HL Deb 22 June 1988 vol 498 cc766-823

3.22 p.m.

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

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Baroness Hooper.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 41: After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:

("Implementation of National Curriculum.

.—(1) It shall be the duty of the National Curriculum Council, and the Curriculum Council for Wales, so to exercise the powers conferred by section 4(2) below as to propose to Parliament the establishment of programmes of study and attainment targets for a complete National Curriculum as soon as is reasonably practicable and desirable, having regard to—

  1. (a) the availability of teachers, books, equipment and other resources;
  2. (b) the orderly development of educational opportunities for pupils of all aptitudes; and
  3. (c) the views of parents, local education authorities and other persons or bodies who appear to it to be concerned.

(2) It shall be the duty of the School Examinations and Assessment Council so to exercise the powers conferred by section 9(4), in co-operation with the National Curriculum Council and the Curriculum Council for Wales, as to propose to Parliament assessment arrangements appropriate to the implementation of the National Curriculum.

(3) The establishment of a National Curriculum under this section shall commence with the core subjects, followed by any other subjects specified in section 3 above.

(4) Where any of the above councils wishes to propose the making of an Order by the Secretary of State under section 4(2) below, (whether or not on the basis of recommendations from any subject working party established by the Secretary of State), it shall give notice of the proposal and undertake consultation in accordance with section 15(3) below;

(5) Where any Council recommends to the Secretary of State, after the carrying out of the consultation referred to in subsection (4) above, the making of an Order to implement a part of the National Curriculum, he may accept it, or reject it, and in the latter case, he shall refer the matter back to the Council with his reasons.

(6) Where the Secretary of State accepts a recommendation of a Council, he shall, subject to subsections (7) and (8) below, make an interim Order, and any such Order made under this subsection shall be

  1. (a) subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament; and
  2. (b) brought into effect by a final order made in accordance with subsection (8) below.

(7) Interim Orders under subsection (6) above may be made in any sequence, but final orders under subsection (8) below shall be made so as to secure that—

  1. (a) programmes of study, attainment targets and assessment arrangements are introduced at the same date for any subject in relation to pupils in any of the key stages specified in section 3(3); and
  2. (b) the implementation of the National Curriculum and assessment in relation to any subject shall be cumulative in relation to an individual pupil, such that no pupil to whom it applies in relation to a particular subject in one key stage shall cease to be subject to it (in relation to that subject) at any later key stage.

(8) The Secretary of State may, in any year after Royal Assent, make one or more final Orders for the purpose of setting out the timetable for the implementation of any interim Orders which he intends to bring into effect in a subsequent year, together with any modifications to any such Order that he considers reasonably necessary, and no order shall be made under this subsection unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

(9) The National Curriculum and assessment arrangements shall be implemented under this section during the period from the beginning of the academic years 1989–90 to 1994–95, or such later dates as may be specified by the Secretary of State in regulations.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 41, with the leave of the House I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 42,53,55,93 and 97. This is a comprehensive amendment, and therefore rather long and complicated. It is designed to secure a proper process for implementation of the national curriculum. In the light of the discussion that we have just had I shall try to be as brief as possible, but I hope that your Lordships' House will bear with me for a moment because this is quite a complicated additional clause. Perhaps I may briefly explain what it will do and then give the reasons why it is needed.

The National Curriculum Council, and the equivalent body for Wales, will be charged with making proposals to Parliament for the introduction of the curriculum subject to the agreement of the Secretary of State. The curriculum will be introduced as teachers and other resources are available and not before, and after discussion with parents, local education authorities and other bodies. The responsibility for proposing to Parliament arrangements for the new national assessments will be passed to the School Examinations and Assessment Council. The core subjects will be introduced first. There will be a consultation process before orders are made as in the Bill at present on attainment targets and programmes, and the amendment extends this to assessment.

The Secretary of State will retain the power to reject recommendations for councils and to refer them back for further consideration. Interim orders will be made as areas of the curriculum become available for implementation thereby allowing Parliament to review the content of the curriculum stage by stage as recommendations are brought forward.

A final order subject to affirmative resolution will be made each year containing the elements of the curriculum to be implemented in the subsequent and following years. In this way Parliament, before giving final approval to any particular part of the curriculum, will be able to see how it fits within the overall timetable for the following years. Whenever a part of the curriculum is introduced—for example, French for 14 year-olds to 16 year-olds—the amendment states that the programmes of study, the attainment targets and the assessment arrangements should all be introduced at the same date. Without this provision pupils could start on examination courses in the early years without knowing what form of assessment arrangements they will have to undergo at the end of the course.

The amendment provides that curriculum and assessment should be cumulative in relation to an individual pupil in respect of a particular subject. This means that once a pupil has entered the curriculum in respect of, let us say, English, he or she should not leave the national curriculum at a later stage in his or her career. Under the Government's present plans there appears to be a possible danger that parts of the curriculum for some of the later school years might not be in place in time for the earliest entrants to the curriculum in that subject to continue to study it within the national framework. The amendment sets down a minimum of five years for the implementation of the curriculum subject to a longer period being set by the Secretary of State. That accords with the Secretary of State's own statements and the recommendations in the TGAT report on testing.

The essential point of the amendment is the remarkably scant detail available, even at this very late stage, on the precise timetable and the processes involved in implementing the national curriculum. Perhaps I may develop this a little further.

The curriculum is at present being developed, even while the Bill is being discussed in Parliament, by the first of a series of informal working groups which the Secretary of State has already set up. At first glance it may appear from the Bill that the National Curriculum Council will be the body which is entrusted with introducing and then monitoring the national curriculum. However, that is not really so. The council will be handed parts of the national curriculum as they come forward from the subject working groups and is then required to undertake consultation on them. It will have the opportunity to comment but it will not have initiated the content of the curriculum. In practice the pressure for implementation at the earliest date will mean that the National Curriculum Council has very little role in determining the precise content of the curriculum. Its real role will be to advise the Secretary of State on possible modifications and changes in later years. Even in that situation its role is secondary and the curriculum will remain subject to the direct control of the Secretary of State.

The same applies to the School Examinations and Assessment Council which will have a quite limited role in reviewing assessment arrangements in future years, subject again to the control of the Secretary of State. The amendment proposes that the fashioning of the curriculum should be restored to the educational bodies appointed for reasons of their experience. The Government are adopting precisely this process in Scotland. We had some discussion about the advantages of the Scottish system yesterday. I should like to repeat the advantages in relation to this aspect of the Bill.

Curriculum guidelines have been issued within the last 12 months in Scotland, endorsed by the Secretary of State, by the consultative committee on the curriculum there. This is being done without notification; the initiative in fashioning the guidelines, which are not prescriptive, is with the educational specialists represented on the councils. The Secretary of State for Scotland is taking no direct role in prescribing the curriculum. The responsibility for implementing the curriculum in Scotland will be that of the council in terms of shaping a national framework for local education authorities in determining the local curriculum and for schools, principally head teachers, to select the individual curriculum applicable to their own pupils. No reason whatsoever has been advanced by the Government for abandoning what seems to me a common-sense approach in relation to England and Wales. I wonder whether the Minister will give the House some reasons for the difference in approach.

The amendment also proposes that the national curriculum should be cumulative in respect of individual pupils. Information now emerging from the DES explains why we consider that this is needed. In maths, for example, five year-olds will start the national curriculum in September 1989, but potentially at least they will leave it in September 1991. Similarly five year-olds starting science subjects in September 1989 will need to have the national curriculum of the seven to 11 year-old key stage in place by September 1991 if they too do not leave it at that date only to re-enter it when they are 11, four years later. Primary school children attempting technology from September 1989 may have only two years of the national curriculum before they cease to be subject to it.

To avoid these pitfalls, can we have a clear commitment from the Government that all the gaps will be filled before any individual child encounters them in going through the school system? The amendment seeks to achieve this.

Parliament will find it very difficult to keep track under the present proposals of the national curriculum as it emerges. It will be asked for each individual order on a negative procedure without knowing how it relates to other orders on other parts of the curriculum. That is clearly unsatisfactory. The amendment proposes that orders should be rolled up in each year under an affirmative procedure to enable Parliament to debate the timetable for forthcoming years. Without this process it will be virtually impossible to exercise proper scrutiny over the introduction of the curriculum and fears as to the effective level of power being handed over to the Secretary of State will be further exacerbated.

The amendment seeks to introduce the national curriculum only when teachers with appropriate qualifications and training are available. Without that very fundamental requirement being met, the whole enterprise will be open to considerable risk. The amendment also seeks to introduce the national curriculum in a way that will be seen as fair and which makes the maximum amount of information available both to Parliament and to the public, including, of course, parents. Without this form of open process parents are likely to be extremely bewildered as to the way in which the curriculum will affect their own children.

Haste to introduce the curriculum on a piecemeal basis means that the Government might fail in their duty to introduce an important educational reform with the interests of children in mind. If on the other hand the Government accept the amendment, that would demonstrate their commitment to an orderly introduction of the curriculum within the timetable that they set down for themselves. Without it, proper planning cannot take place and children will suffer. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, as instructed, I shall be brief; but I want to emphasise two matters in particular. One is the total irrationallity and unfairness of asking the teaching profession to teach a curriculum if there is not adequate provision of teachers, equipment and resources generally. There should be no compulsion on the schools to deliver unless the materials are there to make it possible so to do. It cannot be right to ask the education world to make bricks without straw.

The second point I want to underline is the importance of parliamentary scrutiny. As the noble Baroness will be aware, we have all along been extremely anxious about the centralising tendencies of this legislation. We have been told again and again that the Government are decentralising because they are giving power to parents; but Parliament also wants to come in on this, otherwise the details in the hands of the Secretary of State will in reality be dictated by the school service in the DES. It is right and proper that Parliament should play a role in examining how the curriculum is being set and should have the opportunity to have its say. I very much hope that the amendment will be supported.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I believe that I understand the meaning of the amendment—at least I hope I do—although it was a little difficult to take it all in. I wonder whether it would not make matters a little too rigid. In some parts of the country there may be schools to which the national curriculum may not he very suited. In that case surely the head master should be the person to decide what alterations should be made. If I were a head master I should be very angry indeed at having all power to run my school taken away from me and put in the hands of a national curriculum council. While such a scheme might work very well over a large percentage of the country, it is a pity to lay down the law too hard so that no variations can be made.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the Minister—whom I should like to thank for her sympathy when she observed me yawning on the.Bench at 2 o'clock this morning—knows that I am aware of the need to husband time. I make no apology for speaking to the amendment because it has a considerable claim to be regarded as the most important on the Marshalled List. One cannot do a job without tools. One cannot teach without teachers. One cannot read without books. When my own department interviews entrance candidates, it regularly asks them about the contents of their school libraries. We are well aware that standards of provision are falling rapidly, seriously and drastically—indeed to the point where many candidates arrive quite ill-prepared for what they are supposed to be doing.

In these circumstances, laying a major new obligation on teachers (themselves in a steadily diminishing supply), even more obligations on head teachers (themselves in even more rapidly diminishing supply) seems to be an unnecessary determination to cause problems.

I listened with a great deal of care to many speeches on the other side of the House on the Local Government Finance Bill as well as on this Bill. There seems to me to be an undue tendency to assume that spending is profligate, to assume that the imposition of financial limits may be met simply by the elimination of waste. If there was any quantity of that it was eliminated some time ago. I do not believe that it is known how hard rate capping, for example, has been and quite how difficult it will be to undertake major new obligations without the tools to do it. It used to be a legal maxim that the law does not compel one to do the impossible. I should like to know when it ceased to be one.

Baroness Young

My Lords, we have all listened with great interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, introducing this very comprehensive new clause covering two major aspects of the Bill. There are two comments that I should like to make on it. The first concerns the first part of the proposed new clause which seems to be a kind of declaratory statement about what should happen. It is extremely difficult to define what the circumstances are that would be required to be met before anything started at all.

I can see that only too easily almost any local authority or school could say that a part of the statements, (a), (b) or (c), was missing and that they were unable to carry out part of the national curriculum. Were time to allow, which it does not, we could have an interesting debate about the availability of teachers. We could debate the way in which local authorities manage the teachers that they have and whether they make the best use of them. It has always struck me as being a major weakness that they look after the married women who leave to have a baby but then lose track of them and do not reemploy them. What happens to them when there is a shortage of teachers in subjects such as maths or science?

This is not the moment for a debate on the supply of teachers but I should like to make the serious point that one could argue for a long time about the availability of teachers. To write such a provision as that into the Bill appears to give an opportunity for those who do not with to implement the national curriculum not to do so on grounds which are not sustainable. I believe that the same argument applies to books, equipment, other resources and so forth. As we are being pressed not to speak at length I shall not pursue that argument further.

My second point relates to the subject of parliamentary scrutiny to which the House has always attached great importance. There will he opportunities to scrutinise on the delegated legislation. However, Parliament has never scrutinised the precise curriculum within schools, although for the first time it will have an opportunity to see what is being taught in a more public way than has ever been possible. A criticism today is of the difficulty of finding out what is being taught in schools and there is a great deal of contradictory information. This is an interesting discussion and I do not know what line my noble friend will take on the matter. I do not believe that it helps the development of what the Government are trying to achieve in the Bill. I oppose the amendment.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, the amendment contains a number of extremely important points. I believe that none is more important than the matter to which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has referred—the availability of teachers. I should like to speak briefly and ask what the Government mean by the word "teachers" as regards the implementation of the national curriculum. I should like to go further and ask what they mean by the words "qualified teachers".

I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I repeat what I said in the House last week. We should be concerned about trained teachers. Defining a teacher as "qualified" and as "trained" can be two different things. The Secretary of State has recently announced a proposal to licence teachers and I hope that he does not implement that. The issue has arisen because of the shortage of teachers in certain subjects: physics, mathematics, certain modern foreign languages and so forth. Before anything such as the national curriculum is implemented I hope that the Government will make quite sure that we shall have qualified and trained teachers, however long that may take.

I believe that the time is long overdue for the establishment of what some people would choose to call a general teaching council. Its remit would include the supply of teachers, about which many noble Lords are most concerned. It would also deal with the question of training. I hasten to say that had such a council been in existence for the past few years we might not have had the present serious shortage of teachers in certain subjects, which I believe will hamper the national curriculum. I hope that in her reply the Minister will comment on that subject which I believe to be crucial.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness David

My Lords, one of the reasons that the amendment has been put forward is the uncertainty surrounding the national curriculum. We do not yet know exactly what will happen and when, although the Bill is at Report stage in the House of Lords. The responses of the Government to the various reports are very late. The TGAT report was published at the end of last year and the Government did not make a firm response for some time. The supplementary reports which were requested have only this month been responded to by the Government. There is a great deal of uncertainty everywhere as to what will happen and when. It exists among local authorities, teachers and parents. The amendment attempts to lay down an orderly process for discovering that.

Of course there is anxiety about the availability of teachers, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said. I obtained figures from Cambridgeshire which show that 69 additional teachers will be needed in secondary schools to implement the national curriculum; 43 laboratories will be needed in 45 secondary schools; there will be 2 million children for assessment and testing. All those matters do not appear to have been taken fully into consideration in proposing the national curriculum. We should like to know something about the timescale and how the Government see the introduction of the national curriculum.

I agree with my noble friend that to have the national curriculum implemented for five to seven year-olds, not for seven to 11 year-olds but then again for 11 to 14 year-olds is a totally unsatisfactory way of carrying on. The point of the amendment is to obtain some idea of what will happen and to know that Parliament will be informed of what is happening during the course of the next few years. We understand that it will be at least five years before it is in operation. We should like to know a little more and to make certain that Parliament will be kept informed as matters go ahead.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, we are faced in these amendments with a number of issues, many of which were dealt with in Committee. Before turning to the detailed amendments I should like to respond to a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in introducing them. She asked why the Government's proposals for the national curriculum in England and Wales will be established in a different way from Scotland. The process of creating a common curriculum in Scotland has been continuing for a number of years and considerable progress has been achieved there. It is therefore possible for the Government's policy on the school curriculum to build on what exists and on the activities of its existing curriculum and examinations council. Progress in England and Wales has been neither as fast nor as well developed as in Scotland. Therefore the Government's proposals for the national curriculum set out to achieve the more rapid progress now required if all the children in the country are to have the opportunity to benefit as fully as possible from their years in compulsory education and with the benefit of a broad and balanced curriculum.

Turning to the specific amendments I should like to deal with the points raised by Amendment No. 41 and then those which are consequential to it. There have been many attempts to have us put into the Bill declaratory provisions to the effect that the national curriculum will be introduced sensibly, taking into account all relevant factors, particularly the availability of resources, and with full consultation. We have resisted such declaratory additions because we feel that they are unnecessary and could even be unhelpful.

What is needed is a framework which ensures that the national curriculum orders, including the speed of their implementation, are fully debated, widely consulted upon and subject where appropriate to the final test of parliamentary approval. That is the framework which we have established in the Bill—and it is a framework Bill after all—with the two-stage consultation process and the publication of a summary of representations and of the NCC's advice, with the requirement for the Secretary of State to publish his reasons if he goes against that advice.

The second is another old favourite, the case for making the orders specifying assessment arrangements subject to the same processes as the orders for attainment targets and programmes of study. I repeat that that would not be the right approach. We have already had the main consultation on the shape of the assessment arrangements, following the publication of the TGAT report, and have agreed to its main recommendations as those which should underpin more detailed provisions. We shall come to TGAT in more detail on later amendments, as the noble Baroness has said, and I shall not make any further comment at this stage.

The assessment arrangements will be set out in orders, subject by subject. They will be the combination of the TGAT framework and the targets set out by the individual subject working groups, on which there will be full consultation. It would not be right to have an independent round of consultation, under the auspices of a different council, on arrangements whch flow from and are designed to serve the national curriculum and will be largely administrative. There will be piloting of tests and other assessment instruments, and we shall be seeking the best professional advice in developing them and ensuring that they meet the objectives we are agreed upon. In practical terms the orders will need to be regularly updated with the details of assessment arrangements year by year. And SEAC will have an important role to play. Under Clause 9(4) (a) its first functions are already to keep all aspects of assessment under review, and to advise the Secretary of State on such matters as he may refer to it or as it sees fit. The Secretary of State is able to ask the council's advice on how the arrangements are operating, and the council can exercise its right to give advice even when no explicit request has been made. For all these reasons, we believe that this aspect of the amendment is misconceived.

Thirdly, we return to the notion that the statutory councils rather than the Secretary of State should be in the driving seat in proposing the national curriculum subject by subject. I believe that in this the noble Baroness Lady Blackstone, has failed to justify how she feels able to give this important duty to a non-elected body, rather than to the Secretary of State who is clearly answerable to Parliament and the country. For this reason Amendment No. 41, which brings in the new clause, is an uneasy compromise—the NCC is required to make proposals "to Parliament" in subsection (1), but it is clear from subsections (5) and (6) that they would only be able to make proposals to the Secretary of State which he may accept or reject. It is obviously right that the main and central duty to establish the national curriculum should rest with the Secretary of State, required as he is to consult the NCC and take full account of its advice, and available as he will be to answer for his decisions.

We now come to a couple of new points raised by the amendment. The idea of two sets of orders, one with and one without a timetable attached, does not appear to add anything to the Bill. Rather it introduces great possibilities for confusion, with "inoperative" orders on the statute book, and two separate rounds of consultation where one could suffice and deal with the interrelated issues raised by any order. In practice I believe that this would be a recipe for muddle, duplication, and worse. All the relevant issues will be debated when orders are made, as they will have to set out the timetable for implementation in relation to the key stages to which each relates.

The second new thought is the proposed provision that national curriculum requirements should only be introduced in a way which allows a pupil to continue through all key stages once embarked on a national curriculum programme in any subject. The noble Baroness took pains to explain exactly what she meant in this respect. Of course, in an ideal world, this would be the best way to proceed as long as it did not require undue delay in any subject. But to avoid the possibility of such delay, we do not wish at this stage to rule out the possibility of introducing the national curriculum in a particular subject for pupils in most school years while delaying its introduction in the later secondary years, which might be necessary to make sure that adequate teaching or other resources would be available. I am sure that the House would confirm that that would be in the best interests of the children. We should not prevent younger pupils having the benefit of a coherent national system as soon as possible, and the degree of consistency already required in years four and five by the national criteria for the GCSE will ensure that they are not at that stage met with wildly different demands which they are unable to cope with. We do not believe that children will suffer.

Finally, perhaps I may deal with Amendment No. 55. The amendment is concerned with the availability of teachers. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, all emphasise that aspect. It seeks to make sure that the speed of implementation of the national curriculum takes account of this factor. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already made it clear that before introducing any part of the national curriculum he will want to be fully satisfied about the availability of suitably qualified teachers and other resources However, in the unlikely event that some future Secretary of State did not make such consideration, then this would emerge in the consultation processes required by Clauses 15 and 16. The statutory orders defining attainment targets and programmes of study, and detailing the timetable for their introduction, will also be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, and this will give a further opportunity to explore the question of teacher availability.

I must emphasise that the ratio of pupils to teachers is at its lowest ever level. The Government's expenditure plans allow for it to fall still further to 17:1, which will provide LEAs collectively with scope to redeploy teachers to prepare and implement the national curriculum. It should be borne in mind that, in secondary schools, pupil numbers are still declining. In England secondary school numbers will fall by 280,000 between now and 1991—a drop of over 9 per cent. The recovery in secondary school numbers will be much slower than the fall and will not reach the level of this year again until the year 2000. That allows LEAs and schools the chance to redeploy teachers effectively and to make the most of the collective skills and expertise of the teaching force as they prepare for and deliver the national curriculum.

The total provision required for all subjects in secondary schools in the 1990s will be less because of the drop in the pupil population. We have not yet made firm estimates of the need for specialist teachers of maths and science because we have not yet seen the working groups' final reports which are due shortly but we must remember that virtually all pupils up to age 14 now study these subjects. We shall certainly look at the national picture in setting out a timetable for implementing the requirements stage by stage; but of course it will be, as now, for local authorities and schools to ensure that they have the right staff for their needs.

We intend to build on the existing support for in-service training in maths and science to help prepare teachers, over the course of the next year, for the new demands of the national curriculum from September 1989. But again I remind your Lordships that we shall be building on existing practice in the core areas, not asking teachers to throw out all they know and start from scratch.

Indeed, without dwelling too long on the subject, we are also making provision for in-service training through education support grants and we believe that that should cover the needs of the teachers in preparing them. There has been considerable interest and discussion on the proposals, and most teachers are at least alerted, if not already embarked, upon consideration of what is involved.

Therefore, I hope that the proposers of these amendments will feel able to withdraw this and other amendments in the group. If not, I ask your Lordships to join me in rejecting them.

Earl Russell

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask her to address the question of availability of teachers in particular subjects. That is something which the teacher-pupil ratio does not altogether address. That creates a need for teachers in particular subjects. Can that need be met?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I believe that addressed the subject of maths and science teachers in particular. Of course, in terms of the national curriculum, there will also be particular needs in terms of language teachers and possibly others. The Government are certainly addressing those needs; but I believe that my general remarks about the decline of the pupil population over the foreseeable period applies in general to this and to the fact that there will be scope for redeployment and in-service training of teachers to meet the needs. We are certainly regarding this matter seriously. Nobody is suggesting that it is a perfect picture, but we are working hard on it.

4 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her long and considered reply. But it leaves a number of unresolved problems. I should first like to comment on what the Minister said about Scotland. I accept that a form of national curriculum has been under development in Scotland for some time. However, would it not be much more sensible to build slowly but successfully here in England and Wales, just as has been happening in Scotland, securing a consensus from all those who will participate in running the national curriculum—the local authorities, teachers, and so on? Would not that be better than rushing to impose it on people who are extremely reluctant to take it on hoard? To do that would be a recipe for failure when, instead, we could be proceeding on the same basis that we have seen in Scotland.

The framework for the national curriculum should he built on an underlying assumption which ought to be made explicit about the availability of resources. I should also say something about teachers. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said she thought we would never get the national curriculum off the ground because there would always be arguments about the availability of teachers. I can assure your Lordships that there is absolutely no intention that the amendment should delay the implementation of the national curriculum. The sole intention is that the national curriculum should be introduced in an orderly way that will make it a success.

It would be dangerous—would it not?—to seek to introduce, for example, a modern language for all pupils in our secondary schools (which does not exist at present) without enough teachers of modern languages. If we are to use teachers of modern languages who do not have the appropriate qualifications I am afraid pupils will turn against learning a modern language rather than benefit from it. A similar situation will arise if we endeavour to introduce science to all pupils in secondary schools. I am very much in favour of both developments in the national curriculum for the reasons put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Young—the failure in our system to get girls to study science and boys to study modern languages.

Once again, however, we must recognise that there is already a desperate shortage of physics teachers in our system. If we seek to impose on secondary schools science for all pupils without having enough teachers, then I do not believe that we shall have even one extra girl taking such subjects because they will be put off by the incompetence of the teachers. Already in the university sector we are facing the worrying phenomenon of an enormous decline in applications for degrees in physics. I suspect that the position will get worse if we introduce subjects into the curriculum without good teachers. Further, if ordinary classrooms rather than laboratories are used to teach science, what will pupils make of that?

In spite of what the Minister said, the teacher shortage is acute in some parts of the country, especially at the primary stage. I should not like to see primary school children being taught technology by primary teachers who have never had training in the teaching of technology. We need proper in-service courses off the ground before we go ahead.

I now refer to assessment arrangements. The Minister said that she did not think it right to have independent consultation because professional advice will be sought. I am extremely glad that professional advice will be sought but this is such an important new part of the whole education system—assessment on this scale—that I believe it requires the widest possible consultation.

As regards the role of the statutory councils replacing the role of the Secretary of State—the Secretary of State is elected while the councils are not—the purpose of the amendment is to involve Parliament which at least in the other place is elected in scrutinising what is proposed. Moreover, the Secretary of State will continue to have the opportunity to reject proposals that are put forward by the experts on the statutory councils.

Finally, the Minister said that in an ideal world we would have the entire curriculum in place in time for children to work through it rather than entering it and then leaving it. We are told that that ideal world does not exist. I believe that we should wait for something closer to an ideal world rather than almost certainly produce a system where muddle and confusion will predominate as pupils move in and out of the national curriculum, uncertain as to why that is happening.

In the light of all those difficulties and uncertainties to which the Minister has not, in my view, given an adequate reply, I must divide the House.

4.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 41) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 99; Not-Contents, 137.

Adrian, L. Fisher of Rednal, B.
Amherst, E. Flowers, L.
Ardwick, L. Foot, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Gallacher, L.
Banks, L. Galpern, L.
Birk, B. Gladwyn, L.
Blackstone, B. Glenamara, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Grey, E.
Bottomley, L. Grimond, L.
Briginshaw, L. Hampton, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Hanworth, V.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Carter, L. Hooson, L.
Chitnis, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hughes, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Jacques, L.
David, B. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. John-Mackie, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Kagan, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Kearton, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Kennet, L.
Ennals, L. Kilbracken, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Kilmarnock, L.
Ezra, L. Kirkhill, L.
Falkland, V. Leatherland, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Sainsbury, L.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Scanlon, L.
Longford, E. Seear, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Serota, B.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Stallard, L.
McNair, L. [Teller.] Stedman, B.
Masham of Ilton, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Mishcon, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Morton of Shuna, L. Strabolgi, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Nicol, B. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Northfield, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Oram, L. Underhill, L.
Peston, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.] Walston, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Prys-Davies, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Raglan, L. Whaddon, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L. White, B.
Robson of Kiddington, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Rochester, L. Willis, L.
Rugby, L. Winstanley, L.
Russell, E. Young of Darlington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Headfort, M.
Arran, E. Henley, L.
Auckland, L. Hesketh, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hives, L.
Belstead, L. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Bessborough, E. Hood, V.
Blake, L. Hooper, B.
Blatch, B. Hylton-Foster, B.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Ilchester, E.
Brookeborough, V. Ironside, L.
Broxbourne, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Butterworth, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Caccia, L. Joseph, L.
Caithness, E. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Killearn, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. King of Wartnaby, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Kinnaird, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Knutsford, V.
Carnock, L. Layton, L.
Cawley, L. Lindsay, E.
Cayzer, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Chelwood, L. London, Bp.
Clitheroe, L. Long, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Cottesloe, L. McFadzean, L.
Cowley, E. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cox, B. Manchester, D.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Manton, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Marley, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Merrivale, L.
Dormer, L. Mersey, V.
Dundee, E. Middleton, L.
Eccles, V. Milverton, L.
Effingham, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Ellenborough, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mottistone, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Faithfull, B. Moyne, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Ferrier, L. Nelson, E.
Fortescue, E. Northbourne, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Gainford, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Gainsborough, E. Orkney, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Oxfuird, V.
Gibson, L. Pender, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Porritt, L.
Gridley, L. Pym, L.
Halsbury, E. Rankeillour, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Renton, L.
Harris of High Cross, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Harvington, L. St. Davids, V.
Hastings, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Havers, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Sandford, L Teviot, L.
Seebohm, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Selborne, E. Thorneycroft, L.
Selkirk, E. Thurlow, L.
Shannon, E. Trafford, L.
Sharples, B. Trefgarne, L.
Skelmersdale, L. Truro, Bp.
Somers, L. Ullswater, V.
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Whitelaw, V.
Swansea, L. Wise, L.
Swinfen, L. Wolfson, L.
Swinton, E. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Terrington, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.15 p.m.

Clause 4 [Duty to establish the National Order]:

[Amendments Nos. 42 to 44 not moved.]

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No.45: Page 3, line 38, after ("the") insert ("core and other").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 45, with the leave of the House I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 47 to 50 and No. 54. The object of this series of amendments is, first, to clarify the confusion that seemed to reign when we were discussing at Committee stage the difference between the core and the foundation subjects. The other object of the amendments is to try to soften to some extent the prescriptive powers of the Secretary of State.

In connection with that second object, I have a third concern which is the question of compatibility with existing legislation. To begin with the first point—namely, clarification—I believe it will be clearer to your Lordships if I read out how the subsection will now read. I am referring to Clause 4(2): The Secretary of State may by order specify in relation to each of the core and other foundation subjects as the case may be—

  1. (a) such attainment targets:
  2. (b) such overall programmes of study in respect of the core subjects; and
  3. (c) such guidelines of study in respect of the foundation subjects;
  4. (d) such assessment arrangements,
as he considers appropriate to provide broad guidelines in relation to that subject.

That is how the subsection will read.

When the meaning of core and foundation subjects was discussed in Committee, in the end it seemed that foundation subjects included the core subjects; that all the subjects named are foundation subjects, but that some are more foundation than others and they are called core subjects. It is to be hoped that there will be as little prescription from Elizabeth House as possible as to precisely what is taught in our classrooms. One hopes that the programmes of study proposed for the core subjects will allow the latitude that is needed for creative teaching and will be based upon the reports of the task groups for each subject; the English to be based on the Kingman Report and the maths and science programmes to be based on the reports of the task groups in those subjects.

It is hoped that for the other foundation subjects the term "guidelines" will be more appropriate than "programmes". Napoleonic prescription from on high has never been our way, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, said yesterday, do not let us have it now. Genuine enlightenment is wanted by me, at any rate, and I am sure by your Lordships, as regards the question of compatibility with previous legislation.

Two years ago we had the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 and we had a great deal of difficulty in deciding who was to do what as regards the curriculum. I remember it well because I played a part in it. I believe that ultimately we straightened it out to some extent. However, perhaps I may briefly remind noble Lords how the law now reads. Section 17 of the 1986 Act states: It shall be the duty of every local education authority—

  1. (a) to determine, and keep under review, their policy in relation to the secular curriculum for the county, voluntary and special schools maintained by them".

That is the function of the local education authority. Section 18 states: The articles of government for every county, controlled and maintained special school shall provide for it to be the duty of the governing body to consider —

  1. (a) the policy of the local education authority as to the secular curriculum for the authority's schools, as expressed in the statement made by the authority under section 17 of this Act".

Section 18(6) states: The articles of government for every such school shall provide for it to be the duty of the head teacher, in discharging his duties in relation to the secular curriculum for the school—

  1. (a) to consider the statement of the local education authority … and those of the governing body"—

I shall leave out parts that are not relevant to the argument— (c) to ensure that that curriculum— (ii) so far as it relates to other matters"— matters other than sex education which is now the responsibility of the governing body— is compatible with the authority's policy (as expressed in their statement) or, to the extent to which it is incompatible, is compatible with that policy as modified by the governing body's statement under subsection (1) above". That is the law as it stands. Over and above all that we shall have the Secretary of State's programmes of study and attainment targets. How will they fit in? This is what worries me. What is the difference between all these things? What is the difference between the local education authority determining a policy, as in the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, and the present Bill specifying "programmes of study"? I might add that on 3rd May the noble Earl, Lord Arran, referred to establishing guidelines and laying down syllabi. What is the difference between all these things? Do we really know what we are talking about?

In all the oceans of words and mountains of paper I do not believe that this issue has been properly debated, though I believe it was touched on yesterday. It seems to me possible that it is another example of the Government overlegislating and disregarding what is already there. It is as though the patient is given a large pill but before the effect of the pill can be discovered a huge bottle of medicine is added to it. Before the result of that is discovered a hypodermic syringe is produced and an injection administered. One cannot discover what, if anything, is doing any good. Confusion is likely to follow. Can the Minister enlighten me? If she cannot, will she be kind enough to write to me on the question of who does what and how the provisions of the Bill tie in with the existing provisions of the 1986 Act?

Baroness Seear

My Lords, as we are in the business of clarification and definition, I should like briefly to ask the Minister about something which has never been made clear. We have these two words "core" and "foundation". If there are two different words they must mean two different things. However, they are nowhere defined in the Bill, nor are we clear what differentiates a core from a foundation. It may be an academic point, but given two different terms any court of law will say that Parliament must have intended a difference—I think I am right in saying that—otherwise it would not have used two different terms. By what criteria does a core become a core and by what criteria does a foundation become a foundation? Will the Minister please tell us?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I should like to pursue the point just made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. At the Committee stage we were in some confusion about the differences between core and foundation subjects and about the differences between a syllabus, a programme of study and guidelines. I hope that we can have clarification on that second matter as well as on the first matter raised by the noble Baroness.

Why are we to have programmes for the core subjects and guidelines for the other foundation subjects? As the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, has already said, would it not he very much simpler to have guidelines for all the subjects, whether core or foundation? There is no doubt that the acceptance by the Government of guidelines across the board would do a great deal to allay the extreme anxieties about the prescriptive nature of the national curriculum. Teachers fear that programmes of study will prevent them from responding to changing social and economic needs. It will stop them working on new approaches to teaching and it will prevent them from developing new materials. In short, there is a danger that it will squeeze the term "innovation" out of their vocabularies.

Flexibility with respect to both local and regional factors will be very much more difficult to accommodate. In putting forward the amendments there is absolutely no intention to sabotage the national curriculum. The Secretary of State will still have a great deal of power to influence the curriculum through guidelines. The Bill involves guidelines only, with respect to the foundation subjects of art, music and physical education. Perhaps the Minister will confirm this and indicate the position regarding the other foundation subjects. I have no doubt that head teachers would respond to guidelines and that the Government would have a great deal of impact on what is taught through their use.

The amendments would restore the notion of partnership between government, local authorities and the teaching profession while at the same time giving the Secretary of State a very much bigger role than he has had in the past in what is taught in our schools. I support the amendments, which I believe will clarify the position between the core and foundation subjects and allow for greater flexibility in the teaching of the foundation subjects.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, perhaps I may throw in a point on core and foundation subjects which I suggested at Committee stage. I thought that the Government would look at it and come back sympathetically. It relates to the interpretation clause, Clause 20. Whatever is decided on the present amendments I feel that a word there would help to clarify the matter.

Clause 20(1) states: 'core subjects', 'foundation subjects' and 'key stages' have the meanings given by section 3 of this Act". I do not see that they are given any meanings in Clause 3. One can infer the meanings and I think it is possibly true that they can have no other meanings than that foundation embraces core. However, as it is a definition clause, it would help if at Third Reading something came forward to make clear exactly what is core and what is foundation under Clause 20.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I appreciate the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, and others over the definition of core and other foundation subjects. We have considered the points raised in the earlier debates—and indeed the points raised as a result of the amendment before us today—about the need for such clarification, but we remain of the view that the Bill as drafted allows only one interpretation.

In saying that, I take on board what the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, has said. The reference back in the definition clause to the main clauses is, we believe, adequate. After all, Clause 2 of the Bill says that the national curriculum, shall comprise the core and other foundation subjects". Clause 3(1) specifies the core subjects and Clause 3(2) specifies the other foundation subjects. The same formulation is used in Clause 4(1)(a), taking first the core subjects and then the other foundation subjects. Again, the important word here is "other". It makes clear that the national curriculum, in England for example, consists of 10 foundation subjects for secondary school pupils. It means that where the Bill refers only to foundation subjects, as it does in Clause 4(2), it is referring to all 10 subjects. Therefore I am sure that noble Lords will recognise that the amendment is not necessary, and I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it on that basis.

Let me now turn to the rest of the amendments in this group. Clause 4(2) allows the Secretary of State by order to specify for each of the foundation subjects such attainment targets, programmes of study and assessment arrangements as he considers appropriate for that subject. These amendments, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, has explained, seek to enable the Secretary of State to distinguish between the core and other foundation subjects by allowing him to set guidelines only for the other foundation subjects.

However, we have already made clear that we expect the programmes of study and attainment targets to apply to the other foundation subjects, as well as to the core subjects, although in the case of the core subjects they will be more detailed; so that it is only in the case of art, music and PE, where detailed attainment targets and programmes of study would be more difficult, that it is proposed to issue general guidelines. The level of prescription appropriate for any subject—I appreciate that this was a special concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—will be a matter for consultation when orders are being made and subject finally to Parliament's approval.

The amendments have served a useful purpose in allowing me to clarify the position regarding core and other foundation subjects, but, as I have explained, they add nothing to the provisions of the Bill. I must therefore ask the noble Lord not to press the amendments. However, I shall take up his invitation to write to him in more detail on the other questions which he raised.

Baroness David

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister, before she sits down, whether it would be helpful—as I am sure there will be confusion among the general public, and those who will subsequently read the clause—to include in the Bill some phrase which would show that the term "foundation subjects" embraces the core subjects. If we have all misunderstood the issue, I am quite sure that many other people will find the same difficulty. Therefore, would it not help to further clarify the position?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I was not aware of any confusion in this respect until an apparent confusion arose in this House on a previous occasion. Therefore I do not think that it is widely creating a problem. Further, I believe that my statement today must have helped to clarify the position.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I must say I do not think that the present situation is very satisfactory. So far as I remember, we had a 20-minute discussion on the matter in Committee. Further, without wishing to flatter the Members of this House, I do not think that we are short of brains in this place. If it is possible to debate the matter for 20 minutes surely there must be some lack of clarity. As the Minister has finished her reply, I do not think that I can ask her to reconsider the matter. However, I shall be most grateful to hear anything she has to say about the compatability with existing legislation, which seems to me to make confusion worst confounded. With those words, I feel that I must withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdraw.

[Amendments Nos. 46 to 50 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 51: Page 3, line 41, at end insert ("based on the system of assessment set out in the reports of the Task Group on Assessment and Testing").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment is intended to ensure that any orders in respect of assessment under the national curriculum are made in line with the various reports of the task group on assessment and testing; that is, the TGAT report. It is important both in the context of question marks left after debate in Committee and in respect of the parliamentary Written Answer issued by the Secretary of State earlier this month. The Answer constitutes the Government's response to the TGAT report, which we have been waiting for since January. However, it stills leaves many points unanswered. Further details are necessary if Parliament is not to be treated in a wholly cavalier fashion on one of the central proposals of the Bill.

At the same time, I welcome the fact that the Government accept many of the main recommendations of the TGAT report. However, there are many other important recommendations which were not covered in the Secretary of State's Written Answer, issued on 7th June. The first point concerns the publication of statements by the school as to its curriculum policy, and by the local education authority as to the social composition of the school, to accompany any examination or assessment results which will be published. The report stated that the only form in which the results of national assessment for, and identifying, a given school should be published should be part of a broader report by that school of its work as a whole. The latter has been ignored by the Government in their response, despite statements made by the Minister in Committee that, the Government fully accept the need for any published assessment results to be set in context".

Secondly, as regards attainment profiles and records of achievement, these were also omitted from the statement, again despite government commitments made in Committee that examination and assessment results would be produced as part of them. In Committee the Minister said: the Government still intend that records of achievement at age 16 should be introduced. We feel that such records can be used to record the results of assessment". Thirdly, the TGAT report stated: final reports on individual pupils to their parents should be the responsibility of the teacher, supported by standardised assessment tasks and group moderations".

The latter statement was notably absent from the Government's response, as is any indication of the precise balance between classroom assessment on the one hand and external tests on the other. The reply simply says that assessments, should be a combination of national external tests and assessment by teacher". The TGAT report stated that the primary curriculum would need further development before comprehensive assessment arrangements could be produced for it. It proposed the establishment of a working group to undertake the task. However, there has been no comment on that proposal in the Secretary of State's response.

The TGAT report also implied that the GCSE would need to be changed after a period of time to bring it into line with other aspects of the national assessment. I think we shall be faced with some confusion regarding pupils of the age of 16 when national assessment is introduced. The Secretary of State's reply simply stated that at the age of 16 the GCSE will be, the main form of assessment". without any indication of any possible changes in the future either to the GCSE or to national testing at 16.

The TGAT report also recommended that assessment tasks should be reviewed regularly to ascertain any evidence of bias, especially in relation to gender and race. Again, there was no comment on that recommendation in the response. I am sure that all Members of this House will agree that it is easy when testing children and young people for such bias to unwittingly occur. Indeed, there have been many studies which have demonstrated the incidence of bias when certain forms of assessment and testing are used; that is, both in respect to girls and ethnic minority children.

If the Government can accept the amendment. many teachers will be most reassured that the important recommendations contained in the TGAT report will actually be implemented. There are some parts even of that report which teachers find somewhat difficult to accept. But I think the vast majority of them and others who have expertise in the field of assessment of pupils in both primary and secondary schools consider the proposals to be much more desirable than some of the alternatives that have been discussed, some of which seem to have emerged from No. 10 Downing Street.

If, on the other hand, the Government cannot accept this amendment it would greatly help if the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, could tell the House what are the Government's intentions on these important matters that I have just indicated. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I wonder if I may, in speaking to Amendment No. 51, suggest to the House that since many of the considerations involved apply also to the following Amendment, No. 52, this should be taken into account. Both amendments seek to ensure that the national assessment system associated with the national curriculum follows the key recommendations of the report of the Task Group on Assessment and Testing. In fact, the principles which should govern the national assessment system were clearly stated by the Secretary of State in the Parliamentary Answer he gave on 7th June, when he published the supplementary reports which he had received from TGAT. Those of you who have read his statement will know that the principles now adopted by the Government reflect all the elements which TGAT regarded as essential to such a system.

We have made considerable progress in answer to some of the preoccupations which were raised at the previous stage. These principles will include prescribed national assessment tasks or tests and also moderated teacher assessment. Assessment will be used both formatively, to help better teaching and to inform decisions about the next steps for a pupil, and summatively at seven, 11, 14 and 16 to inform parents about their child's progress. At age 16 the GCSE will be the main form of assessment, especially in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science.

The information requirements will ensure that the assessments of individual pupils are always made available in full to parents in a way they can readily understand. Individual's results will not be published, but the aggregated results at the ages of 11, 14 and 16 will be, so that the wider public can make informed judgments about attainment in a school or local education authority. There will be no legal requirement for schools to publish such results for 7 year-olds, although we intend to recommend them strongly to do so.

Pupils' performance in relation to attainment targets will therefore be assessed and reported on at ages 7, 11, 14 and 16; but the attainment targets will be grouped for this purpose, as TGAT suggested, to make the assessment and reporting manageable. Different levels of achievement and overall pupil progress demonstrated by the tests and assessments will be registered on the 10-point scale—again recommended by TGAT—covering all the years of compulsory schooling. Each number on the scale will represent a level of achievement roughly corresponding to the average educational progress of a child over about two years.

Level 1 will therefore be the first level in a profile component, at whatever age that profile component is introduced. The scale will be used to register different levels of ability within each age group—and TGAT made the point that at all ages except seven we can expect pupils' attainment to be spread across half a dozen or more levels. The advantage of the scale, therefore, is that children will have a real sense of progress as they move from one level to the next, whatever their ability, and parents also will have a clearer idea—through the attainment targets associated with each level—of what that progress actually means.

The process of moderating the results of teacher assessment by comparison with the external test results will ensure that internal assessments are related to the standards which are applied across the country as a whole. It will also provide a valuable opportunity for teachers to discuss with their colleagues the basis for their own judgments, and the validity and reliability of the external tests.

Also as TGAT recommended, we intend to have a wide variety of tests developed and trialled, so as to take into account the different experiences of children, especially in the primary phase of education, and their different abilities and capacities—for instance, the circumstances of children whose first language is not English, or who have physical but not mental handicaps. There will be a place for the traditional pencil and paper tests, but we shall be taking advantage of the latest developments in oral and practical testing to ensure that so far as possible the test instrument used is the most valid for the task in hand. At ages seven and 11 in particular, test developers will be commissioned to develop and trial standard assessment tasks of the kind envisaged by TGAT, which will take the form of the kind of topic work ordinarily encountered in the primary classrooms. The whole process of assessment will be monitored for evidence of ethnic and gender bias, so that this can so far as practicable be eliminated.

This assessment framework will inform the consultations which will take place later this year on the recommendations of the mathematics and science working groups, and will also inform the thinking of the working groups on English, and on design and technology, which were announced last month.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, raised a number of particular questions, some of which I think I have already answered in the course of my remarks. However, I should say that, perhaps in particular regarding the balance between assessment and tests for working groups, her suggestion that they should advise on this balance has to depend on what their recommendations actually are.

As for the primary curriculum working group, a sub-group was set up by the different working groups already established for maths, science, technology and English. It has been advising these groups and its work will now be taken forward by the shadow (as it still is) National Curriculum Council.

In the light of my explanation and the clarification I hope I have been able to give of the Government's position in relation to the report of the task group, and indeed in relation to our intentions on testing and assessment, I hope it will be felt that there is no need for these amendments.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, can the noble Baroness perhaps give me an answer to a question? I think I understood her to say that the testing will be given weighting for the physically handicapped but not for the mentally handicapped. I may have been quite wrong in taking that point up, but I am concerned that those children who are in the integrated groups going through the primary schools will have some kind of consideration given to them because they have special needs which are not physical needs.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am sorry if I have misled the noble Baroness in that respect. Of course there will be certain children with mental handicaps who are totally exempted from the provisions of the national curriculum, but there are others with a lesser disability who will be fitted into one of the 10 levels.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for her response but to say that it leaves me a little puzzled. I think what she was saying was that the Government have decided to follow the recommendations of the TGAT report in almost every respect. Nothing in anything that she said indicated that the Government would be rejecting the TGAT proposals. If that is so it would surely be very easy to accept the amendment, yet the Minister appears not to be doing so.

I raised a number of specific questions that the Minister has not answered. Much of what she said seemed tangential to the issues that I raised. There was no response on the question of dealing with the social composition of schools when test results are to be published. There was no response to the points on attainment profiles and records of achievement and how this will fit with the new national assessment system. Similarly I think that the Minister did not respond on the primary curriculum although there was some reference to test developers involved in topic work in primary schools. I am grateful for the Minister's response that there will be monitoring on ethnic and gender bias. In the light of what the Minister has said, I should have thought that it would not be too difficult for the Government to accept the amendment. Am I right about that?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, before my noble friend replies, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, whether she really suggests that my noble friend ought to agree to legislate that assessment arrangements should be, based on the system of assessment set out in the reports of the Task Group". I quite see that the amendment is worded to probe what the Government are doing. The noble Baroness has done that successfully, and it was very interesting. However, she surely cannot ask the Minister to accept an amendment worded in this way. I am no expert on legislation, but I should have thought that that was not possible.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may be forgiven for interrupting at this point.

Once again, I think that we are somewhat straying away from the rules as laid down in Standing Orders which say that only the mover of an amendment should speak after the Minister on Report. I think that it would be best if we were all to observe that in the interests of time and regularity.

Baroness David

My Lords, is it not a fact that one can ask questions that have arisen out of a reply?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I understand that that is correct, but only the mover of the amendment can do so.

Baroness David

My Lords, I should like to challenge that.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, may I have a reply to my questions, since I moved the amendment?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, with the leave of the House, if I am correct, the noble Baroness asked whether in the light of what she said the Government could accept the amendment. My answer is no.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, in that case, I feel that I must divide the House.

4.53 p.m.

On Question, whether the said amendment (No. 51) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 97; Not-Contents, 130.

Adrian, L. Banks, L.
Airedale, L. Barnett, L.
Ardwick, L. Birk, B.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Blackstone, B.
Blease, L. Kirkhill, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Leatherland, L
Boston of Faversham, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Bottomley, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Briginshaw, L. Longford, E.
Bruce of Donington, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. McNair, L.
Carter, L. Meston, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mishcon, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Molloy, L.
David, B. Morton of Shuna, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Nicol, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Northfield, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Oram, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Peston, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ezra, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Falkland, V. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Flowers, L. Rochester, L.
Foot, L. Russell, E.
Gallacher, L. [Teller.] Sainsbury, L.
Galpern, L. Scanlon, L.
Gladwyn, L. Seear, B.
Glenamara, L. Serota, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Stallard, L.
Grey, E. Stedman, B.
Grimond, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hampton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L. [Teller.]
Hanworth, V.
Hart of South Lanark, B. Strabolgi, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hughes, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Underhill, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jacques, L. Walston, L.
Jeger, B. White, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
John-Mackie, L. Willis, L.
Kagan, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Kearton, L. Winstanley, L.
Kilbracken, L. Winterbottom, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Young of Dartington, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Dilhorne, V.
Arran, E. Dormer, L.
Auckland, L. Dundee, E.
Bellwin, L. Eccles, V.
Belstead, L. Eden of Winton, L.
Bessborough, E. Elibank, L.
Blake, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Blatch, B. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Blyth, L. Faithfull, B
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Ferrier, L.
Brookeborough, V. Fortescue, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Broxbourne, L. Gainsborough, E.
Butterworth, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Caccia, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Caithness, E. Halsbury, E.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Harris of High Cross, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Harvington, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hastings, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Havers, L.
Carnock, L. Hayter, L.
Cawley, L. Henley, L.
Chelwood, L. Hesketh, L.
Clitheroe, L. Hives, L.
Colwyn, L. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Hooper, B.
Cork and Orrery, E. Hylton-Foster, B.
Cottesloe, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Cowley, E. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Cox, B. Joseph, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Killearn, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Kimball, L.
King of Wartnaby, L. Renton, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Knutsford, V. Rugby, L.
Layton, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Lindsay, E. St. Davids, V.
Long, V. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
McFadzean, L. Sandford, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Seebohm, L.
Manton, L. Selborne, E.
Marley, L. Selkirk, E.
Marsh, L. Shannon, E.
Merrivale, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Middleton, L. Somers, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Morris, L.
Mottistone, L. Swansea, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Swinfen, L.
Moyne, L. Swinton, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Teviot, L.
Nelson, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
O'Brien of Lothbury, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Orkney, E. Trafford, L.
Oxfuird, V. Trefgarne, L.
Pender, L. Trumpington, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Ullswater, V.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Windlesham, L.
Porritt, L. Wise, L.
Pytn, L. Wolfson, L.
Rankeillour, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Reay, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, before the next amendment is called, I wonder whether the Government Chief Whip wishes to make a statement.

Lord Denham

My Lords, yes, I do. I expect to make a statement very shortly and I must apologise for interrupting the House in this way.

It may be for the convenience of the House to know that following discussions through the usual channels it has been decided to defer tomorrow's Report stage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill to 6th July. The Report stage of the Education Reform Bill will be continued tomorrow in its place. This extra provision of time has been made necessary because of the interest shown on all sides of' the House in yesterday's debates on religious education. I very much hope that this will enable us to get back on course and conclude the Report stage next Tuesday, as planned.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, perhaps I may thank the noble Lord for making that statement. I am sure that it is a wise decision that we should devote tomorrow to a further day's consideration of the Education Reform Bill.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I thank the Chief Whip for making that timely statement and also for the acceptance of the fact that there was a very long debate on religious education which was largely conducted between the Bishops' Bench and the Back Bench of the Conservative Party which made us all go to bed so very late last night, or rather early this morning.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, perhaps I may also thank the noble Lord for the statement. I should like to make one comment. Noble Lords who travel to this House from Scotland to discuss Scottish legislation find it extremely difficult to make their plans and complete their travel arrangements when announcements are made on a Wednesday afternoon concerning Scottish legislation on a Thursday.

Lord Denham

My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord is absolutely justified in his remark. I am extremely sorry for it and I believe that my colleagues on the usual channels will be extremely sorry too. The difficulty is that it is almost impossible to be absolutely certain about business. I apologise on behalf of the Government to any noble Lords who were interested in the original business for tomorrow. I hope that the inconvenience will not be too great. I wish to thank the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for their generous acceptance of the change of plan.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down perhaps I may ask what date has been fixed for the Housing (Scotland) Bill, if one has been fixed?

Lord Denham

Yes, my Lords, it is 6th July.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Chief Whip this. If we are meeting on Friday morning at 11 o'clock, does it mean that on Thursday 23rd June we shall finish at 11 p.m.?

Lord Denham

My Lords, when the House sits on a Friday, it is usually hoped by all sides of the House that the House will not sit too late the preceding Thursday. I should not like to be too positive about whether it is exactly 11 o'clock or whether there is a marginal variation.

Baroness Seear had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 52.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in view of the statement about the acceptance of certain aspects of the TGAT report made before the vote by the Minister, there is now no longer any need to move these amendments. As the Minister said, they are incorporated in what the noble Baroness said.

However perhaps I may briefly point out—and I do not wish to be venomous about this—that the TGAT report has been out since Christmas Eve. If the Government had been able to study it and come to the conclusions which they have now reached, it would have saved those of us on the Opposition Benches a great deal of time in preparing amendments. It would have saved the House a great deal of time in discussing those amendments.

[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I am very grateful to the House. There was a great deal of discussion at earlier stages of this Bill about testing and in particular about diagnostic testing. I am not sure—

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord to which amendment he refers.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, Amendment No. 52.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I did not move the amendment in view of what the Minister said in regard to the acceptance of the TGAT report. The Minister made it quite clear that the report incorporates teachers' assessments.

[Amendments Nos. 53 to 55 not moved.]

Lord Young of Dartington moved Amendment No. 55A:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("Provided that if the parent of any pupil requests in writing that the pupil should not be tested for attainment at any of the key stages, that pupil shall not be so tested.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment was only taken to the Table at one o'clock last night. I must apologise for having put it down so late. It was only because I was trying to keep myself awake last night that I was reading through the amendments which were going to delight us in the future, or what was then the future, and in particular the amendments on the supplementary list. I think we received it only yesterday, certainly I only received it then. I noticed that there was a new amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, which put me in mind of the amendment which I am now putting before your Lordships.

The amendment in question was to insert after Clause 109 Amendment No. 352C, which appears on page 74 of the Marshalled List that we now have. As I read it, the amendment provides that parents can, if they wish, withdraw their children from examinations. It suggested to me that if there is a case for this then there could be an equally good case, which I hope the Government will be able to accept, for allowing parents who, for one reason or another, object to their children being tested, to withdraw their children from the test.

There are a number of arguments in favour of this amendment which I shall try to express as succinctly as possible. First, there is the argument of general principle about parental choice. Parental choice should be enlarged if at all possible. Indeed, the Bill rests on that principle to quite a large extent. But it follows, as I see it, that if parents choose not to have their children tested, and that is the choice they make, then the right to exercise that choice should be honoured.

There are then a number of arguments by analogy. It is in the first place fully accepted that parents should be entitled to withdraw their children from religious education, and has been for many years. If that is the case with religious education, why is it not the case for testing? Secondly, it has always been accepted that parents should be able to withdraw their children from school altogether provided that they could supply adequate instruction at home. Thirdly, parents have some latitude about whether their children should attend classes for sex education. Finally, there is the case that I have already mentioned, which is from this very Bill itself, where if the later amendment is passed parents are to be given the right to withdraw their children from examinations if they so wish.

I do not think that it is far-fetched to think that some parents may object to testing. It may be only a small minority, but we are here to protect the interests of the minorities as well as those of the majorities. It could be the case that particular children have test nerves just as some children have examination nerves. Tests could make them so anxious, particularly at the age of seven, that their parents would rather they were not submitted to the tests.

A further case could be where children repeatedly do badly in the tests and parents feel that to submit them once again to tests at a later age would only further demoralise them. It could be that parents do not believe that the particular tests chosen are reliable and the kind of tests that should be used. There could be parents—we have heard of such parents in this Chamber during debates on the Bill—who do not believe that any children should be tested, at least at the periodic ages which are being proposed. I think myself that testing has been much overdone in the way it has been presented in the Bill.

I do not think I am exaggerating in saying that this is a matter of civil liberties as well as educational policy. In this it is somewhat like the issue which has been very much debated as regards whether testing for the AIDS virus should be made compulsory. It could be the kind of matter which, if it is not given attention in the Bill, could end in the Government being taken to the European Court. I hope that it will be possible to accept the amendment because it is very closely in line with what is proposed about examinations.

I quite appreciate that it may not be possible to say anything very firm today because of the short time that has elapsed since the amendment was put down. Marvellous as the DES is, there may not have been time to consider fully the implications of the amendment that I am proposing. However, I hope that the Minister will be able to say that an issue of importance has been raised here and that consideration will be given to it before this Bill leaves the House on Report. I further hope that at some later stage, perhaps in Clause 109, an amendment similar to the one I am proposing (if not the exact amendment) will be accepted in order to make it quite clear to this House, and through this House to the world in general, that the right of parental choice should extend to the withdrawing of children from testing if the parents think it would be in the overwhelming interests of their children to do so. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, if this amendment were accepted and if a large number of parents took advantage of it, it would destroy or remove the element of comparability from any tests. That may be a very good thing. In earlier stages of the Bill many noble Lords argued for diagnostic testing only. On that point I should like to quote very briefly a few lines sent to me by Somerset County Council. The letter stated: It is important that testing for the National Curriculum is used for diagnostic purposes only. There is concern that if it is used for comparative purposes, teachers will find themselves restricted by the tests and will endeavour only to take children to the level of the test and not beyond it, and those children not likely to reach the standard of the test may be neglected". Those are very serious words coming from a major education authority. The Minister, in replying to the previous amendment, said that results would be grouped and that there would be different kinds of tests for different kinds of children. She said that, furthermore, efforts would be made to eliminate any bias resulting from gender or ethnic background. If those kinds of things are done, how is there to be general comparability? Would it not be much simpler and better to go for diagnostic purposes only?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I wish merely to say something which I know that my noble friend Lady Hooper is too kind and gentle to say but which, having served in her capacity or something like it, I know she must be burning to say. Her job entails being on the Front Bench for perhaps 12 hours at a stretch with only a short break for dinner during which she is pestered by your Lordships, including myself, for advice and other things. She has an avalanche of amendments to be briefed on every night and every morning.

With the best will in the world, I think it is unreasonable to expect her to respond in any constructive way, on top of all that, to amendments tabled after midnight the night before, however important. I hope that your Lordships will have a little sympathy for the noble Baroness, who is carrying the heat of the day for a great length of time with extreme restraint and great lucidity and not place the last straw on the camel's back.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I wish to support the noble Baroness. I cannot understand this widespread horror of testing of children. These tests are not intended to be of the nature of examinations. They are not tests which a child either fails or passes. They are merely indications to show to what degree a child has taken in what he has been taught. They are for the information of teachers and parents. I cannot see that there is anything of which either the child, the parents or the teacher should be afraid.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I am sorry if it is felt that the Minister is unable to comment on this amendment. I am somewhat surprised because the Minister has usually coped extremely well on this and all other matters. I certainly wish to comment on the amendment because everything that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, does is extremely interesting. It would be a pity to let it go without responding.

However, I am bound to say that I think the noble Lord has got somewhat the wrong end of the stick. I do not see the equivalent between the parental view that they would like to be able to opt out of examinations and the view that they would like to be able to opt out of diagnostic testing. I concentrate on the latter because, as I understand the matter—those of us on this side of the House are not opposed to diagnostic testing—it would be regarded as an integral part of the education process. It is meant to be constructive and helpful. I certainly take the view that it would be very strange for anybody interested in education to say that a parent could opt out of this form of testing.

If I may just for a moment delay the proceedings, I should say that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, draws our attention to two matters. I should not regard it as unreasonable that a parent should want his child to opt out of a specific subject. Indeed, in a system of genuine freedom of choice—which this system is not; and it is absurd ever to portray it as such—a parent could say, "I do not want my child to do that subject". It would therefore follow that there was no testing on that subject. The freedom of choice issue relates to a choice of subject rather than a choice of diagnostic testing.

I wish to go further because I am still puzzled by all the other variations of testing which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has raised. I might well say, if my child were being used as material, as it were, in order to test a school, that I had a conscientious objection and that I did not want my child to be used for that purpose. However, that is not the diagnostic testing we are discussing.

The noble Lord, Lord Young, has recognised that raising a fundamental matter such as this at a late stage makes it difficult to respond. He put his finger on the freedom of choice question. However, I believe we must accept that we have been through that matter on several earlier occasions as regards the Bill. It is an interesting and important area; it is a pity that we do not have more time to deal with it.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I have a point regarding the drafting of the amendment which I think is probably fatal to it in any case. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, seems to assume that all children are the children of one-parent families. He refers in the amendment to "the parent of any pupil". Surely, if he is trying to legislate, he should either say "parents" or "a parent". It is not to be assumed even nowadays that there are no children who are the children of married couples.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, it may be that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, was thinking of the Interpretation Act which says that the singular includes the plural.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, there is no reason why the amendment should not be correctly drafted rather than relying on the Interpretation Act. The noble Lord should rely on accurate drafting. He should have said "parents" if that was what he meant, or "a parent" if that was what he meant. The Interpretation Act, however, ingeniously deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, does not let him off that hook.

Viscount Eccles

My Lords, if children are not to be tested, how can we test the teachers? Surely that is part of the whole process. Secondly, what happens if a little rascal organises a gang of boys to go to their parents and say, "Let's get out of this"? Very serious disciplinary problems might result.

Lord Young of Dartington

My Lords, might I say—

Lord Boyd-Carpenter


Baroness Fisher of Rednal

This is a point of order.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, perhaps I may thank my noble friend Lord Elton for his kind-hearted intervention since it gives me the opportunity to say that the burden that I carry, such as it is, is shared by the officials who support me. I wish these remarks to be conveyed to them. Nevertheless, I shall attempt to answer the amendment.

I believe that the amendment does much more than remove the comparability which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, suggested. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Peston, I believe that it may derive from a basic misunderstanding of the assessment arrangements which are proposed. The system which I described in my response to Amendment No. 51 will be founded on the fundamental principles stated by the Task Group on Assessment and Testing; namely, that assessment should be an integral part of the education process, continually providing both feedback and feedforward for teachers. In other words, the assessment which we envisage will be primarily formative in nature, especially at the first three key stages, and is therefore intended to help pupils, teachers and parents alike by identifying both the positive achievements and the weaknesses of pupils—what they know and can do—so that teachers can plan the next steps in their education. That is as important to teachers as it is to all of us to know how well teachers are doing. That relates to the point made by my noble friend Lord Eccles.

Testing associated with that kind of assessment will not only take the form of nationally prescribed external tests but will also take the form, as it does now, of classroom tests devised by teachers to check week by week on the progress of each pupil. In that sense, parents have never had the right to withdraw their children from procedures which have always been a fundamental part of the education process in our schools. It is clear that such assessment is an integral part of teaching.

The national external tests will be designed as an extension of that process, not to categorise pupils on a pass-fail basis but to provide useful information both for them and for those with their educational interests at heart. I am sure that when parents understand that they will realise that it would actually harm the educational prospects of their child if he or she were not allowed to participate fully in the national assessment process. It is worth adding—I know that many people are worried by the intention to publish aggregated national asessment results—that the results of individual pupils will be kept confidential in all cases.

The noble Lord also referred to specific cases of test nerves. The Bill contains provisions in Clauses 12 and 14 that enable exceptions to be made in certain circumstances for particular children. Therefore, the amendment is unnecessary in that type of situation. Given that explanation, I trust that the noble Lord will understand that I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Young of Dartington

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply, particularly given the shortage of time. Perhaps I may say a brief word about some of the points made in the debate. In referring to "the parent", which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, objected to, I am following the precedent of the later amendment which refers to "the parent". I believe that what is implied is that either of the parents could object by requesting in writing that the child should not be submitted to testing. I do not believe that it is implied that we are only speaking of single-parent families but rather that the right attaches to both parents.

The important issue, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and by the noble Baroness, is to what extent individual interests and choices should be given weight. The arguments for having diagnostic testing and for making it general are very strong. However, where there is a conflict between the general interest and the individual interest, the individual interest ought always—or almost always—to prevail. If the parents, after they have heard the arguments presented to them by teachers in favour of their children participating in testing, still think that it would be wrong for their children to be submitted to testing, the parents' decision should be the final one. I agree that this is too important a matter to expect a decision at this stage of the Bill. While expressing the hope that it will be discussed on Clause 109, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("( ) No Order made under subsection (2) above shall apply to any pupil to the extent that it is incompatible with any work which he is undertaking under the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a probing amendment which seeks clarification. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that attainment targets, programmes of study and assessment arrangements do not prevent pupils from following a TVEI curriculum. I think that we have all been rather at a loss to know what exactly was to happen under the new arrangements about those children undergoing TVEI at their schools. TVEI was given very little attention at Committee stage. There was a reference on 3rd May by the Minister to the implementation of the national curriculum: We amended the Bill in another place to state that orders to be laid before Parliament to implement the national curriculum cannot themselves determine the time to be allocated to any one subject, nor the way in which it is to be timetabled; for example, whether in combination with other subjects, as a distinct module in a TVEI course, or as an individual examination subject—again leaving a lot to the professional judgment of teachers".—[Official Report, 3/5/88; col. 484]. Of course it was a relief to know that there would not be a detailed prescription of time. However, the Minister's statement still did not make it quite clear how the subjects which were to be the foundation and core subjects in the national curriculum were to be taught if a young person was following the very different TVEI course. The Minister's comment seemed to imply that TVEI is compatible with the national curriculum.

Later in the debate my noble friend Lady Blackstone raised the issue of how TVEI would fit into the national curriculum. She said: I should like to ask what will happen to important initiatives such as TVEI in a prescribed curriculum of this kind. I believe there is a real danger that such initiatives will be pushed out. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, when he was chairman of the MSC, along with the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, spent a great deal of time and effort getting TVEI off the ground. Indeed, we have spent £1 billion on the initiative since it was first introduced. I am sure that both will be somewhat concerned that heads, in their efforts to meet the new directives of the Secretary of State for Education, will have extreme difficulty in finding both resources and space for initiatives such as TVEI".—[Official Report, 3/5/88; col. 529.] I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, is here and I hope that perhaps he may be able to comment during the debate on the amendment. There was no ministerial response to my noble friend's question other than a reference to the design and technology working party which had just been set up and that that is due to report next year.

The director of education programmes of the Training Commission, Anne Jones, who has overall responsibility for TVEI within her directorate, takes the view that TVEI will fit into the national curriculum. However, there is no clear evidence that that is the case. Indeed the evidence tends to point in the opposite direction.

The TVEI initiative launched in 1982 can be seen as having originated in the great debate speech by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, in the 1970s when he made his Ruskin speech. The demand was made for a curriculum more relevant to the needs of industry. The TVEI initiative was born out of the need to create a more relevant curriculum for certain young people. It was designed to be pre-vocational. It was explicitly designed for the final years of secondary education, namely the 14 to 18 age range. As far as I can see the task group plans take us up to 16 only. How does the 14 to 16 part of the key stage fit in with the 14 to 18 TVEI?

The national curriculum offers a much more academic curriculum. As I say, it is intended to cover the five to 16 age range although it certainly gives the impression of being more of a secondary than a primary curriculum structure. TVEI curricula, I understand, vary considerably but they tend to concentrate on technical subjects and take up a very considerable proportion of the curriculum. Certainly in those schools in which I have seen it in operation it seems to occupy a vast proportion of the time. The curricula provide pupils with various options which fit in with the normal system of option choices at 14. Since the national curriculum will presumably alter the way in which option systems work at 14, it is again not clear how TVEI will fit in. Without having a clear idea about the nature of the programmes of study in particular it is difficult to say whether TVEI will present problems. We want to press the Government further on precisely how that will all be fitted in.

One further point which I think that it is worth making is the relationship between the TVEI initiative and the city technology colleges. When TVEI was first proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Young, the idea was to set up separate schools. They would have been similar to the CTCs which were proposed several years later by Mr. Baker. At the time there was a great deal of opposition to TVEI so that the schools idea was dropped. Now the CTC proposals have developed out of the TVEI scheme. It is worth noting that CTCs will not be expected to follow the national curriculum.

In its booklet on the Bill Education Reform (The Government's Proposals for Schools) the DES explains that: It will be a condition of grant paid to City Technology Colleges that they follow the substance of the National Curriculum", whatever "the substance" may mean. Perhaps we can have clarification of that point. What the Bill actually says in Clause 98 in relation to the curriculum of CTCs is that such schools must have: a broad curriculum with an emphasis on science and technology".

It is clear that CTCs are not to be expected to follow the curriculum, presumably because the Government do not consider that it would be appropriate for them to do so. How then is the TVEI curriculum different, and why do the Government seem to take the view that TVEI will fit effectively with the national curriculum? I hope that we shall have a very clear explanation from the Minister because I think that everyone wishes to be enlightened on that point. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I agree at least with the concern of the noble Baroness that it is absolutely essential that whatever comes out of this Bill should be compatible with that very successful innovation in our schools, TVEI.

I should like to revert to the numerous statements now being made not only by my noble friend the Minister in this House but also by her colleagues in the other place about two aspects of the Bill. One aspect is the emphasis on flexibility. There will be flexibility in the approach to teaching the national curriculum to our children. The second, which of course is very important, is a cross-curricular approach, which again has been reiterated time and time again. Looking across the subjects it is easy to find examples—maths, science, English and communication skills and art are just four examples of subjects which will impact on TVEI or on which TVEI will impact. I think that so long as the Government stick with both the cross-curricular and flexibility of approach in teaching those subjects nothing is incompatible. While I sympathise with this amendment, I regard it as entirely superfluous. That view is confirmed by what has been said so far and what I am sure my noble friend the Minister will say in her reply.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, this amendment seeks to lay upon the Secretary of State the duty to ensure that no orders issued to define the national curriculum conflict with the demands that may be made upon a pupil by TVEI.

I believe that to attempt to lay such a requirement upon the Secretary of State reveals a misunderstanding of the nature of TVEI. It cannot conflict directly with the national curriculum because, unlike the constituent part of the national curriculum, it represents not an area of the curriculum to be studied but a means of approach to that curriculum. It will be the national curriculum that defines the framework within which TVEI operates, as the new TVEI criteria make clear in stipulating that each pupil's programme from 14 to 16 should, once the Bill receives Royal Assent, be designed to cover all the core and other foundation subjects, as well as a number of other desirable topics and themes. To make the national curriculum wait upon TVEI, the content upon the means of delivery, would be to put the cart before the horse. It would also put statutory provisions, subject to Parliament's scrutiny and approval, at the mercy of a non-statutory initiative whose criteria are determined by government without such formal checks and balances.

It is not envisaged that the national curriculum will cause major changes to TVEI, as I assured the House yesterday and indeed as my noble friend Lady Blatch has reiterated today. The Education Reform Bill requires the curriculum to prepare pupils, for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life", and fostering economic awareness and preparation for employment have an important role to play. Within the framework of the national curriculum, the funding and expertise that TVEI provides should help to ensure that many practical, vocational and technical elements are properly represented in every student's education. The aims both of the national curriculum and of TVEI are to ensure that pupils are properly prepared for adult life, including work and the wider responsibilities of citizenship; to this end the Department of Education and Science and the Manpower Services Commission—the Training Commission as it is now called—liaise closely on the TVEI programme and will continue to do so.

Until we have the reports and recommendations of the working groups we cannot of course tell the noble Baroness precisely how TVEI will fit in, as she asked, but, as again I said yesterday, it is anticipated that there should be no difficulty in combining TVEI with the proposals on the national curriculum in view of the flexibility that has been built in.

So far as concerns CTCs, which again were the subject of a specific question raised by the noble Baroness, they will be expected to follow the substance of the national curriculum as a condition of grant. There is of course a distinction, in that CTCs are independent schools and we believe that it would be wrong to place a stautory requirement on them which is similar to that imposed on the county voluntary and grant-maintained schools, since they are in the independent sector.

In the light of that explanation of the approach of TVEI, which is fully compatible with the proposals of the national curriculum, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I believe that I am permitted to ask a question for clarification after the Minister has spoken. When we discussed this previously, I understood that all testing of all subjects in the national curriculum was to continue until the age of 16. If that is so, will the testing be at the same standard for all subjects? As I understand it, TVEI puts a great deal more emphasis on certain subjects than it does on others. That is the point of it being TVEI.

Therefore if pupils are specialising in one subject more than another it would be unreasonable to expect them to reach a common standard in all those subjects. Is the examination to be adjusted? if not, I do not see how what the Minister says can be achieved and that TVEI can in fact be accommodated within the framework of the national curriculum. Can she explain?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I believe that this point was raised yesterday in the course of the debate. If the noble Baroness is speaking specifically about the school-leaving age of 16, I said then that we anticipated that the core subjects would be followed in most cases to GCSE level; the other foundation subjects would not necessarily all be taken to that level but would be to various levels of attainment within the spectrum permitted under the TGAT arrangements, so that it would be possible for additional flexibility to be built in in the fourth and fifth years. I believe that this covers the point on TVEI that was raised by the noble Baroness.

Baroness David

My Lords, I was rather mystified by one comment that the Minister made at the end of her remarks to the effect that CTCs would only have to follow the substance of the national curriculum—I am not quite sure what the substance may be—because they were independent schools. Well, grant-maintained schools will be independent schools but they also have to follow the national curriculum.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I must correct that impression. Grant-maintained schools will not be independent schools. They will still he part of the maintained sector. Funding will simply come from central government rather than local government.

Baroness David

My Lords, the funding will come from the same source. The CTCs will have to be funded by the DES just as the grant-maintained schools are funded. There will not be enough coming from private industry to do the funding as well as the initial setting up and there does not even seem to be enough for the initial setting up anyway.

I thank the Minister for her reply. I shall need to read it carefully in order to ensure that I have understood all of it. I still find it extremely hard to believe that with the concentration on technological subjects that TVEI demands, there can possibly be time for all the 10 core and foundation subjects. However, as I said, this amendment was a probing amendment and so, having probed, I shall read the response very carefully and hope that I shall be a little more enlightened than I am at the moment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 57:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("(2A) No Order shall be made in respect of any subject in relation to the third or fourth key stage under subsection (2)(c) above unless a working group, established by the Secretary of State to advise him on the implementation of the National Curriculum, in respect of that subject, has reported with recommendations as to the relationship of the proposed assessment arrangements in that subject during the fourth key stage and the General Certificate of Secondary Education. (2B) Before making any Order to which subsection (2A) above applies, the Secretary of State shall refer the recommendations of consultation to the National Curriculum Council, the School Examinations and Assessment Council, the local authority associations and such other bodies and organisations as he considers appropriate.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a very similar amendment which again is probing in order to try to discover how exactly the national curriculum will fit in with the GCSE. At moments we have come across this matter already and we understand that it will be expected to fit in. However, we are still not quite sure how there will be time. We know that to do six subjects at GCSE is very time consuming and we have heard a good deal about that in the course of this summer. However, if the standards will be different for those subjects and the subjects which are not being taken but which are in the national curriculum, of course that may give some explanation. I still think that it will lead to a very crowded programme for those two years.

The first part of the amendment specifically prevents an overlap between existing areas of the GCSE and the incoming national curriculum in any particular subject. That is important for a number of reasons: to avoid further upheaval in the GCSE, which has been so recently established at considerable cost in terms of resources and teacher time. That point was stressed particularly by the TGAT report, which stated in Recommendation 24 that the GCSE should be retained at the moment in its present form. Paragraph 107 of the report described the GCSE as a: major educational innovation which has led to considerable upheaval in the secondary school system: teachers need a period of stability to come to terms with these changes". The recommendations of the report did not go beyond the medium term in respect of the future of the GCSE, although the group's concern at the need to bring the national curriculum into line with aspects of the GCSE system from the earlier stages onwards is clear from the terms of the report.

Pupils who will be studying for the GCSE in the early years of the implementation of the national curriculum at the fourth key stage need to know at the outset of their course what they will be expected to do, and by when. The rather ragged process of introduction of the national curriculum planned by the Government may leave considerable areas of uncertainty, both for legislators and in the public mind generally. It would be grossly unfair if a student who was studying French at GCSE level discovered at age 15 that different requirements were to be imposed in relation to the course which he was half way through completing.

There is a further argument in respect of those pupils who may wish to study for a substantial number of GCSE subjects which some pupils do—perhaps six, seven or eight subjects—for whom certain aspects of the national curriculum may simply be too great a burden to bear. This would apply both in respect of the subjects for which they were studying for GCSE and also potentially in other subjects falling within the foundation list. Although the amendment does not specifically exempt pupils studying GCSE at a substantial level from other areas of the curriculum, this point could be usefully commented upon by Ministers. A pupil talented, for example, in languages or literature may find the need also to study geography or history a positive disincentive to undertaking serious work to public examination standards.

At the very least it seems plain that a pupil studying the GCSE in a particular subject should not have to take on board additional areas of the subject which may be specified by the national curriculum but not covered by the present GCSE. The argument relates not merely to 14 to 16 year-olds but also the 11 to 14 year-old age group which may be set upon courses of study under the national curriculum which will not be continued under the GCSE or, conversely, arrive at the age of 14 ill-prepared for the GCSE.

Much of this difficulty could be resolved if the Government were far more specific than they have been to date about the precise timetable and approach to be adopted in introducing the various stages of the curriculum. The little that they have said to date removes the fear that the curriculum will be introduced gradually up to the age of 14, although not in any sequential order by age, and that the curriculum for the 14 to 16 year-old age group will need to be changed at a later date to meet the demands of the earlier years.

A considerable political debate about the nature and the standard of the GCSE underlines the basic equivocation in the Government's position; namely is the national curriculum for secondary pupils to be modelled largely on the pattern of the GCSE which the pupils will do later in their years or will the GCSE be altered to fit in with the new pattern of the national curriculum? The Government have sought to avoid this question for fear of promoting criticism from their own supporters about the nature of the GCSE. From the limited comments of Ministers the fears of educationists would appear to have some foundation that the national curriculum will be used as a covert means of altering GCSE in an unwelcome direction.

The second part of the amendment exempts the brighter child who has completed GCSE at an early age from having to return to national curriculum-dictated study in that subject in his or her last year at school. The amendment would appear to be extremely reasonable and indeed operate as an incentive to high flyers to achieve success in public examinations early. It may be thought to fit in with the Government's overall approach in offering opportunities to the brighter pupil. It would be interesting to hear whether the Government believe that there is any good reason why this part at least of the amendment should not be accepted. I beg to move.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I feel that this is a necessary amendment. When reading the Bill as it stands, it states: The Secretary of State may by order specify in relation to each of the foundation subjects (a) such attainment targets; (b) such programmes of study; and (c) such assessment arrangements, as he considers appropriate for that subject". How can he know what is appropriate for every single individual child in the country? He cannot possibly. No one single human being could possibly know that. The amendment recommends that a working group be established by the Secretary of State to advise him. Although I believe that the recommendation in the amendment does not go very far, it at least puts some brake on the absolute power that the Secretary of State has given to himself. I said during Committee stage that the Secretary of State has given himself individually far too much power in this Bill. I feel that this is an amendment which should be accepted.

Lord Peston

My Lords, perhaps I may add a few points on the first half of the amendment to indicate some worries. One accepts that assessment is different from examination. I do not think that we need argue about that. If I was a parent with children at school I should be worried at the enormous burden that seems to be building up for young people with assessments of various kinds and GCSE. In due course I shall comment about A-level also. Perhaps the Minister will go to some trouble to reassure us, and those outside who are parents, that they can be confident that the different arrangements which are being introduced will not interact in a detrimental way and that the concentration on assessment and preparation for GCSE and other matters cannot do any harm.

This amendment enlarges the range of advice and says that the Secretary of State ought to act with a modicum of care. I am aware that the noble Baroness will say that we can always assume that he will. Having some experience of Secretaries of State, I do not find that a wholly compelling argument. However, that is en passant. There are genuine worries about this matter. The least we can do in your Lordships' House is to place on record our fears in these matters so that as these matters emerge, people who occasionally look at our debates can take these fears into account as the position is developing. It is an important amendment. I hope for some reassurance from the Minister.

Baroness Young

My Lords, perhaps I may comment on the amendment. There is a complete chapter in the publication of the Task Group on Assessment and Testing devoted to the relationship between the GCSE examination and assessments. Clearly this needs to be worked out. However, I do not agree altogether with the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, about this being a lot for children to undertake. Although the assumption has been throughout the discussion on this Bill that children will suffer a great deal from all this, in my experience children rather like to feel that they have accomplished something. Quite clearly, as there will be 10 levels at each grade of assessment, they will accomplish the level at which they should accomplish it. This could be a great incentive to children to go on to the next stage. We do not need to feel that this is an enormous burden on children.

I take the point that there is a limit to the numbers of tests and examinations in one year. My understanding is that this matter is being very carefully considered so that there is no conflict between the two.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I echo the last remark of my noble friend Lady Young and emphasise what she said about the careful consideration that has been given in this matter and the intention that there should be no conflict.

We expect that GCSE will be the main vehicle of assessment at 16, especially in the core subjects. However, where pupils take national assessment tests instead of GCSE in some of the other foundation subjects, we generally expect these to be simpler and less demanding in nature than GCSE. There will obviously need to be a basis of comparison with GCSE gradings, but the Task Group on Assessment and Testing advise that it would not be possible for the subject working groups to make recommendations on this since there is too little evidence as yet about the distribution of performance at age 16 in GCSE. We shall therefore look to the Secondary Education Advisory Council (SEAC) to advise on this on the basis of further experience with GCSE. In fact TGAT advised us to make no changes to GCSE at the moment—that is for the next four to five years. That of course fits with government intentions. SEAC will advise, review and revise syllabuses.

We regard this as a technical matter, to be dealt with by those with the appropriate expertise. I am sure that that will be welcomed by noble Lords on the Benches opposite. I see no advantage in including a reference to it in orders governing the assessment arrangements, nor in submitting proposals for grading equivalence to consultation. On that basis. I trust that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw what I believe she said was essentially a probing amendment.

6 p.m.

Baroness David

Yes, indeed, my Lords. I thank the Minister for her explanation, which I shall read with interest. I hope that I am fully enlightened when I have done so. I believe I understand what she was saying—that it is a matter that has caused a good deal of anxiety in a great many quarters. I am glad that we now have in Hansard something which we and other people can read and study. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("(2A) In making any order under subsection (2) above in relation to pupils in the final key stage, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the major recommendations of the Report "Advancing A Levels".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is about A-levels, which we have not said a great deal about. I want to make some remarks of an educational nature. I hope I may be forgiven for doing so occasionally on a Bill that is called the Education Reform Bill! I shall concentrate on the subjects that I know about. I believe that A-levels are of an extraordinarily high academic standard. In my own subject of economics I would imagine, broad brush, that an A-level student with a grade B probably knows as much economics as I knew by the end of the second year when I was in university some 30 years ago. The standard is astonishingly high.

The point I make and the points that Professor Higginson and his committee seem to be making I hesitate to say it because I know of the kind of knee jerk reactions that people have, especially those who know nothing about education—is that the standard is not only extraordinarily high but that it is too high. My students come to me knowing far too much economics and far too little of lots of other subjects. In other words, the basic issue here is breadth versus excessive depth. I know why school teachers achieve these standards. It is because they too are very ambitious. Speaking of my own subject which I know about, and of my students and other people's students, I find they are keen to set very high levels of academic achievement. The problem is that they are too keen.

It seems to me that in this major Bill, which is our only opportunity to talk about fundamentals in education for quite a long time, it would be a mistake not to remark on the A-level question. I have chosen this opportunity to draw it to your Lordships' attention.

It seems to me that most of our interest ends at the final key stage when we were discussing GCE and all that and the students then go on to A-level. Many of us want more students to go on to A-level and on to higher education. I believe it would be a pity if that kind of expansion took place within the narrow confines of the two Bs at A-level approach that we have, or at the most three. That is a great pity. It is a wasted opportunity. I am not too happy to say what I am saying here, but I was genuinely surprised by the response of the Secretary of State to the Higginson Committee. I am asking the noble Baroness to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to at least one person's opinion—perhaps others with academic experience will speak.

The Secretary of State commissioned the Higginson report. To my reading of it that report was really very sensible, based on experience and a deep understanding on the nature of the problem. I hope that what we seem to read in the papers—which I believe is a rather premature response of a more negative kind to that report—was a misunderstanding, not to put too fine a point on it, and that the Secretary of State will be fully apprised of the need for a broader A-level curriculum.

I shall not delay your Lordships by arguing at length about what I regard as the enormous economic benefits from our students having a broader range and knowing more subjects than the present narrow range. There are benefits, and if we had more time I should enlarge on them.

My main point is to probe. I shall not divide the House on an issue of this kind but I wish to draw the noble Baroness out on this matter. I hope that it is a matter that the Department will take a little more seriously and positively than it seems to have done in the past week. In due course perhaps we can return to this subject when we are not discussing the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Trafford

My Lords, it is unusual for me to be able to agree with so much of what has been said from the other side of the House, but on this occasion I really do. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, is absolutely correct in saying that the breadth of A-levels should be expanded and that the very high concentration that is now put into what we call the two Bs and an A result is incorrect. If I may use a metaphor, one now sees the almost hot-house product, brilliant in two fields and virtually ignorant in many others. I hope that as a result of the other changes in the Bill this will tend to change and that there will be a much broader base from which to develop A-levels and the breadth of the A-level syllabus.

We all speak about those parts of the education system that we know most about, but I have been particularly struck over the past two years with the very high but very narrow quality of all those entering medicine. When we come to teach these students we find that they are brilliant. As the noble Lord said, his students today know more economics than he did when he was in the second year at university. I do not think I ever knew as much physics as the average medical student knows when he arrives today.

What worries me is that he knows nothing else. I should like to see a much broader field at the A-level stage, but the risk is that we might then press the children that much harder to try to produce five results at the same level at which we now produce three. I do not wish to detain the House, but I merely suggest to the noble Lord that there is support elsewhere for some of the educational remarks he made.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I should like briefly to support what has already been said on this amendment. It is now at least 20 years since we first heard criticisms about the narrowness of our sixth-form education in this country. I should like to point out particularly how narrow it is compared with that of all our neighbours and competitors. There is no other country which educates its able 16 to 19 year-olds in such an extraordinarily narrow and overspecialised way.

I should also like to point out that for some time the universities dragged their feet in this respect. If we go back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were a number of different proposals for reform that came from the schools council and other bodies, university science departments in particular, which were sometimes heard to say that they wanted people who had already been educated to a very high level in their own specialised fields.

That is never said now. There has been a major change of view. It is true that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, and indeed those who are involved in the CNAA—everybody at the higher education end who is receiving these young people—would much prefer them to come with a broader base than is the case at present.

Lord Joseph

My Lords, before my noble friend replies, I suggest that one of the ways the Government could meet the requirement of the universities and broaden A-levels would be to expand the number of hours per week or weeks per year in which schools operate their studies. We have far fewer hours per year as a requirement in education than our main European competitors and I hope that my noble friend will take that possibility into account.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for introducing the amendment and also for the fact that we have his indirect support for the broad and balanced approach to the national curriculum. That applies also to other noble Lords who have contributed. In saying that what he wants is a statement from the Government as to their intentions the noble Lord will not be disappointed. We do not believe that the amendment is necessary because, in making orders under Clause 4, we shall need to take account of many things. However, we do not intend to specify them all now.

The Government are in full agreement with the Higginson Committee on the key principle of broadening the sixth-form curriculum, and have taken practical steps already to bring this about through the introduction of AS-levels. We are firmly committed to this development, and want to see many more young people having the opportunity to take some AS-levels in addition to A-levels. We are pleased that about half of schools and colleges will be offering courses at AS-level next year.

Where the Government disagree with the Higginson Committee is on the proposal to achieve breadth by a substantial streamlining of A-level syllabuses. The Government do not believe that it is desirable or practicable to streamline all A-level syllabuses by reducing the amount of time for teaching them and their factual content. We do not believe that this can be achieved without loss of standards. A-levels are a tried and tested system which has the confidence of higher education, employers, schools, parents and the pupils themselves. We cannot afford to put at risk the very high standards which A-levels at present guarantee and to which the Government are committed,as they made clear when they set up the committee.

Higher education and industry want broadening, and AS-levels will give them that. Young people can put together a four or even five-subject programme combining A- and AS-levels. More usually, they will take one or two AS-levels in addition to, or in place of, one A-level. So young scientists will be able to take a modern language, or a humanities student may take mathematics or statistics at the different level. Young people in schools and colleges are doing so now and have told us that they enjoy the opportunity to broaden their study in this way. It is now up to higher education to show its commitment to broadening by accepting candidates with AS-levels on to their courses without discrimination. The challenge is there. Schools and colleges will welcome the clear lead they have now been given to provide the courses.

I have seen some comment to the effect that Higginson's five-subject programme would lead to an increase in the number of candidates going on to higher education. This is a misconception: Higginson is quite clear on the point. A-levels, even streamlined A-levels, are for pupils of the highest ability. The proposals were not intended to change the nature of the A-level cohort as some have suggested. The Government agree that A-levels must continue to stretch those of the highest ability.

The committee has, as it was asked, produced general principles for A-levels in Chapter 2 of the report, and we have broadly welcomed these. The ongoing process of developing and revising new syllabuses will take account of these, but we do not consider it necessary or desirable to engage in an overhaul of all syllabuses at the present time. To do so would place too great a burden on the examination system and the schools at a time when they are coping with other fundamental changes as a result of our policies for GCSE and national curriculum assessment, as we are often reminded.

I know that concern has been expressed that young people who have become used to the teaching and learning approaches of GCSE may find it difficult to cope with the co-called "old-fashioned" A-levels. This is to misunderstand the nature of A-levels and GCSE. Despite what we hear, A-levels are developing all the time. Some well-tried syllabuses already incorporate an active approach to learning. Her Majesty's Inspectorate tell us that some of the best quality A-level teaching lays stress on developing oral and practical skills and on the understanding and application of knowledge and that it reaches very high standards of achievement. So the ongoing process of developing and revising syllabuses will take account of best practice, and will have the Higginson principles as a guide.

It has been useful to hear the views advanced in this short debate, not least the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Joseph. However, I have stated the Government's case.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her answer. It is a trifle controversial but I can save my response for a later occasion when we have finished with the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("(2A) An order under subsection (2)(c) above relating to pupils in the final key stage shall include provision for the introduction of pupil profiles covering all aspects of the performance at school of a pupil, including the results in respect of that pupil of any assessment carried out in accordance with the order.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords I was rather nervous about speaking to this amendment. I am no longer because the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, who was Secretary of State during some of these events, is not present. I see however that the noble Lord has re-entered the Chamber; so I am nervous once again.

I should like to give the following quotation: Boys and girls who stay at school until they are 16 may reasonably look for some record of achievement when they leave". It comes from the Newsome Report published in 1963. As a result, it was, I believe, in 1984 that the Government set up a steering committee to oversee the development of the idea by providing every school boy and girl with such a record on leaving school. The steering committee is to report finally in the autumn of 1988.

The purposes of a record of achievement are four-fold. I shall read a few brief excerpts. The first is that it is a recognition of achievement, not just in terms of public examinations but in other ways as well". It was to show the, all-round potential of…pupils". The document of record, should provide a more rounded picture of candidates for jobs or courses than can be provided by a list of examination results, thus helping potential users to decide how candidates could best be employed, or for which jobs, training schemes or courses they are likely to be suitable". A further excerpt states: At central government level it will be important that a clear and continued commitment be given to records of achievement and to their integration with other intitiatives such as GCSE, other examinations pre- and post-16, and the national curriculum. The national priorities selected for in-service training provide a means of demonstrating this commitment".

There is no reference in the Bill to that excellent initiative; it appears to have been forgotten. It is rather like the conflicting aims and claims of the national curriculum assessments and the GCSE assessments about which we have been talking this afternoon, and with regard to the curriculum, of the responsibilities of local authorities, governing bodies and head teachers as laid down in the Education Act 1986 and those of the Secretary of State in the current Bill. I wonder whether in drafting the present Bill the Government have sufficiently thought about the matter.

The amendment seeks to state that national curriculum assessments should form part of a record of achievement. As I have shown by my quotations it is an overall estimate of a young person's achievement at school, not confined to examination results but an all-round picture of that person. That would be a useful document for employers. It would be a fairer and more just and civilised estimate than a bare, bold account of the examinations that the person had passed or failed. I beg to move.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I should like to say a few brief words in support of this amendment. I assume that in a well-run school material for a profile would be there anyway. The idea of a profile seems to be intrinsic to education and to helping the pupil. There are two questions which arise. The first is whether it requires formalising; in other words that there should not just be a few pieces of paper stuck together but there should be a proper profile worked out. The second is whether it should be universal and, if universal, whether this is the time to introduce it.

I belong to the school of thought which believes that a well rounded pupil is what we want and that a profile is closer to the assessment of a well rounded pupil than a simple assessment test. There is a very good intellectual case to be made for the profile and, indeed, noble Lords on all sides of the House have made that case. In supporting the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, I hope that to some extent we are pushing at an open door.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the introduction of records of achievement for all pupils in secondary education is already government policy. We have set the objective of introducing by 1990 arrangements under which all school-leavers will have such records or profiles. Pilot work has been under way in nine schemes, involving 22 local education authorities throughout England and Wales, over the past three years and a national steering committee has been asked to report to the Secretary of State this autumn. It will offer draft national guidelines in the light of the experience gained in the pilot schemes under which all school-leavers will have records of achievement. This report will be published.

One of the issues on which the committee will be offering advice is the scope and coverage of records of achievement. It would be quite unacceptable, and in practice unworkable, to lay a duty on schools to report on all aspects of pupil's performance. This is altogether too general and sweeping a requirement. We shall be looking very carefully at the committee's advice on this and all other aspects of recording pupils' achievements before we take decisions on the national introduction of records of achievement.

The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, asked me specifically about records of achievement and reporting on assessment. TGAT recommended that records of achievement should be used to report the results of national curriculum assessment as well as other matters. Subject to advice from the steering committee on records of achievement, the Government endorse that. Regulations made under Clause 17 of the Bill can be used to ensure the use of records. Provisions have deliberately been drafted widely enough to cover such records of an all round picture of a pupil's achievements at school. Therefore, I believe that this amendment is somewhat premature and unnecessary and I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply, which is to some extent reassuring and encouraging. I am glad that we have talked briefly about this because records of achievement are not mentioned in the Bill. One has the feeling that what happened two, three of five years ago has a tendency to be forgotten. However, it obviously has not been forgotten. The initiative is proceeding and I hope that we shall see good results in due course. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 60:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("(2A) No order made under subsection (2) above shall apply to any pupil during the key stage in which he is preparing for a public examination, if in the opinion of the head teacher, compliance therewith might diminish his chances of success in that examination.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am afraid that your Lordships will have to listen to me again, but I shall be brief because a great deal of this has already been discussed.

I am very concerned about the stress that young people may undergo as a result of the conflicting pressures of the national curriculum, GCSE, TVEI and all these other demands which are being made on them. Of course the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is right when she says that young people must be challenged and that they appreciate and respond to that challenge.

However, it is the business of teachers to see to it that the challenge is right. If the challenge is too little then one receives nothing from the pupil; if it is too great it breaks him. It has to be right. I feel that if a young person is taking six or seven subjects at GCSE and still being, as he or she may call it, bugged by tests in the national curriculum in subjects which they are not taking, it is rather like fighting a war on two fronts. That sort of conflict can be extremely damaging. I cannot believe that that is in their best interests.

Perhaps I may give two concrete examples to make the matter seem a little more alive. There might be a boy of 14 who is a little dyslexic. He is not greatly so and it has not been a great handicap. However, he suffers a little in that way but he has a gift for art, which is very often the case. He is all set for graphic design, which is what he wants to do when he leaves school. He needs much extra English because his English is weak. Therefore, when he arrives at the age to take his GCSE exams he will be taking art and design, English language, English literature, maths, history, geography and CDT. Does he really also have to satisfy teachers on attainment targets on programmes of study in science and a second language? If so, the demands may well be damaging to his GCSE results.

There might be a girl aged 16 who wants to be a doctor. In GCSE she is taking maths, biology, physics, chemistry, English language, English literature, music, for which she has a talent, and French; that is eight subjects. Does she really have to continue to be tested in history and geography as well as continuing to take art and PE even though those subjects will not be assessed?

On paper that can be fitted into the time available on the timetable, but that is not the only consideration. I should like to feel that each case of this sort could be individually considered. That is a matter which can only be decided at school level by the head teacher who knows the child concerned. It cannot be done by the governing body. How can the governing body know every child in the school? Still less can it be done at county hall or by the Secretary of State, who might as well be on the moon. That sort of decison has to be made by the child's teachers represented by the head teacher; namely, somebody who is on the spot who knows the children and their capacity and who can correctly gauge the demands which are to be made on them.

I hope that the Minister will give sympathy to this cri de coeur from an ex-teacher. I hope that she will give us something more than an assurance that the Government have thought about this. One wonders whether they really have. With much feeling, I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I once had a pupil who had been an officer in the US army. He told me that one of the principles that he had been taught in that capacity was never to give an order which would not be obeyed. That struck me as a very sensible principle. It is also an illustration of the central point of this amendment.

The risks of stress to which my noble friend Lord Ritchie has drawn attention are real. However, I am rather more worried about the risks of contempt and that people will simply not co-operate with the requirements placed upon them. A great many people take the GCSE fairly seriously. It is a demanding course. The course work tends to be due all at the same time, and as course work it is hard to fix the maximum amount required.

There is a Morton's Fork in this area. Either the tests are on something which is being studied for GCSE, in which case they are redundant, or they are on something which is not required for GCSE, in which case they do not command interest.

I have discussed this with my son, who finished his GCSE yesterday. In spite of revising, which he has taken seriously, being a person who, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, has a desire to accomplish something, nevertheless he found time to read the section of the TGAT report on the GCSE and testing. Having read it with care he told me in. I regret to say, language which I would not dream of repeating to your Lordships that this is an order which is not going to be obeyed.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the Government's intention in introducing the national curriculum is to ensure that, as in other European countries, all pupils are guaranteed a broad, balanced education throughout their years of compulsory schooling. The purpose of the assessment arrangements is to ensure that all aspects of that basic curriculum are being taught and studied to a reasonable standard. That is the safeguard for the problem put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Russell.

At age 16, we expect GCSE to be the main means of assessment, especially in the core subjects, but we do not expect pupils to take GCSE in all the foundation subjects. We expect the national assessment arrangements to be simpler than the GCSE process, but still to allow pupils to demonstrate a range of attainment up to and including GCSE standard. It will, as now, be for the schools to decide in consultation with pupils and their parents what will be an appropriate mix of GCSE and national assessment study for each individual pupil; and, in relation to the national assessment tests, to decide on the appropriate level for the pupil to attempt in each subject, as they do now for the GCE.

In these circumstances I do not think there is any danger of pupils being overtaxed by the new arrangements. The results of assessments in non-GCSE, as well as GCSE subjects, will form part of each pupil's overall record of achievement which they will carry forward to further study or employment.

We have said all along that we are aiming for a broader curriculum, with higher standards being reached, covering all the years of compulsory schooling. This amendment seems designed to let pupils abandon this concept of a broad curriculum, at the head teacher's discretion, simply to gain good results in fewer subjects at GCSE level, directly contrary to the debate we had about A-levels. It would strike at the heart of our proposals and I must urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment for that reason. I am sure that he shares with us the general aim of breadth and balance for all, as set out in Clause 1, and would not really wish to press an amendment which would have the reverse effect.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I am reminded of something which someone said to me a day or so ago—that whenever one offers criticism of this Bill or points out some of the difficulties involved, the aims of the Bill are always given as the answer. One might ask how a particular aspect will work and the answer is always, "Our aim is such and such" and that it is broad and balanced. That still does not get over the difficulties which some children will meet.

The Minister also said that the final record of achievement of pupils will show their GCSE passes and also what they have achieved in other subjects in which they have not taken the GCSE. That is a laudable aim. I appreciate that it might lead to a broad and balanced curriculum, but I can tell the noble Baroness what will happen, It will be very much in line with what my noble friend Lord Russell had to say; that is, nobody will care a four letter word for anything other than the GCSE.

We are living in a very competitive society and the vast majority of young people only care for the exams they are going to take. The subjects other than those they are taking in the exams will be ignored. There will be a strong tendency for those subjects to be ignored and for the teachers to collude with the pupils. That is what worries me. It sounds much better in theory than in practice.

I revert to what I said in moving the amendment that the only people who can decide what subjects a child should or should not be taking are those on the spot. The demands laid down in statute law as to what a child should be taking are so unrealistic that I can hardly believe it is happening. In the circumstances, I feel inclined to take the amendment to a Division.

6.36 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 60) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 100.

Airedale, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Ardwick, L. Kirkhill, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Longford, E.
Birk, B. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Blackstone, B. McNair, L. [Teller.]
Blease, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Bonham-Carter, L. Meston, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Molloy, L.
Chitnis, L. Monson, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Nicol, B.
Craigavon, V. Northfield, L.
David, B. Oram, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Peston, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Rea, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Flowers, L. Rochester, L.
Foot, L. Russell, E.
Gallacher, L. Seear, B. [Teller.]
Glenamara, L. Serota, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Shepherd, L.
Grey, E. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Grimond, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hampton, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hart of South Lanark, B. Thurlow, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Tordoff, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Underhill, L.
Hughes, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Jeger, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Kagan, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Kearton, L. Winstanley, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Aldington, L. Gainsborough, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Arran, E. Gray of Contin, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Greenway, L.
Beloff, L. Halsbury, E.
Belstead, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Bessborough, E. Harvington, L.
Blake, L. Havers, L.
Borthwick, L. Henley, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Hesketh, L.
Brantford, V. Hives, L.
Brookeborough, V. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hooper, B.
Broxbourne, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Butterworth, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Joseph, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Kenilworth, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Kimball, L.
Carnock, L. Kinnoull, E.
Chelwood, L. Lindsay, E.
Coleraine, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Colnbrook, L. London, Bp.
Cork and Orrery, E. Long, V.
Cottesloe, L. Lothian, M.
Cox, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Crickhowell, L. McFadzean, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Macleod of Borve, B.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mersey, V.
Dilhorne, V. Milverton, L.
Dundee, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Eccles, V. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Eden of Winton, L. Morris, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Faithfull, B. Nelson, E.
Ferrier, L. Orkney, E.
Rankeillour, L. Swinton, E.
Reay, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Renton, L. Thorneycroft, L.
St. Aldwyn, E. Trafford, L.
St. Davids, V. Trefgarne, L.
St. John of Fawsley, L. Trumpington, B.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Ullswater, V.
Sanderson of Bowden, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Selborne, E. Windlesham, L.
Skelmersdale, L. Wise, L.
Stevens of Ludgate, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Strathcona and Mount Royal L. Young, B.
Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Swinfen, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.44 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

My Lords, the next two amendments have to be reversed because they are wrongly marshalled. Amendment No. 61 is first, followed by Amendment No. 61A.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 61:

Page 3, line 42, at end insert— ("(2A) No order made under subsection (2) above shall apply to any pupil to the extent that it is incompatible with either the content of, or assessment arrangements under, any subject which he is studying for the General Certificate of Secondary Education. (2B) No order made under subsection (2) above shall apply in respect of a particular subject to any pupil who has completed early a course in that subject under the General Certificate of Secondary Education.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope to speak very briefly on Amendment No. 61. In listening to the noble Baroness and her replies to other amendments, as regards the first part of the amendment on page 5 of the Marshalled List, I believe that she said that the Government expect best endeavours to be made to ensure that the orders made will not lead to detrimental effects on pupils studying for GCSE. I do not see any reason to pursue that further.

I am interested in the response of the noble Baroness to what is set out under subsection (2B). It is a matter that occurred to me only recently as a result of speaking to a young person who is currently taking these examinations. I had not thought about it before, but it dawned on me that it is not unusual for a pupil to take some GCSE examinations before the fifth year. The young person to whom I was speaking was at a fee-paying school where it is even less unusual than it is at schools in the maintained system, where, to use a slang expression, one knocks off one or two subjects in order to get them out of the way.

The problem I have in mind does not arise in the independent sector. I do not want to rehearse my arguments why the national curriculum does not apply to the independent sector because I have had my say on that matter and I have not changed my views at all. However, it does not have the problem. But in the maintained sector it seems that there is a genuine question of education here. As I understand the national curriculum, a pupil who is making very rapid progress and whose teachers feel that the time has come to take the GCSE after four years (a year early) and does not intend to take the subject any vol. 498further on not unreasonable education grounds as viewed by the teacher, will still be obliged to pursue a course of study in the subject that he has dropped. As I understand it, and more to the point, he will be obliged to be assessed on it. Not to put too fine a point on it that seems to be absurd if that is the case. It cannot be a course of action that anyone would wish for. To reverse the question, it cannot be that anyone would want all the examinations to take place necessarily in the maintained sector at the end of five years.

It seems that there is here a genuine problem and I hope that the Government have addressed themselves to it and at an earlier stage than I did. I thought about it only in the last couple of weeks. I tabled the amendment simply with a view to probing, getting an answer or being told that the Government have taken the problem on board and that they will let us have an answer in due course. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, as the noble Lord anticipated, there is no need for either of the changes suggested in this amendment. First, there can be no question of the GCSE being incompatible with the requirements of the national curriculum. The latter will be a general requirement and no GCSE syllabus would be approved by the SEAC if it was not compatible with the law. There is also no question of our introducing the national curriculum in such a way as to change the rules for any pupil while he or she is in the middle of a GCSE course. There will be ample opportunity for GCSE syllabuses to adapt before the formal requirements are introduced for the fourth key stage in any subject.

As for the notion that the national curriculum requirements should not apply to a pupil who has completed a GCSE course, while accepting the intentions of the noble Lord, the amendment as drafted is clearly defective. If the course has been completed but very little achieved, I think we would all feel that the pupil should be required to study the national curriculum programmes for a year longer to improve his performance.

However, there is of course a real point here, with which we have every sympathy. We do not want any pupil who has demonstrated high achievement in the GCSE to be held back by the requirements of the national curriculum. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has made clear that we intend to use the flexibility already allowed under the Bill to ensure that such pupils can move on to further study in core areas and perhaps drop the study of some of the other foundation subjects if they wish to add others at that stage.

There are general questions to be resolved about how this is put into practice; for example, what levels of attainment are expected before subjects can be dropped completely. We shall want to consider carefully the NCC's advice on this matter. The regulations under Clause 12 of the Bill allowing for these exceptions will be subject to full consultation and the final test of parliamentary approval. This is the right way to proceed in this complicated area rather than by attempting to write specific exemptions on the face of the Bill.

In the light of my assurance that both of the noble Lord's points are met, I hope that he will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. She will appreciate that I cannot get her to answer a question unless I put down an amendment, however defective it may be. I think I found her answer reassuring; I shall look at it carefully in tomorrow's Official Report. I am especially reassured to know that the DES and eventually the other relevant bodies will look at the matter carefully. It is an important matter, in particular for young people who are trying to achieve high standards. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 61A:

Page 4, line 7, at end insert— ("( ) An order under subsection (2) above shall, where it is at variance to any significant extent from the advice of the National Curriculum Council or the Schools Examination and Assessment Council as appropriate, shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament, and any dispute as to the extent of any such variance shall be determinable by judicial review.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the Committee stage the Minister said that she would take the issue away, give it further consideration and perhaps return to it at the next stage. That is an accurate paraphrase of what she said. Two amendments were moved at the Committee stage. The first was given no encouragement by the Minister and the second received the degree of encouragement I have set out. It is connected with the concern felt by many of us all along that, although the NCC and the SEAC will be set up by the Secretary of State to give him advice and assistance, he can ignore their advice. In the hands of the wrong kind of Secretary of State they could be just puppet bodies.

Under the Bill as it stands no affirmative resolution will be necessary at any stage in the introduction of the national curriculum. The process will either be the negative procedure in respect of attainment targets or programmes of study or no parliamentary order at all in respect of assessment arrangements. As a consequence, the level of parliamentary scrutiny over the introduction of the national curriculum will be minimal. After the attainment targets and programmes of study have been shaped by the working groups with the approval of the Secretary of State, they will be submitted to the National Curriculum Council for consultation. There is widespread concern that the role of the council and the consultation which arises from it will take place at too late a stage to be effective. It remains the case however that the council at least has the opportunity to give a view to the Secretary of State although he may ignore it.

This amendment merely states that an affirmative order should be introduced where the Secretary of State departs substantially from the NCC advice. This is intended as a minimum safeguard to enable Parliament to debate a matter on which the Secretary of State departs from expert advice. It should be remembered that the NCC will, we hope, be a body of experts. They will know about education; they will not be outsiders merely fulfilling the political will of the Secretary of State. Without such a safeguard the Secretary of State will literally be able to ignore the advice of the National Curriculum Council. It would be down to Parliament to be informed of these circumstances and to call for a debate.

Many circumstances, including pressure of legislative time, might inhibit this process. The Secretary of State will be perfectly well aware when he is, or is not, accepting advice on the national curriculum in the spirit of the orders that he puts forward. The amendment simply states that he should make a judgment as to when an affirmative resolution is required. It is hardly an earnest of the good faith of the Government that they appear unable to accept even the basic thrust of this modest amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness David

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment. We hoped very much that the Government would put down an amendment to this effect. There was no absolute commitment but the noble Baroness did say that she would take the matter back and give it further consideration. We hoped for a positive response from the Government. There have been few positive responses but we hoped for one. Too much is being done by negative resolution. I hope that we shall have a full explanation from the Minister.

All we have asked is that an affirmative resolution should be introduced where the Secretary of State departs substantially from the NCC advice. It is a minimum safeguard, as the noble Lord said. There could be drafting issues as to whether any variance from the terms of advice was significant but amendments sought to cover this point by making it clear that any challenge to the judgment of the Secretary of State in not bringing forward an affirmative order would be made subject to judicial review. It is not credible to suppose that the parliamentary draftsman is unable to produce a form of words which meets the substance of the point, if that is what the Minister intends to say. If there is no way in which a distinction may be made as to the degree of variance from national curriculum advice, the only proper course for the Government to adopt is to make all such orders subject to affirmative resolution. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. We have had little accepted; and this would be quite a simple proposal to accept.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the Minister said earlier today that she wants to assure us on the subject of the Government's willingness to listen to professional advice. I was glad to hear that. This could be a good opportunity to offer precisely that reassurance and also to put the point in a nutshell. It might be in the Government's interests to remember that some day there may be a Secretary of State who is not of their political persuasion.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, I react against this amendment. It is the old story of not having confidence in the impartiality of the Secretary of State, whoever he may be. I cannot imagine anyone likely to hold that office who, in operating the statutes, would blithely ignore the advice of this group. To suggest that someone else should step in to see whether the Secretary of State has departed significantly from what was recommended to him undermines the whole purpose of Parliament saying that the Secretary of State shall be the final court of appeal. We should not undermine that. To say that the matter must go through both Houses of Parliament, with negative orders and so on, is using a sledgehammer against something that is hardly likely to arise.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, during our debates in Committee I did indeed express sympathy with some aspects of this amendment. However, I must point out to the proposers that as it stands the amendment is technically defective in that it refers to assessment orders which, as we have discussed, are not to be subject to Parliament's approval. The reference to judicial review is also inappropriate. However, the main point is that there should be adequate parliamentary scrutiny of orders establishing the attainment targets and programmes of study for the national curriculum. I believe that to be the noble Lord's real concern.

We are all conscious of the need for such orders to be given an appropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny. It is clearly right that important and contentious orders should be fully debated. Further examination of the options suggests that we do not really need to make any change to the provisions of the Bill to ensure that this is the case. There is already provision in the Bill for the National Curriculum Council to publish a report containing its advice on any order and for the Secretary of State to publish and circulate a full statement of his reasons if he departs from that advice. This will give noble Lords and others good and clear warning of any case in which the NCC's advice is not followed and enable them to judge whether the departure is sufficient to justify parliamentary time and a full debate. If they, or Members of another place, reach that conclusion of course they can pray against the order.

To add a requirement that the order should be subject to the full affirmative procedure when there was any significant difference from the NCC's advice would add little to the process. However, it would require us to devote what we have all established is very precious parliamentary time to changes which were significant in a legal sense but perhaps minor in terms of the overall impact of the order. For that reason we decided on this occasion not to offer any amendment as a result of our further consideration of the matter.

I must point out to the noble Baroness, Lady David, that we have offered amendments in other areas and although there may not have been many this afternoon, or indeed any, nonetheless concessions have been made. Therefore, although I decline to make one on this occasion, the debate has nevertheless given me the opportunity to explain the already considerable hurdles that we believe any Secretary of State would have to overcome if he wished to depart from the National Curriculum Council's advice.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, I think that our unease on the issue arises from a fear of what might happen under a different government. The many franchises that have been given to the Secretary of State in the Bill form part of the cause of our unease. Therefore, as the Government seem unwilling to move on the amendment, I feel that this is an occasion when I must divide the House.

7.2 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 61A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 92.

Airedale, L. McNair, L.
Ardwick, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Birk, B. Meston, L.
Blackstone, B. Monson, L.
Blease, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Nicol, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Oram, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Peston, L.
David, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Rea, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Ritchie of Dundee, L. [Teller.]
Fisher of Rednal, B. Rochester, L.
Flowers, L. Russell, E. [Teller.]
Foot, L. Scear, B.
Gallacher, L. Scrota, B.
Galpern, L. Stedman, B.
Glenamara, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Grimond, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hampton, L. Tordoff, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Underhill, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jeger, B. Walston, L.
Kearton, L. Whaddon, L.
Kilbracken, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Listowel, E. Winstanley, L.
Longford, E. Young of Dartington, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Annan, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Arran, E. Carnock, L.
Barber, L. Coleraine, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Colnbrook, L.
Beloff, L. Cork and Orrery, E.
Belstead, L. Cox, B.
Bessborough, E. Craigavon, V.
Blake, L. Craigmyle, L.
Blyth, L. Davidson, V. [Teller.]
Borthwick, L. Dilhorne, V.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Dundee, E.
Broadbridge, L. Eccles, V.
Brookeborough, V. Eden of Winton, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Butterworth, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Caccia, L. Elton, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Faithfull, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Ferrier, L.
Gainsborough, E. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Nelson, E.
Greenway, L. Orkney, E.
Halsbury, E. Rankeillour, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Reay, L.
Harvington, L. Renton, L.
Hastings, L. Renwick, L.
Havers, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Henley, L. Selborne, E.
Hesketh, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hives, L. Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Hooper, B.
Hylton-Foster, B. Swinfen, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Swinton, E.
Joseph, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Kimball, L. Thurlow, L.
Kinnoull, E. Trafford, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Trefgarne, L.
Long, V. [Teller.] Trumpington, B.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Ullswater, V.
McFadzean, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Windlesham, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Wise, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Morris, L. Young, B.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.9 p.m.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I think that we have reached an appropriate moment at which to take a break in these proceedings. I therefore beg to move that further consideration on Report be adjourned until 8.10 p.m.

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

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