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McNair, because all he needs to do is not to specify Latin or Greek as one of the languages. That is already in subsection (2)(b) and is not affected by the amendment. However, it would prevent a future Secretary of State having to pass an amending Act to allow classics to be taught. It could be done by an order alone.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity afforded by these amendments to consider again the place of foreign languages in the national curriculum. I welcome even more the elegant way in which they were introduced by the noble Lord, Lord McNair, and the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. As it stands, the Bill requires a modern foreign language to be taught as a foundation subject at secondary level. We feel that this is important for the future needs of our children, as well as for our future in the European Community and, indeed, to meet the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about travel needs.
As they have explained, the movers of these amendments have a number of points in mind, all with the intention of introducing more flexibility into this requirement. I should make it clear at the outset that we believe that the amendments are not necessary. I do not wish to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord McNair, in his expectations by reassuring him once again that the national curriculum will not form the whole of the schools' curriculum. Schools will still have considerable flexibility to offer additional subjects, such as a foreign language at primary level, a second foreign language at secondary level or indeed a classical language or languages. The national curriculum, by definition, consists of those essential subjects which all pupils should study at a given stage. It is logically inconsistent therefore to try to add optional elements within a compulsory curriculum as these amendments appear to do.
This is not something that I feel I should take back, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, suggested. But, in saying that, I would point out to him that there have been a number of occasions when I have taken matters back. In fact, during the stages of the Bill in this House more than 23 amendments have been accepted or concessions have been made or Government amendments have been introduced in response to suggestions made during the course of the debates. That relates only to schools and in addition there are other examples in higher education in other parts of the Bill.
In those circumstances I cannot accept the amendments and I hope that the noble Lords will feel able to withdraw them.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, that is yet another "No" from the Government Front Bench. At this stage I must say that we on this side of the House have among us people of considerable standing and expertise in the education field. I believe that I speak for many noble Lords when I say that the Government are treating what we have to offer with contempt and we do not like it.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, I shall not waste the time of the House by taking a long time to say how disappointed I am. The answer was one of the worst we have had. Mr. Molotov could have put it even more quickly by saying, "Niet". That is all it amounted to.
The amendment does no harm to the Bill; it is purely permissive as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, said. I should like the House to pronounce upon it. I beg to move.
§ 1.21 a.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 30) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 25; Not-Contents, 31.
|DIVISION NO. 7|
|Blackstone, B.||Peston, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Carter, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Hooson, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L. [Teller.]|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Russell, E.|
|McNair, L.||Seear, B.|
|Morton of Shuna, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Arran, E.||Hastings, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Hesketh, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Blatch, B.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Long, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Monk-Bretton, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Cameron of Lochhroom, L.||Renton, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Cowley, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Cox, B.||Swinfen, L.|
|Criagmyle, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Trafford, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Trefgarne, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Trumpington, B.|
|Faithfull, B.||Wynford, L.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 1.29 a.m.
§ [Amendment No. 31 not moved.]740
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 32:
Page 2, line 33, after ("State") insert—
("(c) in relation to a school in which the language of origin of a considerable number of its pupils is a foreign language, that school may offer teaching in that foreign language which shall be treated as an alternative to any language specified under subsection (2b) above").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak to what I believe is a very important amendment. I do not have very much hope that the Government will listen or make any concession. What I must describe as the philistine attitude which cares nothing for true education is becoming almost more than we can bear.
§ The amendment relates to the teaching of ethnic community languages where there is sufficient demand for it and where it is sensible to do so. The Bill states that children shall be taught a modern foreign language that the Secretary of State shall specify. There is a reasonable presumption that the language or languages that he specifies will be modern European languages. We could therefore have the absurd situation of a Bangladeshi child whose command of his own language is imperfect. He may chatter away very well but he may not write it accurately any more than an English child would write English accurately if he had never been taught. The Bangladeshi child will have to speak English so no doubt he will gabble away in English, but again he will have an imperfect knowledge of the language. However, he may be required to learn French, German or Spanish so that he will end up with an imperfect knowledge of three languages.
§ That seems to be wrong. It is a generally accepted principle among linguists that all children must learn to use their own languages properly before they can hope to learn a foreign language. You cannot learn a second language unless you have command of a first language. It is a psychological fact that one's own language is a thing of value; a cultural necessity. Therefore, it is important that ethnic minorities living in this country should know, speak and write their own languages in such a way as to be proud of them.
§ If we devalue those languages by not including them in the national curriculum, in a sense it is a form of racial prejudice. That was pointed out in the Swann Report—I am not inventing it. As we know, racial prejudice is a curse and among other things essentially negative. It is important that we should think of the positive opportunities that children in our cities can enjoy today by encountering children from all over the world and learning from them—learning about their perhaps distant countries, their customs, beliefs, ideas, stories and their language. It is most important that minority community languages should be honoured with a place in the curriculum.
§ I have spoken to teachers in schools, for example, in the east of London which are crying out for teachers of the language mainly spoken in those schools. I am thinking in particular of a school where the great majority of pupils are Bangladeshi. The need to teach Bengali is great but they cannot get teachers with suitable qualifications. I should point out that the provisions of the Bill provide that the Welsh language may be taught in 741 speaking schools. By the same token I suggest that where there is sufficient demand in a school Bengali, Turkish, Greek or whatever it may be should be accepted as a modern foreign language instead of one of the European languages that the Secretary of State might specify. I beg to move.
§ Lord Morton of Shuna
My Lords, I wish to support this amendment. It seems to me absurd that in this country we have an area where a large number of people speak Polish as their natural home language (and therefore virtually learn English as a foreign language at school) and that they should be taught French or German through the medium of English at the expense of being taught Polish. That seems totally absurd and the kind of situation we are talking about without raising any issues of colour prejudice that might arise from dealing with other foreign languages. I totally support everything said by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I believe that the noble Lords who moved this amendment may be jumping the gun a little. The Bill does not specify which modern foreign languages may qualify as a foundation subject. These are to be specified in an order to be made by the Secretary of State under Clause 3(2)(b) subject to the negative resolution procedure. It would of course be possible for noble Lords to pray against the Clause 3(2)(b) order if they thought that the wrong languages were being specified or that the list was unduly restrictive.
The question of which modern foreign languages should be specified when the full provisions of the national curriculum come into effect will of course require careful consideration. There may be 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. However, it would be wrong for me to prejudge which languages might be taught as the modern foreign language foundation subject before we have undertaken consultations and sought advice from the proposed National Curriculum Council.
In the meantime, no modern foreign languages are ruled out. Noble Lords may rest assured that we shall listen to and carefully consider all the arguments before coming forward with proposals. That includes the arguments that have been advanced this evening. In the light of this, and given that there can be an opportunity for further discussion when the order comes to be made, I hope the noble Lords will withdraw their amendments.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, IH was extremely interested to hear what she said. This subsection has always puzzled me. I now gather from what she said that the fear that I have that some blanket order will be issued that all children should study French, Spanish or whatever it may be is not the case and that there may be considerable regional variation. For example, if a 742 school has a strong Spanish, Russian or French tradition or something of that kind, that will be taken into account. Am I right in that understanding?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, with the leave of the House, 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.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, I believe that I am right in saying that the number of languages that are spoken in London at the moment is something like 170. If that figure is wrong it is not far wrong. Do I understand that all these languages are to be permitted by the Secretary of State as alternatives to the learning of English?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, again with the leave of the House, what I said was that we were not yet in a position to say which category of languages will be included. We shall consult on this and accept advice.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, before this subject comes to an end, let me say that I am becoming more puzzled. With leave, I am asking a question. Is it correct that the noble Baroness will return to us with a definition of modern foreign languages? Is that what we are asked to wait for? In particular, will she be telling us what the word "modern" means? Many of the problems raised could be dealt with if we knew what we were talking about. Does "modern" simply mean any language which is currently being spoken?
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, before the Minister replies, I should like to ask a question. Does "modern languages" mean European languages, or can it mean the languages spoken by many of the ethnic minorities in this country? The purpose of the amendment is to make it possible for those ethnic minority languages to be taught in our schools.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, my noble friend has now replied twice to the points raised. We are transgressing very far from what the Procedure Committee has recommended.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, what does one do if one is still not clear in one's mind? May we take it that the Minister will do what she can to persuade her right honourable friend to see to it that the National Curriculum Council weighs these considerations, and that in considering what languages may or may not be taught, it will take into consideration the fact that many children in the country may need to be taught their mother tongue more urgently than any Western European language? If that is the case, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment; but I should like some assurance to that effect. Is it possible to have that?
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, with the leave of the House, in response to the last two questions I said in my remarks that I could not prejudge what the result of consultation would be. I also said that no modern foreign language was ruled out.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, I am still not satisfied with that, and in view of my dissatisfaction I shall have to ask the House to decide.
§ 1.42 a.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 32) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Content, 18; Not-Contents, 33.
§ 1.50 a.m.
§ [Amendments Nos. 33 to 35 not moved.]
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 36:
Page 3, line 7, leave out from beginning to ("or") in line 9.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the words which this amendment would remove give the Secretary of State a specific power to exempt schools or parts of schools in Wales from having Welsh as a foundation subject. At Committee stage what is now Clause 12 of the Bill, which covers exceptions by regulations, was amended to widen its scope. As now drafted, this general exemption provision enables the Secretary of State to make regulations disapplying or modifying the national curriculum or parts of it in such cases or circumstances as may be specified. The more general power renders the specific exemption power in Clause 3(4)(b) unnecessary and the present amendment would remove it.
§ I should like to stress that this does not represent any change in the Government's policy about exemptions from Welsh in the national curriculum. 744 The amendment also has the benefit of making the legal position of Welsh in the national curriculum in Wales identical to that of the other core and foundation subjects. I hope your Lordships will agree that this is a useful improvement. I beg to move.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, we note with satisfaction that the specific power of exemption in Clause 3(4)(b) is being removed and that the Secretary of State will rely on the general powers in Clause 12 and the regulations to be made thereunder. I am just wondering whether the Minister can confirm that the draft regulations will be the subject of consultation with the bodies involved with Welsh language education.
I should also be grateful if the Minister could confirm that it is not the intention to use the exemption power indiscriminately and that we can rely on the statements which the Minister made when we were in Committee to the effect that about 80 per cent. of schools in Wales currently teach Welsh. Can the Minister confirm that the Government do not intend to allow this level of provision to decline as a result of the national curriculum?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I am happy to give the noble Lord both the assurances that he has sought.
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 37:
Page 3, line 27, leave out ("and") and insert ("(7)").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group of amendments deals with the position of Welsh in the national curriculum. I say "this group of amendments" because I wish to speak at the same time, if I may, to Amendments Nos. 38 and 40 which are of course in the names of other noble Lords. They all deal with the definition of a "Welsh-speaking school". This is a school which will have Welsh as a core subject in the national curriculum.
§ At Committee Stage, the noble Lord, Lord Prys Davies tabled an amendment which would have relaxed the definition so as to bring in more schools. I explained then why the Government thought his amendment went too far, but I undertook that we would consider the definition further. I believe that Amendments Nos. 37 and 40 meet the concerns which the noble Lord and others expressed then, though in Amendment No. 38, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, would have us go a little further.
§ Our general policy is that Welsh should be a core subject, alongside English, for children in Wales who are receiving a bilingual education. For others it will be a foundation subject. It is important that we should not overstress this distinction. Nothing in the Bill prevents us from setting attainment targets and programmes of study appropriate for Welsh in different circumstances, irrespective of whether it is a core or "other foundation" subject. In any case, whether a school comes within the definition or not will matter little in terms of the attainment targets which children will aim for. The Secretary of State has asked the Welsh working group to recommend programmes of study and attainment targets which can cater for the wide variety of circumstances in 745 Wales. The targets which pupils will aim for will need to be appropriate for the individual's linguistic background. Nevertheless there has been concern that some secondary schools which are genuinely bilingual in character could be left outside the existing definition.
§ The definition is based on the number of foundation subjects taught wholly or partly in Welsh. ThQ Government's amendments do two things. First they take English as well as Welsh out of the reckoning. It is clearly logical that both should be excluded from consideration in the definition. Secondly, they include religious education among the subjects to be counted. Attention was drawn to this point in our Committee debate and it is clearly right, given the status of religious education in the basic school curriculum, that it should be included here.
§ The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, in Committee would have brought four more secondary schools within the definition. These amendments would bring in three of those. It will also increase the number of primary schools defined as Welsh-speaking, since religious education is one of the subjects most frequently taught in Welsh.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, in his Amendment No. 38 would ask us to go a little further. It is of course always possible to argue in these cases that a cut-off point should be set a little higher or a little lower. It is in the end a matter of judgment. Nevertheless the Government's judgment is that it would be unfortunate to lower this particular cut-off point still further. There would, I think, be some substance in the argument that we were pitching the level too high if we were requiring more than half the subjects to be taught entirely in Welsh. But already the definition permits subjects to be counted if they are taught wholly or partly in Welsh. We have been asked from time to time—I know this is a matter which has exercised the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies—whether we can elaborate on the meaning of "partly". In law the word "partly" has the same meaning as it does in ordinary speech. I think the most I could say is that where the part of a subject which was taught in Welsh was sufficiently significant that without it the duty to teach the national curriculum would not be properly discharged, the subject would clearly be counted for this purpose as being taught in Welsh.
§ I ought also to point out that the noble Lord's amendment as drafted would actually exclude schools which taught more than half the subjects in Welsh, as well as those which taught less than half. I know that that is not what he would have intended.
§ The Government's other concern is that we should not water down the definition of bilingual education in a way which would threaten the quality of what is already provided in these schools. Bilingual schools in Wales have a high reputation. They are schools which aspire to that status and need to be challenged to stretch themselves to respond to the substantial demand that exists for bilingual education. There is a clear risk that in making standards more accessible we could lower the expectations of what can be achieved by the best.746
§ I should like to stress again that by incorporating Welsh in the foundation curriculum the Government are safeguarding its future in education in a way that has never been done before. I hope therefore that Amendment No. 38 will not be pressed when we come to it. In the meantime, I beg to move the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend.
§ 2 a.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I hope to press the government to go a little further on this matter. If I can give the history of the definition of a Welsh-speaking school, its significance is that in a Welsh-speaking school alone is Welsh a core subject. It is a definition that meant that when the Bill was introduced in another place it required at least two foundation subjects to be taught partly or wholly in Welsh.
The Government have moved under various influences in a relatively short time to the definition that is now in the Bill that more than one-half of the foundation subjects other than Welsh should be taught wholly or partly in Welsh for the school to qualify as a Welsh-speaking school. Therefore the shift by the Government, which shows very considerable uncertainty on their side, has been considerable. I am anxious in this situation that we achieve a consensus. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, and I had the opportunity yesterday of discussing the matter at some length with the Minister of State at the Welsh Office, Mr. Wyn Roberts, and we are very grateful to the Government for having moved as far as they have in Amendments Nos. 37 and 40. Perhaps I may refer in parenthesis to Amendment No. 40. I do not think that the concession of English is any concession at all. English is a core subject in all schools. Therefore, it does not come within the definition in any event. There is no concession.
If one looks at the provisions of Clause 3, the six foundation subjects are contained in subsection (2)(a). They are history, geography, technology, music, art and physical education. A foreign language is added at a certain stage. Amendment No. 40 would add religious instruction. We are faced therefore with eight subjects. To have more than half of those taught in Welsh means that five of those subjects have to be taught wholly or partly in Welsh. I believe that that is too high a proportion.
As I said during the Second Reading debate on this matter, there are Welsh-speaking areas where parents realise that we are living in a world of commerce, industry, the European Community and so on. Although they wish to preserve the Welsh culture, language and background, there is pressure from Welsh-speaking parents that their children, who are naturally Welsh-speaking, should be taught many subjects in English rather than Welsh. I do not want to see a build-up of pressure because too many subjects are required to be taught wholly or partly in Welsh. It would be better to have four subjects, which is enough of a challenge for most schools. That would be a sensible compromise.
I know that the Government have been uncertain as to where the line should be drawn. However, I beg them to look at the matter sensibly and in a detached 747 way. As regards the wording of the amendment, if the words "at least half" were included, that would meet the point. However, that is a technicality. I do not intend to press the amendment to a Division. Obviously we are a minority culture in a small segment of the British population and we can only hope to achieve results by persuasion. I hope that the Government will take a broad view of the matter and realise that their target is a bit too high. If they accept the spirit of the amendment, I believe that they will achieve a consensus on all sides of the House.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, the Minister is right to give credit to the Government for the distance that they have come on this issue. A point which is not always made in debates on languages, and in particular on the protection of the indigenous languages of Great Britain, is that bilingualism is a very important matter. The acquisition of language by children may well be the key to the whole learning process. We need teachers in bilingual education, and the disciplines acquired in Wales over the past 25 to 30 years as concern has grown for the Welsh language are very important. I shall not go into that matter at this hour of the night. However, I lay down a marker for future discussion.
When teachers and representatives of educational interests came to us, they were very concerned that the Government might miss an opportunity. The amendments are raised as a matter of the second mile. Having gone the first mile, it would be such a little step to go further and to consolidate the gains. Reassurance is needed in Wales in the light of questions about the new language Act, and so on. It is essential that everyone should be seen to benefit from the steps taken thus far. If the Minister can go a bit further and accept the amendments, if only for examination, that will be very reassuring indeed.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I want to support my noble friend Lord Parry and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. We readily acknowledge that the Government have come some way to meet the case that we made out in Committee. I appreciate the fact that the Minister of State at the Welsh Office, Mr. Wyn Roberts, saw the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and myself yesterday afternoon and discussed our concern about the definition.
I am also grateful for the support we have received from other noble Lords during the Committee stage—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, who has steadfastly supported our amendment.
I should like to say a word or two about Amendment No. 40 which is the amendment tabled by the Government. It is an important improvement on the definition in the Bill. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has pointed out, even under the revised definition it will continue to be necessary for more than one half of the foundation subjects —except that we can include religious knowledge as one of them—to be taught wholly or partly in Welsh before Welsh will be given a priority in curricular 748 terms similar to that of English, maths or science. So one will have to teach six subjects through the medium of Welsh. We want the Government to come one small step further by dropping the words "more than" from the definition.
There is widespread support in Wales for the amendment which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. I should like to place on record that we have been consulted by the Parents' Association for Welsh Medium Education, the Welsh Nursery Education Movement, the Association of Headmasters for Welsh Medium Schools and Welsh Language Education Development Committee who are all anxious to secure a firmer place in the curriculum for the Welsh language.
It is the judgment of the people with whom we have been consulting that it would be helpful if the Government were to agree the small adjustment contained in Amendment No. 38. The Minister may say that that is a small adjustment. The adjustment means that henceforth the threshold will be five instead of six subjects. That is a small adjustment but a great deal could turn on that adjustment.
According to the calculations that have been prepared for me by the interested parties in Wales, the lower threshold of five subjects would mean that two more secondary schools in Gwynedd, four secondary schools in Dyfed, and three more schools in Powys would come within the definition if they were to teach two additional subjects in Welsh. That would be a substantial gain. It would be, as we see it, in tune with the developments in Welsh education over the past 20 years.
Since 17th December when the Government introduced the new definition of a Welsh school, increasing the threshold from two to six, the Minister of State at the Welsh Office has been going around Wales emphasising repeatedly that it is right that the definition of a Welsh-speaking school should present a challenge to the schools of Wales. I think that my noble friend Lord Parry and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, would accept that a challenge would not be altogether a bad thing. But we would also say that a challenge should be within one's reach otherwise it introduces a gloomy prospect.
To teach two additional foundation subjects through Welsh, as our amendment would require, in the case of the nine schools to which I have just referred is in itself a considerable challenge. There is a great shortage of suitably qualified teachers who can teach through the medium of Welsh. There are also difficulties in producing a supply of Welsh language teaching material. That is the legacy of the neglect of the Welsh language by the authorities in this century. Therefore our amendment meets the challenge on which the Minister of State at the Welsh Office lays great store. I should be grateful if the Minister could explain to the House why the Government want to make it yet more difficult for a school to attain the status of Welsh-speaking school by insisting on six subjects rather than five.
What is now required is that a definition should give encouragement to those schools which at present teach two or three foundation subjects in the medium of Welsh to continue with their good work. In our 749 judgment that would be achieved by reducing the threshold from six to five subjects. It would present a realistic challenge and an encouragement.
I want to make just two very brief comments on matters which have been mentioned by the Minister. I believe that he suggests that we may be making too much of a distinction between a core subject and a foundation subject. We are told that very little turns on it. If that is so, why is the distinction made in favour of English mathematics and science? Why are they given a priority in curricular terms? In any event, I think that we have shown that a great deal turns on the distinction.
It is said, and I am not quite certain whether the Minister said it, that the debate about the definition of a Welsh-speaking school is getting in the way of the Welsh subject working group. I should have thought that it would be a major contribution to the work of the subject group if Welsh had to be taught to standards equivalent to those obtaining in other core subjects.
Turning to my third and last point, I asked the Minister in Committee whether he would clarify the meaning of the phrase "taught partly in Welsh". We have had a clarification this morning from the Minister but I think that we need to study that clarification very carefully. We are anxious to know how in practice the department will interpret the phrase, because it can be interpreted narrowly or broadly. I am not sure whether the Minister can answer that question, and if not, I should be perfectly happy for him to write to my colleagues who have spoken in this debate. For example, if history is taught in Welsh in year one but not in other years, is history regarded as a subject taught partly in Welsh? Or if it is taught in years one, two and three but not in years four and five, will it be regarded as a subject taught partly in Welsh? I should be grateful if the Government could give a more precise interpretation than the interpretation that we have had to date.
Finally, we urge the Government to have another think and to reconsider the amendments—or reconsider a revised definition in the light of the arguments that were advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, my noble friend Lord Parry and myself. If the Government could just move one step by dropping the words "more than" we would achieve consensus. It seems to me that it is on the basis of consensus that we can build in Wales.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I am grateful for the partial warmth at least of the reception for what I have been able to propose this evening. With regard to the penultimate point being made by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, about the definition of the word "partly", he posed some hypothetical situations on which he said he would welcome guidance. I shall be very happy to write to him with whatever additional guidance I can.
The Government have moved a very considerable way in the direction sought by all the noble Lords who have spoken this evening. We have agreed to move, rather contrary to the inflexibility of which my noble friend was accused earlier this evening. This is 750 one of several areas in the Bill where we have been alive to the arguments that have been put to us and have introduced amendments at least partially to meet the points that have been made.
I hope that on reflection the noble Lord, Lord Hooson—who has moved the amendment which would persuade us to go just a little further—will agree that half a loaf is better than no loaf and that we have reached a consensus. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, asked us to go a little further to reach the consensus. We have moved our position, as he well recognises. I hope that on reflection he will therefore accept the Government's amendment and that the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, will not wish to press his. Accordingly, I commend the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend.
§ [Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.]
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 40:
Page 3, line 28, leave out ("foundation subjects other than Welsh") and insert ("following subjects, namely—
- (a) religious education; and
- (b) the subjects other than English and Welsh which are foundation subjects in relation to pupils at the school;").