§ House again in Committee on Clause 1.
Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 1, line 23, after first ("of") insert ("all").
§ The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 13, 62, 64, 76 to 78, 115 to 119, 121, 122, which is not included in the groupings, and 142. This is an important group of amendments which has been tabled with all-party support. It deals with the question of special educational needs. That description applies to approximately 20 per cent. of the school population at one time or another in one form or another.
§ I believe that all Members of the Committee will agree that education for children with special educational needs should be child-centred, flexible and sensitive. These amendments are designed to produce the changes in the Bill which will enable the education of such children to take account of the national curriculum while not being put in a straitjacket by it. They are intended to enable the positive provision of suitably designed and tailored special education for such children.
§ For example, the amendments will allow perhaps the only handicapped child in an ordinary class to have a curriculum which does not exclude the child but includes him or her in a sensitive and caring way. They will allow the teacher flexibility in the education that such a child demands. They will give positive help to the aim of the 1981 Act, which was to integrate children with special educational needs into ordinary schools wherever possible.451
As it stands the detailed prescription of a national curriculum consisting of attainment targets, courses of study and assessment arrangements means that many individual children and groups of children—particularly those with special educational needs—must be excluded from all or part of the curriculum. I should like to quote from a statement made by a group of organisations with a particular concern for pupils with special educational needs. It was submitted to a meeting organised by the Voluntary Council for Handicapped Children. It stated:
We welcome any intention that all children should have access to a full curriculum. However, we believe that the national curriculum, as it is currently constituted, will not provide this access to all children and that therefore a greater flexibility is needed to meet these individual needs".
§ Amendment No. 4 is designed to ensure that the broad aims for the whole of the school curriculum, including the national curriculum, as set out in Clause 1, should apply to all pupils. The description of the whole curriculum of a maintained school in Clause 1 is impeccable as an objective so long as it applies to all the children in a school. The amendment is designed to ensure that the objective applies to all children, particularly those with special educational needs. It is designed to guarantee for all children access, in a form which is geared to their particular needs, to the kind of knowledge and skill which is essential if they are to play a full part in society.
§ I am sure that that is the Government's intention. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will feel able to accept this amendment and so underline the Government's responsibility for the proper education of all our children. I can assure the Minister that by accepting the insertion of the one word "all" in Clause 1 she could do a great deal to reassure all parents, teachers and voluntary bodies in the special education sector who have expressed a deep concern about the effect of this Bill on children with special educational needs.
The point was put extremely well by the Warnock Committee in 1978 when it said:
The purpose of education for all children is the same and the goals are the same. But the help that individual children need in their progress towards these goals will be different".
§ As I said, and as the Warnock Committee said, the broad aims of the curriculum must apply to all children.
§ When we turn to Clause 2 and Amendment No. 13 I have the curious experience of successively referring to amendments and wishing to include the word "all" in Clause 1 and to remove the word "all" from Clause 2. The reason is that the proposed national curriculum is not for all pupils because there are many, including children with special educational needs, who will have to be excluded from it. This amendment emphasises that the national curriculum is not for all children, as the clause currently suggests, because of the existence in the Bill of four provisions—Clauses 4(4), 10, 11 and 12—which enable those children to be excluded or to have the curriculum modified for them. It seems to us to be quite wrong that Clause 2 should give the impression that the national curriculum is for all when it clearly is not. 452 The drafting of Clause 2 seems to be rather muddled. That is perhaps a hangover from the Bill as first published, when it hardly dealt with special educational needs at all. Indeed, I believe I am correct in saying that the words "special educational needs" appear only twice in the Bill—namely, once in Clause 11 and once in the side note to Clause 11—where they are incorrect. That is perhaps an indication of the hurried drafting of some of these clauses. We know that in another place the Government had to go into considerable contortions involving the introduction of one sub-paragraph and three clauses to deal with children with special educational needs where problems with the national curriculum had not been thought of when the Bill was first drafted. Many of us believe that these clauses are inadequate and we shall be seeking to amend them. We feel that the Government are illogical in Clause 2 when they suggest that there should be a basic curriculum for all registered pupils and then in Clauses 4(4), 10, 11 and 12 describe in great detail how children with special educational needs are either to be excluded from the provisions of Clause 2 or those provisions are to be modified to meet their particular needs.
§ When we come to Clause 4, Amendments Nos. 62 and 64 are designed to place special educational needs firmly at the heart of the clause, which requires the Secretary of State when exercising his powers under it to modify the national curriculum to ensure that special educational needs are taken into account in establishing a national curriculum. It is intended to require the Secretary of State to give children with special educational needs the positive right to a curriculum modified to suit their requirements rather than the essentially negative exclusions and modifications which appear later in the Bill.
§ It could be argued that the clauses I have mentioned make this amendment unnecessary, but that is not the case. The amendment ensures that special educational needs are treated positively from the outset. As I said at the beginning, 20 per cent. of the school population have some form of special need in one form or another and at some time or other. These amendments ensure that the Secretary of State has a duty placed on him to modify the national curriculum to take a proper account of those needs.
§ Other amendments in this group are intended to ensure that children with special educational needs who are excluded from the national curriculum are given a positive entitlement rather than essentially negative exclusions. They are intended to give a flexiblility which is lacking in Clause 4 as drafted and provide a flexibility and sensitivity which are essential requirements for special educational needs.
§ The last group of amendments, to Clauses 10, 11 and 12, are to deal with parental rights and professional help. They are intended to ensure that parents will have a right of appeal. We know, and some of us have personal experience of this, the concerns and worries of parents of handicapped children. We should not add to them in this Bill by increasing their concern and their worry about the education of their children. We must give parents the right of appeal as provided in Clause 12, and this should be provided under the previous clauses.453
§ Clause 12 deals with children without statements. The amendments place a requirement on head teachers to consult parents and then to seek the professional advice which is vital in those circumstances for children without statements. It also brings in an obligation to consult the local education authority and to obtain access to the specialised and central services which the LEAs are able to provide.
§ Returning to Amendment No. 4, as we know, Clause 1 relates to the overriding purpose of the school curriculum and the principles on which it is to be based. This amendment ensures a proper provision of the right education for children with special educational needs. If we are to have a widely based curriculum it must be available to all our children. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Faithfull
I support the noble Lord. These amendments are all grouped together and I shall later move Amendments Nos. 117, 118 and 119. Perhaps I may underline what the noble Lord said because I have dealt a great deal with handicapped children, young people and students. One child said to me one day, "Oh, Miss, aren't people silly? They think I am silly". It is the tendency of everybody to think of a handicapped person as not being mentally able. I was talking to a handicapped doctor the other day, and he told me that he had the greatest difficulty getting through his course because everybody thought he was mentally backward. That is the tendency in schools, colleges and universities. The one thing that handicapped people do not need is to be made doubly handicapped by those who are dealing with them.
Let us be fair to the teachers. It is very often their way of being unable to deal with a child to think that he or she is mentally backward. I remember in Oxford one of our most outstanding law dons was blind. The other day I gave the prizes away at a blind school and two of the children were going to Cambridge University. Therefore, these amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, and my own are to ensure that the handicapped and those with special educational needs receive their due and their right. They may not be able to work as quickly as others but they are able to work, and they must be seen to be entitled to the same rights as everyone else.
My second point in supporting the noble Lord, Lord Carter, on this amendment is that there are others who are not quite so bright but who, given a special curriculum with special treatment and understanding, are able to attain a good standard of education. That is the spirit behind all these amendments. The other spirit behind them is that the parents should be involved in the curriculum which is planned for a child with special educational needs. The future amendments cover those points. Therefore, as I have already said, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carter.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
I too should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Carter. I wish to speak primarily about visually handicapped pupils. I am the president of the Birmingham Royal Institution for the Blind and also sit on two national committees 454 which deal with the blind. When we are considering the visually handicapped we must remember that the vast majority of children who are blind or severely partially sighted receive their education in special schools. It is true to say that practically all those schools are charities. Therefore they are a most cost-effective way of providing education from the Government's point of view, because the charity obviously takes care of the maintenance of the buildings—extending them when necessary—develops the grounds and provides all the facilities that are required for training the blind and seriously visually handicapped. It would perhaps be worth while to suggest—in connection with any new funding arising from the Bill—that in view of the most generous donations that are given to the charities which provide such education for the visually handicapped the Government should seriously consider paying an equal amount.
Nearly all the students come from local authorities and, consequently, are funded by them. It is a most expensive form of education. As the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has just said, there are various categories of blind and visually handicapped pupil. I think she mentioned two of them who are going on to Cambridge. The Worcester College for the Blind, which I know extremely well, is what one would call, in the old terms, a grammar school for the blind. It has perhaps some of the better educated pupils; that is, those who probably have greater capabilities. Some other colleges are offering a different form of education, but it is nevertheless a good one.
Most of those establishments are teaching the national curriculum as we know it now. However, we should recognise that not only must they implement the national curriculum which is in the Education Reform Bill but they must also concentrate on teaching braille. Every pupil who attends such a school for the blind and severely visually handicapped starts to learn braille from the age of four. I speak with great experience of the school which belongs to the Birmingham Royal Institution for the Blind. Every little child there has a brailler and starts to learn braille at the age of four. So that is a subject additional to the national curriculum that every child will be taking in the state schools.
Not only do those children have to learn braille but part and parcel of their curriculum is mobility. It is no good training such children in educational needs if they cannot make their way about. Mobility therefore forms a large part of this curriculum and must be added to the national curriculum. In other words, those schools are doing something extra.
Similarly, those children must acquire another skill: independence. Once you are trained to use the "long stick" you must have the confidence to move round and use it. I am most gratified when I use the tube trains in London to see those who have passed through the institutions which help blind people to travel on public transport. Both the aforementioned subjects are added to the national curriculum.
It is also true to say that however capable you are or have been as a brailler, not only in printing the word but also in reading it, you will, when you are coming up to the age of 14, 15 or 16, be approximately two years behind the majority of 455 students of the same age. All through your life up to 18 or 19 years of age, you will be two years behind the others. That is because as children and adults we learn a lot from sight. The very fact that you can see explains things; the very fact that you can see helps you to absorb knowledge. In short, the very fact that you are able to look teaches you to learn. Therefore, those who suffer from blindness or serious visual handicap are at a loss because they cannot learn, as we say, through looking. It is important when we look at the curriculum and how it affects those children that we should take those matters into consideration.
I know that there are other considerations for handicapped pupils, as the noble Lord, Lord Carter has said. However, I referred to the blind and visually handicapped because nothing was mentioned in the other place about special education until it was raised by members of the Committee. Even then, the words "visually handicapped" were used only once.
We should consider this particular type of pupil, but let us also remember that, with integration, many visually handicapped children are in local authority schools and are therefore part of the general education system. However, it is unfortunate that there are very few qualified teachers, even advisory teachers, who are helping the severely partially sighted children in ordinary schools following integration.
To teach in schools that are run for the blind—again, most of them are charitable schools—one must have special qualifications, and that means two years' study at university level. Therefore, it is important to consider also those children who have severe visual handicaps who are doing the integration schools, if I may use that expression. In that respect, it is important that the Government look at the qualifications that are necessary if they want to do their best for these children.
We heard earlier this afternoon that the standards of education in this country are perhaps not so good as in other countries mentioned. I should like to say that in the international field of the visually handicapped Great Britain is recognised as the world leader. That comment was made at the international conference by Miss Elizabeth Chapman, OBE., who is the European chairman of the International Council for Education of the Visually Handicapped. If Britain is good at that, let us make sure that in this Education Reform Bill we endeavour to retain the best that can be given to such children, not only in this field but in all facilities for the handicapped child.
Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)
As I have put my name to some of the amendments in this group perhaps I may briefly give my warm support particularly to Amendment No. 118 to Clause 11. That amendment will give some positive curriculum entitlement to those statemented children who are excluded from the national curriculum or subject to a modification of it, and will give the parent of a child who already has a statement the right to appeal against a direction to disapply or modify the curriculum without having to go through the whole reassessment process.
456 I particularly support also Amendments No. 119, because that would amend the Education Act 1981 to close what is an acknowledged loophole and allow a parent to appeal against a decision by an LEA to amend or cease to maintain an existing statement.
I should like to back what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, said about the margin heading to Clause 11. I hope that the noble Baroness will look at that because, apparently, one cannot amend a margin heading. It refers to children "with special educational needs" but actually means statemented children.
§ Lord Peston
I should like to say a few words about Amendment No. 64, which has been tabled by my noble friend Lord Carter and myself. I did not take part in the debate on religious education but I am bound to say that I believe that in considering children with special needs we have a moral imperative. Those of us who, in a sense, are self-sufficient in what we do have a particular obligation to take such children seriously in educational terms and also to bear in mind the problems that their parents and families in general have in these matters.
During the course of the day the Government have been rather negative about our amendments in rejecting them and not approving of them. However, I look forward to the reply from the noble Baroness in regard to children with special needs, who I believe need a more explicit statement in the Bill. The noble Baroness may well say that their case is implicit in the Bill and that everything is okay. My only comment is that, even if that is the case, the Government would give an enormous boost to the morale of parents and children if the Government would be willing to consider those amendments which include an explicit statement
I say that partly as an economist, because my own subject is based entirely on the assumption that everyone is self-sufficient and is capable of taking decisions for himself and of coping. I find it salutary to remember that there are children who will become adults without being entirely able to do that. We have a responsibility in that respect, so in referring to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Carter and myself I emphasise that the Secretary of State should include in his duties under the national curriculum the need to take account of children with special needs and, where necessary, to modify that curriculum. This is a moral decision and it is a decision which I hope the noble Baroness and her noble friends will be willing to take.
§ Baroness Faithfull
Can my noble friend the Minister answer a small query? I have tabled Amendments Nos. 77, 117, 118, 119, 126 and 136. Do I speak to them together, as they have been grouped together, or do I speak to them individually as we come to them?
§ Baroness Hooper
If the amendments are within the grouping then I take it that my noble friend has already spoken to them and will simply move the amendments when we come to them in due course. However, if my noble friend wishes to add something now, I shall be happy to hear what she has to say.
§ Baroness David
It is not at all clear. General speeches have been made; we have not had the specific amendments spoken to. That is absolutely vital. We need the specific amendments explained as well as a general statement.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
In that case, I have no option but to speak to all the amendments. However, they are individual, different amendments which cannot be spoken to generally. And there are a great number of them. I cannot speak to one alone. Looking at the groupings, Amendment No. 77—
§ Baroness David
Can I interrupt the noble Baroness? I gather that the groupings are supposed to enable a general, overall view to be given of that group of amendments. However, there will be the chance to speak to each one when it is called. That is very much more satisfactory.
§ Baroness Hooper
All the amendments to which we are speaking relate to the need for the national curriculum to meet the individual needs of all pupils in maintained schools, some of whom will have very special needs but all of whom will be different from each other in their patterns of abilities, aptitudes and enthusiasms. I understand the concerns that have been expressed and welcome the opportunity to discuss them further. However, I am not wholly convinced that all these amendments are necessary to secure that such needs are met.
Because this is an important matter, and because I had understood that we were speaking to all the amendments, I may speak at some length. However, I should like for convenience to divide my response to the amendments that have been tabled into three distinct parts. First, I should like to deal with the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and those in which he has been joined by the noble Lord, Lord Peston. These are essentially declaratory additions to the Bill. They are Amendments Nos. 4, 13, 62 and 64.
I am informed that Amendments Nos. 4 and 13 have no effect on the meaning of the Bill. As the noble Lord suspected, I understand that "all" registered pupils are not included explicitly in the national curriculum by Clause 2 but they will be included implicitly except, as now, where specific arrangements are made elsewhere in the Bill for exemptions from, or modifications to, the general provisions. Similarly, although the phrase "all pupils" is not stated explicitly in Clause 1, it is there implicitly and the clause would be interpreted as if it were included.
Amendment No. 64, to which the noble Lords, Lord Carter and Lord Peston, have put their names, is also essentially declaratory. It seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State in making national curriculum orders modifies the provisions to take account of children who have special needs.
We accept wholeheartedly the need for the national curriculum to cater for pupils of all abilities and in a range of circumstances; in particular those with special needs whether as defined in the 1981 Education Act or otherwise. To this end we have in 458 the Bill made provision for their needs to be catered for in a variety of ways, for not all of which the Secretary of State will have direct responsibility. For example, under Clause 11 a statement of special educational need, drawn up by the local education authority, following a lengthy programme of assessment, may modify or disapply the national curriculum in respect of an individual pupil. A pupil who has temporary needs may be withdrawn from all or part of the national curriculum at the head teacher's discretion under regulations to be made under Clause 12. I shall address specific points on these provisions later in my remarks.
With regard to the responsibilities of the Secretary of State, he will be reflecting the requirements of groups of pupils with special needs in regulations under Clause 10 which will establish the national curriculum and its flexibility of operation. He has the power to define modifications and to allow the disapplication of certain provisions in specified circumstances, and because the orders and regulations will be subject to full statutory consultations under Clauses 13 and 14 there will be every opportunity to ensure that the needs of all groups are adequately reflected.
The amendment of the noble Lords by itself therefore adds nothing to the Bill, which already gives the Secretary of State power to deal with special needs and establishes mechanisms through which he will consult on his intentions. The amendment also implies, I believe misleadingly, that it is only the Secretary of State on whom the obligation to take account of pupils' special needs should be placed whereas, as I have explained, it can sometimes be the local authority or the head teacher.
The second group of amendments that I have identified includes those in my name, and also most of those in the names of my noble friend Lady Faithfull, the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, and the noble Lords, Lord Carter and Lord Ritchie. These address the flexibility built into the Bill to deal appropriately with pupils whose needs cannot be met under the general arrangements set out in orders and for whom specific modification may be justified. These are not pupils with statements of special need whom I shall come to later but pupils with perhaps a problem in language, or of mobility, requiring special treatment.
The government amendments I put before the Committee are relatively minor amendments but ones for which I know we can expect general support. Indeed they meet the very point behind Amendments Nos. 77 and 116 which others have tabled. Their combined effect is to bring together on the face of the Bill in Clause 10 the powers of the Secretary of State to modify or disapply elements of the national curriculum as they affect such groups of pupils.
To recap briefly, the national curriculum orders will offer a range of programmes of study and targets of attainment for pupils at each key stage; but we recognise the need for flexibility to deal with particular groups of pupils who may need these requirements further modified or even disapplied. We quoted in our consultation document the example of pupils with difficulties in English who may need to be introduced later, or in a different way, to the study of 459 a foreign language. And there are those at the other end of the spectrum who have particular abilities rather than problems, who may reach the highest levels of attainment within the national curriculum before the age of 16 and whom we might wish to allow to go on to study a different mix of subjects to meet their particular circumstances.
At present the power to modify the national curriculum for such groups of pupils is found in Clause 4(4) of the Bill while the power to disapply was added to the Bill in another place and has become Clause 10. The government amendments bring these related provisions together in a revised Clause 10.
The Committee will have noticed that we have also taken the opportunity to tidy up the wording of the two provisions so that the Secretary of State may make regulations modifying or disapplying national curriculum provisions in specified cases or circumstances. This is a helpfully wide expression; and it also avoids the reference to categories of pupils previously included in Clause 10 which has been the subject of some criticism.
§ Baroness Seear
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. She used a phrase that interested me. She said that the Secretary of State might wish to allow brighter pupils who had achieved the levels required before the age of 16 to go on and study other subjects. Surely, there will at least be flexibility when you have achieved the standard to do what you or the teachers choose that you should do rather than that the Secretary of State might allow you to do it.
§ Baroness Hooper
The noble Baroness can take that phrase as positively as she has interpreted it.
It was never our intention to revert to the crude categories of handicap as has been suggested. The wording was an attempt to distinguish these collective exceptions from the individual exceptions which will be achieved under Clauses 11 and 12. I believe that the new wording captures our intentions even more effectively, and without any echoes from previous provisions. I commend the amendments to the Committee.
I must however speak against Amendments Nos. 78, 117 and 142 which would add a new machinery of consultation, appeal and complaint to the implementation of the national curriculum for pupils in these special groups.
The intention that modifications to the national curriculum shall only be offered to pupils if they cannot sensibly be offered the full programme is of course understood. Indeed, it is the Government who have been arguing loudest today for such a full curriculum to be available to all pupils and others who have perhaps doubted our commitment to flexibility. In practice it will be the teacher's judgment which will determine which case or circumstance is deemed to apply to the pupil, and hence which modification, if any, should also apply.
The parents will already have a right of appeal under Clause 16 if they feel that the school is not offering their child the national curriculum in an appropriate way. They will of course be able to 460 discuss at any stage what is being offered and why. But I do not think we need to build in the need for prior consent before a modification is brought into play which might cause delay, or add explicitly to the right of appeal to the governing body and local education authority. We have done some of this for temporary exceptions because these will be acute, short-term cases and parents will need to be kept informed about how problems are to be resolved, and perhaps even involved in future action. But most cases of modification will be very adequately dealt with under the existing information and complaints provisions of the Bill, and I therefore see no reason to accept these amendments.
Finally in this second group of amendments I must mention the proposed addition to Clause 12 set out in Amendment No. 121. As I have said, this is the clause which empowers head teachers to disapply all or part of the national curriculum to pupils on a temporary basis because of their short-term needs or because because they are awaiting a full statement of special need. The Bill already has full provision for appeal against such a disapplication. But to add to this the need to consult with parents would be to detract from the ability of heads to act quickly to meet acute short-term problems. We shall in our regulations, on which there must be consultation, and in guidance, of course, be stressing the need for parents' views to be taken fully into account. Heads will be obliged to give information about their reasons and intentions to parents once they have made such an order and, if it is feasible, will see the wisdom of doing so in advance. But we must not hedge their professional judgment in such cases with a legal requirement for consultation which may be impractical and so negate the very purpose of the clause.
As for the need for heads to take advice in such cases from other professionals such as psychologists and doctors, again I do not think this is a matter for primary legislation. It may well be covered in guidance. Indeed that would have the same effect as the proposed addition to the Bill, since it only requires the head to consult as he considers desirable. If he considers consultation desirable, he is hardly likely to need to be required by law to carry it out!
I turn now to the third group, a small group of amendments which would affect the implementation of the national curriculum for children with statements of special educational needs. Perhaps I could usefully start by setting out the current position. The Education Act 1981 provides a right of appeal by parents against the special educational provision specified in the statement of special educational needs at two stages: first, where the child is first assessed; and secondly, if the statement is subsequently revised as the result of a full re-assessment. There is no right of appeal where the local education authority decides to amend the statement, though parents have, under the 1981 Act, 15 days within which to state their case to the local education authority calling upon it to reconsider. Nor is there any right of appeal where an LEA decides to cease to maintain a statement.
That has been the situation since the Act was passed in 1981. Some of the speeches we have heard today argue that the national curriculum throws a 461 new light on the situation envisaged in 1981. In so far as Clause 11 will allow for modification to, or in acute cases disapplication of, aspects of the national curriculum, this is true. Critics of the effects of this change have said that merely to modify or disapply is not enough. What is needed is a positive alternative programme. I would not disagree with that sentiment for a moment. Where I would disagree is in the way in which this amendment seeks to achieve that end. Consider for the moment the practicality of a statement which details all this in a positive form, and consider what the schools will make of it. To descend to the level of prescription, which appears to be implied here, would severely restrict the school in its creative approach to the individual child, in its need to provide a programme in which all the class can share (where appropriate) and in its need to respond to the developing capabilities, or in some few sad cases the deteriorating capacity, of the child to respond.
While I would not want such a prescriptive and in the long term stultifying provision on the face of the Bill, I am happy to recognise the argument for a more positive approach, but I believe the right place to discuss and resolve this matter is not here today on the face of the Bill, but in consultation with interested bodies about the published guidance on the implementation of the Bill.
Members of the Committee have asked for a parental right of appeal against the amendment of a statement in the light of the provisions of the national curriculum. Parental involvement in the education of their children is crucial to their educational success. This Bill recognises that. The Education Act 1981 and the Warnock Report which preceded it regarded parental involvement as central to the identification and implementation of the most appropriate educational provision to meet the child's special educational needs. Neither parents nor LEAs have found this relationship easy. Nor should it be. The aim is to stipulate in the statement what is best for that child in all the circumstances, not to reach an easy compromise. Certainly the national curriculum changes the impact on the child with special needs. Whether the statement is a very detailed prescription or a broader indicator of what will be modified or disapplied, the national curriculum requirements are giving a significant new function to the statement of special educational need.
There appears to be some unfairness in the position under the Bill as it stands, in that parents have a right of appeal against modification or disapplication contained in a new statement, or in a statement revised as a result of reassessment, but not in the circumstances where the LEA decides to amend the statement as a result of the national curriculum and the gradual application of its requirements. We have received very little comment from the special needs lobby on this point, but I shall look carefully at what it has to say and at the arguments put forward today in this Chamber.
Before finalising I now turn to another aspect of appeals as raised in the second amendment. To seek a right of appeal where the LEA decides to cease to maintain the statement is not on all fours with the previous point. The 1981 Act did not create such a 462 right, there has been no subsequent lobby calling for such a right and the national curriculum has no bearing whatever on this point. The parents of children with statements have every opportunity to discuss their child's progress with the LEA and with the school and I see no need for this proposal.
I have gone on at some length for which I apologise, in a sense, but I did want to make it clear that I recognise that careful thought has gone into the arguments expressed today about the unfairness of the new position regarding amended statements and the national curriculum. On the basis of what I have heard I should like to examine further the detailed implications of those arguments and perhaps come back on Report with my detailed reactions. Given that undertaking from the Government I hope that the various Members of the Committee will not press the amendments tabled today.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Lady Saltoun of Abernethy
I hope that the noble Baroness can clarify one point. I am concerned about the very talented child who may possibly be a musician and who may need to practise for a number of hours a day at his or her instrument or possibly the ballet student who may again need to practise for a considerable number of hours a day. Will their special needs be met under Clause 12, which seems to me to be very temporary in nature, or if not under what clause? Perhaps this is not the moment to ask that question and if not I stand corrected but I should very much welcome clarification on this point.
§ Baroness Hooper
I think perhaps that those cases are not included in the group of amendments dealing with special needs which we are discussing at this point. But I should like to stress that the arrangements for the implementation of the national curriculum are intended to take account of the fact that certain schools and perhaps certain individual children may wish to specialise in some way. That is why the arguments I put forward earlier about the means of implementing the provisions of the national curriculum I believe allow for those possibilities.
§ Baroness Faithfull
Perhaps I may thank the noble Baroness for dealing with all the amendments at the same time. However, I have found it somewhat confusing. I am due to move six amendments with two of which, as I understand it, the noble Baroness will not agree. I therefore think that when we come to those amendments it will be wisest for me to withdraw them. I shall then consider them and perhaps bring them back at Report stage.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness to answer the particular points which I raised regarding the blind and the partially sighted. I accept that those are special needs. However, they are special needs of a different kind. Those who wish to follow the national curriculum and are already following it will be in grave difficulties in assessing pupils at the ages that are recommended for children in state schools. As I said previously, there will be a delay in learning because of loss of sight. Will that matter be covered in the published guidance which the noble Baroness mentioned or will it be covered by 463 further observations which she may make at Report stage?
§ Lady Kinloss
Did I understand the Minister to say that she did not agree with Amendment No. 121? Is that one of the amendments which the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, will bring back at Report stage?
§ Baroness Hooper
I spoke against Amendment No. 121. No doubt my noble friend will speak to that amendment when we come to it. Perhaps I may make it clear that I intend to move the government amendments when we come to them. I assume that there will be no objection to that course.
To answer the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, we aim to cover in terms of guidance the specific areas of disability which the noble Baroness mentioned. Otherwise, we believe that the framework provided by the national curriculum and the exceptions which are provided by Clause 12 in particular will enable the more difficult cases to be dealt with. People who are able to follow the national curriculum will of course be covered by the guidance.
§ Lord Peston
I do not feel that a topic such as this is one on which the Committee should divide. The subject of children with special needs is such that we ought to work the matter out by debating it and getting it straight. Although, as I had already anticipated, I accept the view that somewhere implicit in the Bill are concerns corresponding to my amendment, I should be a great deal happier if the Minister felt able to say that she would think further about Amendment No. 64. An explicit statement by the Government of a commitment by the Secretary of State to take account of children with special needs would be an enormous boost. Even if it simply makes what is implicit explicit, I argue that that is a good thing.
It will take a lot to persuade me to divide the House on a subject of this kind. However, I should like to hear something a bit more encouraging from the Minister.
§ Baroness Hooper
By bringing forward the amendment the noble Lord has gone a long way towards making what is implicit explicit. The growing tendency to make declaratory statements on the face of the Bill is to be deplored. Therefore, I stand by the comments I made at an earlier stage.
Perhaps I may also take the opportunity to make it clear that in my reference to taking back certain amendments I was referring to the so-called third 464 group of amendments to which I have spoken—Amendments Nos. 118 and 119—but I shall reject the others.
§ Baroness David
Perhaps I may make another comment about the way in which this whole matter has been handled. I believe that it has been profoundly unsatisfactory. Probably this grouping should never have been agreed to. I hope that perhaps tomorrow the Minister and some of us could get together and discuss how we are to carry on the Committee stage. I feel that it cannot go on like this. It has been very frustrating to all of us.
§ Lord Carter
Earlier today we debated Amendment No. 1. I think that those Members of the Committee who voted the amendment down can now start to see the kind of problems which will arise because of the very narrow prescriptive nature of the national curriculum. The problems of the national curriculum for children with special educational needs are only an exaggeration of the problems which will face all children.
When the Minister said that Amendment No. 4—by which we wished to include "all" in Clause 1—had no effect on the meaning of the Bill, it is interpreted as being included. I simply ask, why not include it? That would give the kind of explicit statement that we have been seeking. When I moved the amendment and spoke to the group of amendments I spoke of the contortions which the Government have had to go through with Clause 4(4), and with Clauses 10, 11 and 12, which all deal with the problems of children with special educational needs. I think that the answers that the Minister has given have emphasised the fact that the word "contortions" was perhaps not too strong.
Throughout we are required to take the Secretary of State on trust. All through the discussion of this group of amendments we have been referring to flexibility. However, I have not yet seen the flexibility which the Government also say that they intend. I do not believe that the Minister has been able to satisfy us on that point.
I welcome the avoidance of the use of categories. I understand that the Government did not intend to use that term in the old sense and I welcome its exclusion from the Bill.
The Minister's answer with respect to appeals and professional help for parents, teachers and local authorities was unsatisfactory. However, I am aware of the confusion which has arisen because of the way these amendments have been grouped. Perhaps it would therefore be as well if I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and bring these matters forward on Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.465
§ 9.45 p.m.
Lord Hatch of Lusby moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 1, line 23, leave out second ("and").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 5 I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 8. Before doing so I should like to take this opportunity to say how sad I am and I believe many other Members of the Committee will be at the absence of Fenner Brockway. Undoubtedly a few months ago he would have been one of the speakers supporting the amendment. We shall all miss him very deeply. He fought for what he believed in throughout his life and he had a very long life. He would certainly have supported the amendment that I now move.
§ I should also say that although the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester has his name on the amendment he has asked me to give his apologies as it is quite impossible for him to be here tonight. I very much hope that he will be here at Report stage.
The object of the amendment is to strengthen the Bill and particularly to strengthen that section on page 1 which speaks of a "balanced and broadly based curriculum". I do not imagine that there is any Member of the Committee who would not accept that one of the supremely important issues in every form of education is consciousness of our membership of the human race and our responsibility for its survival. It has become a cliché to talk of the global village. It is our task to enable our children to become citizens of that village. I hope very much that when the noble Baroness comes to reply she will be able to accept this amendment. It is an amendment which is couched in exactly the terms that have been used previously by this Government. In the March 1985 White Paper Better Schools, paragraph 44(5) reads:
to help pupils to understand the world in which they live, and the interdependence of individuals, groups and nations".
I thank the drafter of that phrase. I am more than happy to take it exactly as it was written in the White Paper.
Perhaps I may point out that last year, when the Government published their consultation document in July 1987, they said:
A substantial measure of agreement has already been achieved and there is now widespread support for the aims of education which were set out clearly in the White Paper Better Schools".
§ I think it is fair to take it that the statement made in the White Paper last year had the endorsement of the Government.
§ It is commonplace nowadays to recognise that many of the problems that we all face are global problems which cannot be resolved by sovereign nation states. I remind the Committee that 1992 will see the passage of the Single European Act. Although I have always been a critic of the EC, nevertheless that Act will be passed. This country is way behind the rest of Europe in preparing its children for participation when it is passed in 1992. Surely the European Community itself bears witness to the international character of the world in which our children and grandchildren will be living.466
I should like to quote from Willi Brandt's noteworthy book produced by his commission whose members, the Committee will remember, were drawn from all over the world:
The Commission feels that schools all over the world should pay more atttention to international problems so that young people will see more clearly the dangers they are facing, their own responsibilities and the opportunities of co-operation globally and regionally as well as within their own neighbourhood".
§ I do not need to prove to this Chamber the extent of the global dimension of the problems which we all face today and which are certainly going to be faced with even greater gravity when we are gone and our descendants (who are now at school and who will be at school under this Act) have to face a totally different world from that in which we were brought up.
§ It is not only those of us who are accustomed to talk about internationalism who recognise this need. The teachers recognise it.
§ It was from the University of York that it emerged from a random survey of teachers that 69 per cent. of teachers think that environmental and developmental education is relevant to their subject areas. Secondly, 88 per cent. of primary and secondary school teachers think that the children they teach are not too young to develop a global awareness or empathy with people from other lands and cultures. Thirdly, 78 per cent. of primary and secondary school teachers think that development and environmental education are central to achieving an understanding of and active participation in the world today. Is education not primarily designed to give a child the opportunity to be active in the world in which he lives?
I should like to make two points dividing the sense of this amendment. First, it begins by saying:
… helps pupils to understand the world in which they live".
In this Committee many times we have debated and discussed the problems of CFCs; the destruction of the rainforests; the problems arising from the burning of fossil fuels and of living in a nuclear age. This is the world and this is the environment in which we live today. It is going to be a much more dangerous and complex world in which our children live. Secondly, the amendment refers to,
the inter-dependence of individuals, groups and nations.
§ Again, I need to say virtually nothing to convince the Committee that every major problem that faces the human race today comes under that category. It comes under the category of the vital necessity of recognising interdependence both between individuals in social life and individuals in their contact and communication with other human beings. We are all members of groups. I am sure that the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish here today will accept and agree with that. All over the world we are members of groups, and we are all members of nations. The interdependence of the individual, of the group and of the nation lies at the very root of understanding the world in which we live and in which our children and our grandchildren will live.
§ I hope that the Government will recognise the wisdom of the words used in 1985 and 1987 and that they will accept this amendment. Perhaps I may ask 467 the noble Baroness who is to reply one further specific point. I understand that working groups have been set up on each subject listed in the curriculum. Can the noble Baroness tell the Committee that instructions are going forth to each of those groups to ensure that in each the international dimension of the subject is fully recognised, fully discussed and fully reported on? I beg to move.
§ Lord Craigton
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said that his object is to strengthen the Bill. He referred to the many global problems that there are. I approach exactly the same point from a slightly different but equally satisfactory angle. In every nation in the world there is concern to a greater or lesser degree about the changes in the universe: the damage through the release of chlorofluorocarbons to the ozone layer on which our world climate depends; the destruction of the tropical forests, which also affect our climate, which contain still unexplored treasures of animal and vegetable life; the danger of acid precipitation, acid rain, which kills the trees and poisons the lakes and which appears to be caused by industry and transport. The nations are concerned about the protection of those animals and plants now in danger of extinction and about growing desertification, much of it caused by the ever-increasing world population.
These are facts. They cannot be said too often. Mankind has in the last 20 years realised that unless action is taken the world as it has evolved over the ages will cease to be the varied and pleasant place we now know.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, made the point that most of today's decision-makers will be dead before the planet feels the heavier effects of those known events to come. But today's pupils will be alive. In this situation the Bill must ensure that the education of our pupils takes full account of their personal involvement in the troubles that are coming.
Here I quarrel with Clause 1(2), which should state the basic intention of the Bill. In subsection (2)(a) a teacher:promotes the spiritual [and other qualities] of pupils",and of society. The Bill refers to England and Wales, and that is presumably how society is to be interpreted, although the Oxford Dictionary gives a wider interpretation which I quoted in full on Second Reading on 18th April (at col. 1319 of Hansard), that in effect society is a community with common interests. But the word "society" does not include the whole world. Even if to meet the amendment "society" is interpreted as meaning the whole world—as it could be through an addition to the interpretation clause—that would make nonsense of the Bill, as the teachers could not be expected to promote the world's well-being as required by subsection (2)(a).
So Clause 2 intentionally is made inadequate by its reference to society. It states now an intention to produce men and women who are able to take their place as members of their own English or Welsh 468 society, but only by implication—in this grave matter implication is just not good enough—as members of the society of mankind.
The noble Baroness will tell me that the subsection as it stands does all that the amendment is asking for. It does not. It prepares the pupils for the vagaries of their own adult lives, but it makes no mention of the needs of this planet which must be met by these pupils if the planet is to survive as it is now. The world is already in grave danger. Can the curriculum in the Bill be balanced and broadly based unless it prepares the pupils for an adult life as world citizens as well as members of society? Do we really want to attach to the future a preparation for adult life without guidance, without any reference at all to what the opportunities and responsibilities are or ought to be for saving the world from unnecessary or irreparable damage?
The amendment in no way alters or limits the rest of the Bill, but the Bill must face the facts. Our horizons are wider than they were 20 years ago. We are now, whether we like it or not, citizens of Britain and the EC and only at our peril do we ignore our citizenship of the whole world. So let us set the tone for the content of modern education and even perhaps set an example to other nations.
§ 10 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
I am irresistibly attracted to this amendment. Without it the framework of the curriculum is flawed and imperfect, in as much as it takes little account of the content of the speech to which we have just listened. I should like to give a personal experience which is somewhat to my shame. I was educated at a public school, thereafter at university and finally at a theological college. In my first ministry in 1926 I repaired to an open-air site called Tower Hill. I offered myself for such questions as might be asked feeling furnished with adequate answers in terms of the education that I had received. The first question I was asked was about Karl Marx; I had never heard of him. I had perhaps heard the name but, if so, it had passed through my mind. It had not lodged there. I told the heckler that his was a difficult question, that I did not want to give a hasty answer and that I would respond the following week. I have been endeavouring to continue that conversation ever since. My confidence that the amendment is necessary is confirmed by that experience. It revealed to me that, without the commitment to the wider issues of a world which changes so fundamentally and so dangerously, almost in the blinking of an eye, all education must necessarily be flawed.
I should like to give two illustrations of problems arising today which were more or less concealed from our forefathers. There is an area of acquaintance that has never been anything like as overall and comprehensive as it is today. Our children learn not ideas but words. And they are constantly reminded on the television screen and from the radio of all kinds of issues. They have little competence to understand a great many of them, and unless that area of acquaintance becomes an area of understanding I believe that their education will be fatally flawed.
469 Moreover, if it be generally true that politics is the way things happen—and I believe that to be an incontestable generality—it is also true that unless attention is paid to those matter included within the framework of this amendment, those in this global village who probably are well educated in personal matters and in local affairs may have little competence to understand the problems that they must face and the problems with which they are already challenged in a world of ever-changing and ever more dangerous conditions.
One issue which arises relates to the debate on religion which took place this afternoon in this Committee. I found it almost impossible to remain in my seat. I have a great deal of sympathy for the observations of my noble friends Lord Houghton and Lord Sefton. I believe that there are instances of the need for religious education. However, I can well understand their reaction. It could have been avoided. It could be avoided now if, within the framework of religious education, there were a clear distinction between the dissemination of information and the inculcation of the moral responsibilities which go with the Christian faith, for example.
Within a wide world of a great deal more religion—it is a curious anomaly that the decay of official Christianity in this country has been matched by a widespread increase in Moslem conviction, to say nothing of the born-again religion which proliferates across the Atlantic—it is quite proper that we should inculcate the Christian faith provided that we are prepared at the same time to lay a foundation of understanding on the part of those who will be invited to subscribe to it rather than assuming that in their ignorance they will somehow come to accept the dogmatism which is invariably associated with the Christian proclamation.
I entirely agree that we have a perfect right to proclaim Christianity which is our official religion, and to proclaim it not only in terms which are dogmatic but, more than that, in terms which are compassionate. However, at the same time I believe that within the framework of this amendment there is a saving grace. We have no right to communicate as if it is on authority a faith such as we believe or the majority of us are called upon to believe unless we are equally well prepared to give evidence of what is the general survey that can be undertaken of religion throughout the world—religion which is inescapable and such an indelible part of the paintwork of our civilisation that it is impossible to ignore.
There is no way in which religion can be obliterated from the education scheme. There is every reason to believe that in an enlightened understanding of what is religion and in the education of the facts that belong to that understanding coupled with a commitment to which we are perfectly well entitled, we can proclaim our conviction that religion at its highest and noblest and best resounds in the teaching and spirit in the resurrection and victory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In that regard the amendment is a great help to me and to many others who feel that it is not fair to represent the authority of the Christian faith without some kind of religious teaching which can give the basic facts of a world which is religious in so many ways—some desirable and some not—but 470 nevertheless a world in which choice must be made. Having examined the evidence, we make that choice. I want that examination to be available to the children of this generation for the sake of what is to happen in the future but, above all, I want it to be a prelude to the proclamation of the saving grace of the Christian faith.
§ Lord Elton
If I were—and thank goodness I am not—in the Minister's position my reaction to Amendments Nos. 4 to 8 inclusive would be a general feeling that there must be an enormous temptation to put everybody's hobbyhorse into Clause 1(2) in order to establish its primacy in the minds of the Committee and educators in general.
I shall not detain the Committee for more than a moment but I should like to ask the noble Baroness at least to listen with interest to what is now being said because it rests on events which happened to me in the last 22 days. First, I attended a conference of which the short title was the Global Forum for World Survival in which spiritual and political leaders of all countries, colours and nationalities came together to discuss shared problems and over which hung a large photograph of the world as seen from space.
The next event associated with that was a conversation which I had with the first woman in space—the Russian astronaut. The next event which was entirely coincidental and resulted from other circumstances altogether was that I had a longer conversation with one of the three American astronauts who 16 years ago last Wednesday walked on the face of the moon.
What was borne in upon me with great sharpness from those three encounters was this. The human race is a rather small collection of infinitely small creatures who cannot be distinguished from each other at a great distance. They inhabit a very beautiful, fragile and fairly small place which they are in a position to destroy by many methods less dramatic than a nuclear explosion. Moreover, they spend most of their time at each others throats, trying to destroy each other and, incidentally, their environment.
If my noble friend does not entirely throw these proposals out of the window at first blush, she would have my sympathy because I think that we must come to terms with these perceptions whether through curriculum committees or whatever and eventually they will come to the top of the heap. I am not sure that the moment is right now and I am not sure that my noble friend will concede to the general principle being brought forward but I beg her not to block the way forward to that essential recognition within the next few years.
Lord Young of Darlington
Perhaps I may briefly support what Members of the Committee have said. I am very much in favor of this amendment and hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to accept it. Not to have any mention of the wider world in the whole of this Bill and in the reference to the national curriculum seems to be quite wrong. At this point in the Bill the national curriculum should include some reference to the international issues and the wider world of which this nation is part.
471 Whatever the outcome of the amendment, I would ask whether the noble Baroness is prepared to look at the English inherent in the clause under discussion. We have heard a good deal about the quality of English in schools. But, surely, we should be concerned, at least to some extent, with the quality of English in the Bill. Clause 1(2)(a) provides that the curriculum,promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society".The phrasing "and of society" is indeed most odd. It is implied that the curriculum should promote the moral, cultural, mental and physical development of society. I suggest that society cannot have a mind or a body. Those words are both adjectives and qualities that appertain to a person and not a society. For that reason those three words are just hanging and do not carry—to my mind, at any rate—any clear meaning. I hope that at some later stage it will be possible to consider improving the quality of the English which we shall endow on the schools of this nation when the Bill is enacted.
§ Lord McNair
The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, made one of the best speeches on Second Reading and I was determined to support him on this amendment. I cannot help thinking that a more wide-awake and forward looking drafter of the Bill would not have overlooked the obvious fact that our stewardship of this planet will be our major preoccupation during the next 25 to 50 years. I shall leave aside the speech that I had intended to make in support of the noble Lord. However, I am sure that a provision along the lines proposed should be put in the Bill and that Clause 1 is the place.
I suggest that it would be possible to combine Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 neatly to read,as members of a multi-racial and multi-cultural society and inhabitants of the earth".I am not sure whether Amendment No. 7 has yet been moved but that wording would seem to cover both.
§ Lord Rea
I should briefly like to support the amendment. Amendment No, 7, due to be debated shortly, is the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead; so perhaps this is not quite the right moment to try to amalgamate the two amendments. The wording is definitely an improvement on the language in the Bill because it draws our attention to the need to co-operate with each other—whether in a school, in a local community or with people in distant parts of the globe. It takes into account the social aspects of the environment and the people in the world as well as the physical aspects which the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, wanted to tackle in his amendment. The amendment is slightly superior, although I should like to encompass all the sentiments which the noble Lord put forward when he moved his amendment. As it stands it rightly enjoys the support of at least one bishop—who is not with us tonight—the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, and one very notable cleric, my noble friend Lord Soper, who has just spoken. It is eminently Christian in spirit but, at the same time, it encompasses members of all other religions and those people with no religion.
472 As other speakers have said, a recurring and damaging part of the human history is the continuous recurrent hostility of one group to another with intolerance to other systems built into the prevailing culture. The education system tends to perpetuate that if we are not very careful. The additional words will help to direct schools towards increasing children's tolerance and understanding of the rest of the world and reducing tension. As such, I strongly support the amendment.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I seek the guidance of the Minister. I apologise for intervening but this is a matter of procedure. Reference constantly has been made to "this amendment". As I understand the position, the proposed grouping covers Amendments Nos. 5 to 8 and Amendment No. 15. Is it the procedure that all those whose names are linked with those amendments, as my name is to Amendment No. 15, need to speak to their respective amendments during the general debate? In that case, when one refers to "this amendment" one must be careful as to which amendment one is referring to. If at some stage during the debate I am able to speak to Amendment No. 15, the argument will be disparate from the arguments on Amendments Nos. 5 to 8. There is a difficulty here.
§ Lord Sandford
I rise to support the general thrust of the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Craigton but to say that in my opinion it will not make a tremendous difference whether or not the amendment is accepted at this stage.
My feelings on this amendment are the same as on Amendment No. 2. It is much more important to have clear assurances from my noble friend on the Front Bench as to the kind of guidance that she and her colleagues are giving to the subject working parties in order to ensure that the curriculum, and particularly the cross-curriculum, themes are taught in an effective way. My belief is that environmental education is currently taught in a manner which fully meets my noble friend's point. I should like assurance when we reach Clause 3 that nothing in the structure of the national curriculum will cause any diminution in what is being done at the moment.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
With the permission of the Committee, I should like to move Amendment No. 7.
§ Lord Elton
On a point of order, I do not think that the noble Lord can move an amendment at this stage. The amendment now being discussed is Amendment No. 5. He can speak to his amendment and the discussion now is whether he can speak to it later. On that I remain silent, but certainly he cannot move his amendment now.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
I should prefer to move my amendment when it is called, but it was being referred to during the course of the debate so perhaps I should speak to it now.
I am a little worried about the grouping. I regard this amendment as of the utmost importance. It is of the utmost importance to the cohesiveness of our society. Therefore, I invite the Committee to affirm 473 that this is a multi-racial and multi-cultural society and to recommend that all children be educated to accept that fact and to work to make it a success.
The United Kingdom has always been multi-cultured but during the past 400 years, as a result of the British Empire, there has been an additional dimension. Until now this racial dimension has been separated from this country by oceans. Therefore, the people in this country have been able to enjoy Britain's influence overseas, and even to accept the fact that there were British citizens overseas, and still remain unaffected by it.
The Second World War changed all this. During the Second World War many of these British overseas citizens came here. They joined the forces. Some of them worked in the factories that provided the sinews of war. Then after the war there was a labour shortage and many of these ex-servicemen stayed to supply the required labour. Others also came from the overseas British territories to fill the need. It is that fact that has transformed society, because it has now established a visible minority of a different colour and often of a different culture. It is quite easy to accept a difference when it is separated from us by oceans; it is much more difficult when it is on one's doorstep.
This country now has to decide how best to meet that challenge. It has not yet decided. The truth of the matter—and it is something that we are all overlooking—is that this country has been given the opportunity of showing the world how people of different races can live together in equality and friendship. That is one of the biggest problems confronting the world today. We are privileged to be able to give an example to the world and to show how this problem can be solved. I regard this amendment as important because I am inviting Members of the Committee to seize the opportunity to accept this challenge. If we are going to do so, it is essential that our young people should see it as a goal to be achieved and should be motivated to work to reach it.
Clause 1 gives us an opportunity, in that it requires the Secretary of State, the local authorities, the governors and the head teachers to use their influence to ensure that there is a balanced and broad-based curriculum and that it prepares pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. I am asking the Members of the Committee and the Government to add the words "in a multiracial and multi-cultural society". I know that it can be argued that it is unnecessary; that it is implied; that since society is already multi-racial and multi-cultural, they are going to be trained for adult life, they will be trained for adult life in this society. However, even a cursory reading of the Swann Report will show why it is necessary to express this and not merely to accept the implications.
There are areas of this country where there are all-white schools. All the evidence suggests that those schools do not regard themselves as being involved in multi-cultural education, since they are monocultural. The concept of being part of a multi-racial society appears not to impinge one iota on the consciousness of these schools. However, if we are to establish a good, viable and worthwhile pluralist society, efforts are required from both the majority 474 and the minority communities. Therefore if the children from the majority communities are allowed to believe the fact that this country is multi-racial and multi-cultural has no bearing on their lives, they will be done a disservice. The schools will be failing in their duty if they do not prepare those children for the realities of adult life.
Moreover, the whole question of the curriculum, on which we have spent seven hours of debate, is affected by whether consciously the decision is made to add the words of my amendment to the Bill. If my amendment is accepted, appropriate instructions will have to be given to the working groups. They must prepare their recommendations with that provision in mind. The examining boards will be affected. The HMIs, the most important factor of all, will be affected because they have to assess the extent to which schools are responding to the challenges of educating children to play their proper role in society.
The provision will affect the way in which subjects are taught, especially history, geography and the social sciences. It will affect the attitude adopted to minority languages and religions. Above all, it will affect the way in which teachers are trained.
Any changes in the content, approach and overall direction of the curriculum can only be achieved with the co-operation and support of the teachers. In return, those teachers must be adequately trained to respond to the task. All students in colleges of education will have to be trained to teach in a multi-racial society. I conclude with a passage from page 324 of the Swann Report:The reality of British society now and in the future, is that a variety of ethnic groups, with their own distinct lifestyles and value systems, will be living together. It is perhaps inevitable that conflicts may arise from time to time between the aspirations and expectations of these groups. It is also possible that there will be some degree of cultural interchange, with individuals adopting or adapting elements of the other group's cultural styles as part of their own. The aim of education should be to ensure that from their earliest years children learn to accept the normality and justice of a variety of points of view without feeling threatened, and are indeed encouraged to find this variety of outlook stimulating in itself. Schools should offer their pupils the skills needed to contribute to a resolution of any conflicts which do arise in a positive and constructive way".I endorse those sentiments. By my amendment I invite the Government to endorse them.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Lord Trafford
We on this side have had very little to say on this subject. We have allowed the Opposition a fair crack of the whip. I have some sympathy with many of the sentiments that have been expressed although it is difficult to encompass them. We have been to the stars and back on this amendment which seemed so simple when it was moved.
The Bill covers the whole complex about which we have talked. How can we educate people properly, in the terms of the Bill, if they are not brought up properly to appreciate the problems we have had of living in a multi-racial society, of the environment, or of our ability to converse with the astronauts of various origins about whom we heard earlier?
475 I am a little concerned about putting into legislation good intentions which, when applied to the very letter, can lead to problems. It may be improper in some respects to quote an as yet unpublished report, but I understand from the press, and I am sure all other Members of the Committee will have read this, that the slavish adherence sometimes to the letter of the law can lead to unfortunate consequences. Therefore, I myself should not wish to see that written into the Bill at this stage. I have great sympathy with the sentiments expressed. I also have some difficulty in understanding how it came about—as we were told earlier by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby—that small children could not understand the concept of religion or God. Now we are told that they can apparently understand the concept of the global village and internationalism. What an identikit drawing of the child we are talking about would look like at the end of the day makes the mind boggle.
Be that as it may, I cannot see any good reason why we should amend a fairly broad definition of what the education of our children is trying to achieve. We can, so to speak, "overcook the pudding". With due respect to all those who have quite reasonably, properly and modestly put forward their special points, I think we could make this somewhat counterproductive. It seems to me that we have covered most of these points. What is the purpose of the proper use of education, or history and geography, if most of the points just made are not covered? Surely this is the point of teaching good, proper and accurate history, accurate geography, accurate analysis of what happens. As children grow older, they appreciate these things.
There is the implication behind some of the remarks in favour of this amendment that schools will correct everything that happens outside and that somehow people can be taught how to think. Up to a point that is true, but it is in the home that we are taught how to feel about things. Much of what we have heard is not what we learn at school; it is what we are taught to feel about how to appreciate other people, other races. If the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, will forgive me saying so, this is not taught by rote; it is something which is inculcated as a respect for the human race. That is how it should be.
In all sincerity, I cannot see that making much change to the broad definition which is already in the Bill will help any of those very estimable sentiments that have been expressed by those who have proposed these amendments.
§ Baroness Seear
I should like to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Trafford, that if your father happens to be Alf Garnett you would need rather a lot of education at school to counteract what you have learned at home.
I rise in order to support the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, in asking that we should include the phrase "multi-racial and multi-cultural". I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, said about being global, international, inhabitants of the earth and so on. But would it not be humbug to teach children in schools to appreciate the whole wide 476 world, if we were making a thorough mess of dealing with the racial groups that we have here on our doorsteps? Surely, that is where we start with the problems and the issues which we have and which we encounter in our daily lives.
For that reason, this amplifies and is a stepping stone towards the wider understanding that we should be teaching about the multi-cultural, multi-racial society in which we live. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, has now suggested that we should include the words "multi-cultural" and "multi-racial". If the Committee decides that it will not include those words, think what an interpretation will be put on that rejection by a very large number of people in this country.
§ Lord Beloff
I have every sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead. I believe that one of the tasks of education in this country must be, whether or not we put it in the Bill in so many words, to improve relations between the races.
But I am very doubtful whether the coupling of the very vague and to my mind rather troubling phrase "multi-cultural" with "multi-racial" is likely to assist that process. We are a country in which, as the noble Lord has reminded us, many racial ethnic groups now live. We are, as we learnt earlier today, a country in which many religious beliefs are held. Sometimes they coincide with these ethnic groups and sometimes they cut across them. But when we say "multi-cultural" do we really envisage a country which is divided among a number of different cultures?
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
If the noble Lord will permit me to intervene, I wish to say that this country is already multi-cultural. There is an English culture, a Welsh culture, a Scottish culture and an Irish culture. All that I was suggesting is that there should be respect for the other cultures that are now in our midst.
§ Lord Beloff
I take the noble Lord's point. My point is rather that where we see in the world within a single political structure genuine multi-culturalism in its full sense we have a recipe for political disaster or at least for political tension. No one has yet found how one can have a working democratic political system—if supreme power is held in a few hands one can do anything—which is not underpinned by the sense of having a single culture.
I should have thought that the right way to approach this matter is to say that we have these different races. We have these different religions and beliefs. Clearly they will modify the culture which existed in this country before these phenomena occurred. The culture that we will have will not be the culture which we were bequeathed by the Victorians. But to say that we want it, or even that it is multi-cultural in the sense in which Indonesia or Malaysia are multi-cultural, would be calling into question one of the main purposes as I see it of the education system, which is to create a national frame of reference to which all pupils, whatever their ethnic origin or religious convictions may be, can ultimately refer. Only in that way can we have social and political peace.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I rise to speak to Amendment No. 15, which is a genuine attempt to assist the Minister and her colleagues in defusing a proposal which, it has been put to me, causes grave unease not least in the teaching profession but also among many others.
That unease is that whatever criticisms can be made of Clause 1—we know from the contributions from all around the Chamber that it is flawed in the eyes of many people—what concerns those outside who have spoken to me is the difficulty in linking its aspirations with the rest of the Bill.
This amendment is perfectly straightforward. It seeks to amend Clause 2 by adding the words on page 2 in line 6 after the word "which":satisfies the requirements of section 1(2) above and the requirements of this section".The point to which I am referring occurs at the bottom of page 1. I am sure that what is set out there will not cause much dispute. The provision states:prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life".Various Members of the Committee have said what they anticipate will come out of the working parties to be included in the national curriculum. I am inviting the Minister to recognise that if she will accept the amendment—or, if it is not worded correctly, accept the sense of it—that will go a long way towards easing the minds of those who feel that flesh needs to be put on the bones of Clause 2.
In Clause 1 we are told that we are looking for a broad balance. The Minister said this afternoon that what we already have will be added to bit by bit. Perhaps she will contemplate the possibility that the wrong bits may emerge at the wrong times. If there is a linkage between the important parts of Clauses 1 and 2, that will satisfy many people as to what the Minister and her colleagues are seeking to achieve in Clause 1.
I ask the Minister to dispel the fears which pervade the teaching profession and many other professions, that they will be sold short in what they are asked to achieve. Clause 1 as it stands is full of laudable objectives. The rest of the Bill may be said to be pervaded by the sense of Clause 1. My amendment seeks to give strength to Clause 2 in line with the spirit of Clause 1. I seek some indication of the views of the Minister and her colleagues at this stage.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
The grouping of the amendments is such that it is difficult to follow a straight line. Perhaps I may say a word about the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, which I heartily support.
I support the amendment on very simple grounds. I do not altogether agree with the noble Lord, Lord Trafford. It is the task of schools to teach pupils how to think. If that is not their task, I do not know what is. One of the advantages of thinking is to allow one to recognise facts. It is a fact that this country is now a multi-racial and multi-cultural society.
It may be said that in the Bill it is obvious that the Government have implicitly recognised that. It seems to me that throughout the Bill too many implicit assumptions have been made. The fact is that English 478 people—I do not refer to Welsh, Scottish or Irish people—have an amazing capacity for failing to recognise the most obvious facts. It was, after all, Lord Nelson who put his telescope to his blind eye. That is a national characteristic.
One of the facts which we have failed to recognise in our practice, no matter what our intentions may be, is that we are living in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society. The second fact that we have failed to recognise is that in such a society the confidence of minorities is essential if integration is to be secured. The confidence of those minorities depends on the attitude not of themselves but of the majority. What this amendment does is offer a gesture of reassurance to those minorities indicating that we recognise their existence and their anxieties and that we want to give them the confidence which they deserve and without which they will not become the fully integrated citizens whom we desire.
One of the things which all education worthy of the name offers to pupils is knowledge of the world in which they live. It was for that reason that in the 18th century (and partly from self-indulgence) the English went on the Grand Tour—they went to find out what was happening on the continent from which their multi-cultural culture emerged. It was for that reason that people of my generation felt it their bounden duty to try to go to America, because without understanding America they could not understand the world. It is for the same reason that in our schools we should teach people not only about the continent of Europe and the United States and the USSR but about the minorites who live beside them and their cultures.
As the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, said, in white schools in white areas pupils are largely deprived of that knowledge, not through any malevolent intention on the part of those who teach them but just through failure to recognise the facts of life. The amendment will help to remind people to teach their pupils about a fact of life which they will encounter when they leave school and that they will possibly find themselves somewhere where other people of other origins and cultures exist.
The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, raised an interesting and philosophical point—on which I do not intend to dwell at this hour of the night—about the possibility of having a cohesive but multi-cultural society. I do not think that the dilemma which he posed is quite so acute as that which he expressed. I do not believe that European culture could have the qualities which it possesses unless it was multi-cultural. I profoundly hope that in the future the European Community will become a genuine community. If it is to become such a community it must be multi-cultural.
If a confrontation or combination of cultures automatically means instability and that is to be the pattern, which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, thinks is inescapable—I do not say that it is necessarily false: it may be realistic—it is deeply pessimistic for the future of the world. I notice that the noble Lord laughs, but I do not think that it is a very happy outlook if we cannot overcome that problem and cannot enrich ourselves by a combination, a confrontation, a competition of cultures.
479 I think that if that is what one believes one should start in one's own country. I believe that there would be no harm and could only be good in the Government making a small concession to these arguments and to the minorities who live here by including the words proposed in the amendment—which do not mean anything more than they say and in no way damage what I am sure we shall be told is implicit in the Bill—and acknowledging that those words would add to the Bill and to the prospects of integration in this country.
§ Baroness David
There has been support from all sides of the Committee for this group of amendments. I should like to add our support. I cannot say that I am altogether happy about the wording of some of the amendments, or indeed the wording of the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, has said, and in particular with the word "society" which seems to hang. I very much hope that when she responds the Minister will say that she will think about these amendments and come back with some form of wording at Report stage which covers the various points which have been made by a number of speakers. I believe that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned, if the Government turn down the amendment it will look very bad indeed to the outside world unless something is put into the Bill.
§ The Earl of Arran
Before I say anything else perhaps I ought to make it perfectly clear that I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8 and 15. This has been undoubtedly a lofty and noble debate. I am truly grateful to all Members of the Committee for their contributions and for their obvious and genuine desire to improve Clause 1 of the Bill together with their strong commitment to the worthy objectives that they would have us specify. Nonetheless, I am afraid I must disappoint them by speaking against these amendments.
The wording of Clause 1 of the Bill is very general. This is done on purpose. We wish our wording to stand the test of time in the way that the very similar words in Section 7 of the 1944 Act have done. It is through this general wording that we achieve the broadest possible scope for the clause, and allow it to reflect not only our present concerns but also future generations developing understanding of what "the responsibilities of adult life" or "the needs of society" involve.
Amendment No. 6 of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and others, are very similar in tone and content. One proposes that we make explicit mention of educating pupils to be "members of society and inhabitants of this earth", the other of "helping pupils to understand the world in which they live and the interdependence of nations".
These are of course very important aims for the school curriculum. But I fear that the words that the noble Lords would have us add, since they cannot reasonably extend the scope of the clause, might be taken as in some way constraining its application. I know that that is not their intention. But can it seriously be suggested that, 480the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult lifeto which Clause 1 refers do not already cover life as members of society and inhabitants of the earth, or the need to understand the world and the complicated and diverse relationships on which our existence depends? I think not.
What the suggested words do is to reflect certain important concerns, but only some of the important concerns, which the school curriculum must address. We intend that it shall do so and indeed within the national curriculum shall take steps to ensure that these issues are appropriately covered. They will be dealt with in many subject areas. For example, the science working group has already been reminded of the need to help pupils develop,respect for the environment and the care of living thingsand we can expect relevant attainment targets to be developed in geography, in history, and elsewhere. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that both mathematics and technology working groups are to be set up.
But we do not want to give emphasis in Clause 1 to any subject, or cross-curricular theme, however timely and important. Nor should we wish to appear to devalue pupils' individual experiences and achievements by emphasising only the social and collective. Clause 1 has struck what we believe to be the right balance between the various objectives of the school curriculum. We resisted in another place the attempt to hang upon it additional embellishments, however worthy the cause in question, and we remain convinced that this is the right approach.
With regard to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, while the Government have particular sympathy with the intentions behind his Amendment No. 7, which seeks to include in Clause 1 the explicit objective of educating pupils for life in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society, I must speak against this amendment also, and for similar reasons. Given the nature of our society it would be difficult to argue that preparation for adult life, and indeed the promotion of the cultural development of our society, do not already cover those attitudes and activities which this amendment seeks to encourage. As I have said, we do not wish to start on the road of separately identifying particular skills, or particular attitudes, which might he given a boost by a mention in the Bill, however laudable they may be.
I should like to make clear that our unwillingness to accept this amendment is no reflection on our commitment to its underlying objective. This Government have, in the light of the Swann Report, set in hand a number of initiatives to meet educational needs in a multi-ethnic society, including projects supported through education support grants and a new national priority area for in-service teacher training. In addition, the need to take account of ethnic diversity has been included in the criteria used by the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education for the approval of initial teacher training courses, and the national criteria for the GCSE.
In the context of the national curriculum, the first subject working groups have been asked, in drawing up attainment targets and programmes of study, to bear in mind the multi-ethnic nature of society. I 481 know that the task group on assessment and testing has also considered these issues very carefully. We shall certainly ensure that all future detailed work follows these same principles.
Finally, I shall speak about Amendment No. 10 to Clause 2 which is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Graham. It seeks to ensure that the national curriculum conforms with the requirements of Clause 1.
§ The Earl of Arran
Forgive me, I should have referred to Amendment No. 15. The national curriculum will be established by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and implemented by local authorities, governing bodies and head teachers. All of these parties are explicitly and unequivocally required under Clause 1 to carry out all their functions in a way designed to meet the requirements of the clause. That being the case, the national curriculum could hardly fail to be designed and implemented so as to meet those requirements. I hope again that this assurance will persuade the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment and persuade other noble Lords, in these circumstances, to withdraw their amendments also.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
The noble Earl has made what sounds to me like a very weak case. He does not appear to have read the documents produced by his own Government. If he had done so he would not have referred to Amendment No. 8 as simply dealing with groups. Amendment No. 8 specifically mentions "the inter-dependence of individuals". If we consider the argument that the noble Earl has put before the Committee, why is it that when the Government produced their White Paper they included in it all the points that were mentioned about helping pupils to develop lively, inquiring minds and to acquire understanding and skills relevant to adult life?
The Government then found it an advantage to add to the skills necessary for adult life. The amendment which I have tabled uses the direct words in paragraph 44 of the White Paper, and refers to helping pupils,to understand the world in which they live, and the inter-dependence of individuals, groups and nations.If the Government found that to be an advantage in 1985, why have they changed their mind in 1988?
The noble Earl had nothing to say about that. At this late hour, despite the fact that there has been support for the amendment from all sides, I do not propose to divide the Committee. But I put down a marker that such has been the support behind Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 that we shall certainly return to them at Report stage. On that occasion we shall hope to have a clearer and more intelligent answer to the mass of feeling and thought that has been expressed during the debate than we have heard from the Minister tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 11 p.m.
§ The noble Lord said: I feel like Winston Churchill must have felt before the last war. When he said there was going to be a war nobody would listen to him.
§ [Amendment No. 6 not moved.]
§ [Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 not moved.]
Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 1, line 25, at end insert—
("(3) The authorities named in subsection 1(a), (b) and (c) above shall make adequate arrangements to enable the reasonable exercise of judgment by teachers in pursuance of their professional duties including, in particular, the progressive development of the curriculum.").
§ The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to emphasise the importance of the teaching profession in the development of the syllabus and the curriculum. It must be well known to the Committee that a very large number of members of the teaching profession are deeply disturbed by the Bill. They feel that their professional contribution is not being fully recognised, has not been fully recognised and that their status is not what it should be.
§ As many of us have said during the discussion on the Bill, the whole success of the implementation of the Government's intention turns on having the support and the professional commitment of the teachers. They would be greatly reassured if on the face of the Bill the need to be in touch with them as well as the Secretary of State, the local authorities and the head teachers, and the need for them to be consulted in the development of the curriculum, was recognised.
§ I am sure that the noble Baroness will tell me that there is no need, that it is implied and that everybody understands that teachers have to be deeply involved in the work. But I assure the Committee that they do not see it that way. Other Members must know from the letters they have received how undermined the teachers feel, how neglected and how scorned in many cases. To give this recognition to them by building it into the Bill would go a very long way to giving them the confidence that they must have if the Bill is to work. I beg to move.
§ Lord McNair
Clause 1 is a very odd clause indeed. It reads more like a model homily or a sermon than the opening of an Act of Parliament. If this is to be the pattern for legislation from now on I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of the Local Government Finance Bill. Another very odd thing about the clause is that it is apparently the curriculum and nothing but the curriculum which is expected to promote the:spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupilsand in some unexplained way "of society".
It is also the curriculum which has to prepare pupils:for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life".I suppose the curriculum at the school which I attended had something to do with my mental and physical development. Culture, in so far as it existed, was strictly ex-curriculum and the less I say about my 483 spiritual and moral development the better. What about our preparation for the:opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life"?That comes hardly at all from the curriculum. If one is lucky it comes from the example of one's teachers and from the whole atmosphere and ethos of one's school, which in turn are created by one's teachers.
It is most odd that this most odd clause virtually ignores the teachers completely. The word "teacher" creeps in in line 14 where a head teacher is mentioned as a possible alternative to a governing body. In this introductory and homiletic clause that is the sum total of the recognition that teachers have some part to play in education. We must send a signal to the teachers indicating that, whether or not we admire and respect them—and I do—we know that we cannot do without them.
§ Baroness Young
I hope that my noble friend will be able to say that the amendment is not necessary. I share with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and with many other Members the real importance of obtaining a greater understanding of what the Government are trying to achieve in the Bill through the teaching profession. Like many Members of the Committee I have not only received a large amount of correspondence from teachers but have also taken the opportunity to talk to a number of them. I believe that a great deal of misunderstanding has arisen in respect of the Bill. I agree with the view shared on all sides of the Committee. If the Bill is to succeed it will be through the teaching profession and it is important that it understands what is happening.
I began by saying that I hoped my noble friend would be able to say that the amendment was not necessary. As I see it, the needs of the teachers are implicit throughout the Bill but certainly in Clause 1. I strongly suspect that time will show that there will be a great involvement of teachers in how the curriculum evolves, particularly in new subjects such as technology, which is far less defined than any other subject. However, it will obviously be a crucial subject underlying the Bill and we shall require the input and expertise of teachers in order to make a success of it. Although I hope that my noble friend will be able to say that the amendment is not necessary, I underline what I and many other people believe. It is important to recognise that the role of the teachers will be crucial to the success of the Bill.
§ Baroness Hooper
The amendment seeks to establish in law the professional rights of teachers. I believe, as does the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that the teachers' professional role must be safeguarded. The importance of the teachers' role has been fully recognised, as has been emphasised by my noble friend Lady Young. I am not convinced that the amendments are necessary or workable.
The amendment would have the effect of allowing the teacher who did not wish to defer to his head teacher's professional authority to seek judicial review of any decision made within the school with which he disagreed. That is not the way in which professional disagreements could or should be handled, and I do not believe that any other 484 profession expects the courts to arbitrate in disputes between professionals and their employers about professional judgments, as is implied here.
I recognise and support the sentiment behind the amendment, but it is not necessary to amend the Bill in order to achieve it. The Bill and the provisions of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 establish a framework which does not threaten the professional status of teachers and which gives head teachers specific responsibilities in respect of the school curriculum. In the Bill before the Committee the Secretary of State is not empowered to make national curriculum orders which would in any way constrain teachers' freedom to choose their own teaching styles and methods or the materials that they wish to use. We are quite clear on that point, and had it not been so we should have amended the Bill to secure that effect.
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.
Therefore, the professional discretion of teachers is in no way threatened by the provisions of this Bill or by the proposed powers of the Secretary of State. Under the 1986 Education (No. 2) Act the articles of government of any county or controlled school must give the head teacher control over the determination and organisation of the curriculum. The only constraint is that he must act in a way compatible with the local education authority's curriculum policy, or that policy as modified by the governing body. Again that leaves ample room for professional freedom.
In aided schools the curriculum is under the control of the governing body, but again the head must be allocated powers to determine and organise the curriculum. So in all maintained schools there must be delegation of the key professional elements of curriculum organisation and delivery.
It is apparent, I think, that the ability of the Secretary of State, of the LEA and of the governing body to limit teachers' professional discretion is already very severely circumscribed. The dangers against which this amendment purports to protect the teacher are not real ones, and the protection is not therefore necessary. There will remain genuine professional debate within schools, LEAs, and nationally about teaching methods and approaches and about curricular organisation. It is a sign of a healthy professionalism. However, we should not atttempt, as does this amendment, to bring the full panoply of the law to bear in an inappropriate way.
Having said that, I wish to emphasise again the words of my noble friend Lady Young—and, indeed, my own words at Second Reading—in saying that we recognise that teachers will have a crucial role to play in the delivery of the national curriculum. For that reason I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for tabling this amendment but I ask the Committee to oppose it for the reasons I have given.
§ Baroness Seear
I am not surprised by that reply and I cease to be disappointed because I do not expect anything now. As the noble Baroness must know, the fact remains that a great many members of the teaching profession are extremely disillusioned with this Bill and the attitude of the Government and some gesture of encouragement built into the Bill would be of the greatest value. However, the Government are adamant and it is quite clear that they are not giving anything away. They believe that they are right, although people all over the country are telling them that they are wrong. However, at this time of night I shall not divide the Committee and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [The National Curriculum]:
The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 2, line 2, leave out from beginning to ("in") in line 6 and insert ("The curriculum for every maintained school shall comprise a basic curriculum which includes—
- (a) provision for religious education for all registered pupils at the school; and
- (b) a curriculum for all registered pupils at the school of compulsory school age (to be known as "the National Curriculum") which meets the requirements of subsection (2) below.
(2) The curriculum referred to in subsection (1)(b) above shall comprise the core and other foundation subjects and specify").
§ The right reverend Prelate said: I have already spoken to Amendment No. 11. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Ritchie of Dundee had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 10:
Page 2, line 1, leave out ("purpose or') and insert ("purposes of fulfilling the duties specified in section I above and, subject thereto").
§ 11.15 p.m.
The noble Lord said: I do not propose to speak at length at this time of night. However, I should just explain the change, which is a little obscure and perhaps somewhat difficult to follow. Clause 2 begins with the words:
The provisions of this Chapter shall have effect for the purpose of securing that there is implemented",
and so on. The proposed change is that the provisions of the chapter shall have effect for the purposes of fulfilling—
§ Lord Elton
Will the noble Lord forgive me if I intervene? I may be quite wrong in this, but he appears to be addressing an amendment which has just been removed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. If that is the case, surely he is attempting the impossible.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Renton)
The noble Lord is right and I must accept full responsibility. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, to accept my apology. Amendment No. 10 has, in effect, fallen and that is also true of Amendments Nos. 12 to 17 inclusive because they in one way or another have already been discussed and have in any event been pre-empted. Therefore that brings us to Amendment No.—
§ Lord Peston
I wonder whether it is in order for me to ask a question. Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 are fundamentally important amendments which I was proposing to move with the noble Lord, Lord Joseph. I should like to know when those amendments were suddenly destroyed. I have been sitting here for most, although not all, of today's debate and I fail to see how such an important issue can suddenly disappear, so to speak, by magic. At the very least I require an explanation—
§ Lord Elton
If it is proper for me to intervene I would say that the amendments disappeared at the moment when the noble Lord did not object to the acceptance of Amendment No. 11.
§ Lord Peston
I must say that I did not even know that Amendment No. 11 had been accepted. In those circumstances I should have thought that some explanation would have been in order. I must appeal to someone who is concerned with such matters and say that to allow such an important amendment to disappear on a Bill of such importance is not the way to conduct business correctly.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
I assure the noble Lord that I put the Question as to whether Amendment No. 11 should be agreed to and it was agreed to without dissent. That being so, and under the rules relating to pre-emption, the amendments which followed have fallen including Amendments Nos. 12 to 17 inclusive. Amendment No. 18 was discussed—
§ Lord Belstead
Perhaps the Government should accept some of the responsibility for the confusion which has arisen, because we offer the groupings to the other Whips' Offices. There is a difficulty in ensuring that the numbers of the groupings reach individual Peers. However, stopping short of that fact, the groupings which we sent to the other offices this morning made it clear that having disposed of Amendment No. 10, which accompanies Amendment No. 27, the next grouping would be 16, 17, 30, 34, 50, 59 and 67. That would mean that Amendments Nos. 12 to 15 have been disposed of. However, with respect to the Chair, Amendments Nos. 16 and 17, in the opinion of the Government, have not been disposed of. Therefore I think that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is right.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
I am sorry to have to disagree with Members of the Committee, but the advice that I have been given, and I have no reason to doubt it, is that as Amendment No. 11 has been agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 10—and I think that is already well understood—or Amendments Nos. 12 to 17 inclusive because of the rule relating to pre-emption.
§ Lord Belstead
I apologise to the Committee. I now understand what the Deputy Chairman is saying: that is, that Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 simply fall because they have been cut out of the text of the Bill. In that case I withdraw what I said.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
The amendments have been overtaken by the acceptance of Amendment No. 11. That is the true technical position and I am bound by it, for better or for worse.
Is it improper to ask how that can be when no warning was given that Amendment No. 11 would carry with it the elimination of a later batch of amendments? In an earlier speech I expressed my preference for Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 over Amendment No. 1 when the Committee divided in large numbers. I ask the Committee whether the rules involve the elimination of a group of five amendments which some of us on both sides of the Committee take intensely seriously. Of course if that is the ruling of the Committee, I shall abide by it.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
I should like to say a few words as the mover of Amendment No. 11. I had not appreciated that my amendment would have that effect. However, I must say that I was in danger of suffering precisely the same effect earlier today. If Amendment No. 1 had been carried I should have been precluded from moving an amendment which I had agreed with the Government with the intention of including religious education in the national curriculum. I would have been prevented from doing that, so those who are affected by my Amendment No. 11 are therefore not alone in suffering the effects of pre-emption.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
The Chair is bound entirely by the rules of the House. Under the rules of the House, if an amendment is moved and carried which has the effect of making other amendments redundant—I hope I use a non-committal phrase—because they fall, there is nothing that the Chair can do about it.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
Is it not in order that, when there is as a result of accepting Amendment No. 11 the consequences now advised, the Committee should be informed of those consequences before the amendment is moved?
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
As the noble Lord rightly says, it is frequently the case that the Chair gives a warning that if one amendment is accepted the Chairman cannot call another or others. But that is not a condition precedent. The position is that the rules relating to pre-emption have to be accepted because they are rules of the House.
§ Lord Peston
Under no circumstances do I wish to criticise the Chair or go against the rules. However, I hope that the Committee realises how fundamental this set of amendments is. In terms of the curriculum for me these are the most important amendments. I am sorry that we should have been debating them so late, though it appears that now we are not going to debate them at all. It is an absurd state of affairs that an issue as important as this can be ruled out by rules 488 of procedure or, if I may say so, speaking for myself, because I am relatively new (the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, is even newer) from our sheer inexperience. A subject as important as this in the world of education should not be allowed to go by the board. There must be a set of rules to get round this set of rules—there always is!
§ Lord Belstead
Perhaps I may from the point of view of the Government and of the Committee point out that it is not a question of procedure. It is a fact that Amendment No. 11 in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has removed the words which are the subject of Amendments Nos. 16 and 17. With the best will in the world there is nothing Members of the Committee on either side can do about that.
§ Lord Peston
We can carry this on almost endlessly. However, may I ask this question? Does the core curriculum stay in the Bill? Is there any possibility that we can argue that the core curriculum ought to be in the national curriculum? That is what this point is about. As I understand it, the core curriculum is in the Bill. I simply wish to argue that point. I believe that somebody ought to find a way to enable me to do that, if not now, at some other time.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
Perhaps I may be of some assistance to the noble Lord. He may raise any matter that is relevant on Clause 2 stand part.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
There is one further matter that I still do not understand. Why was Amendment No. 11 called before Amendment No. 10?
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
Unfortunately, the line reference was wrongly printed on the Marshalled List. I am afraid that that is the answer to the noble Lord. It should have read, "Page 2, line 2," instead of "Page 2, line 1".
§ Baroness Seear
I think that we are in order to protest very strongly about the confusion in this Committee. I have been in the Chamber since 1971. I have never heard such a muddle from start to finish.
§ Lord Belstead
Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness that that is a little less than fair. It is a very well established rule of the House, which the noble Baroness and I know perfectly well, that if an amendment is agreed to—and in this case it is Amendment No. 11—which removes words from the text and puts other words in, then it is not possible to move an amendment which relates to the words which have been removed. That is a fairly simple principle.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
Will the noble Lord the Leader of the House help us further? He has explained to us the technical reasons why it is not possible for the noble Lords, Lord Peston and Lord Joseph, to move these amendments. Can he give us an assurance that through the usual channels attempts will be made to see that these amendments, or their equivalents, can come up at Report stage at a suitable time so that they can be fully discussed?
§ Lord Belstead
Let us be absolutely clear. The words to which Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 relate have been removed from the text because they have been removed by Amendment No. 11. If the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and my noble friend Lord Joseph wish to put down the effect of Amendments Nos. 16 and 17, they will need to relate those amendments to the text as it is now revised.
The noble Lord the Leader of the House, in an earlier intervention, made comments with regard to the groupings.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
May I point out that in the text of Amendment No. 11, which was passed, the words "and other foundation" still remain in the text. I therefore see no reason why the amendment should not be considered on Report because they remain there. It is not quite the same with Amendment No. 17. However, it would certainly be possible for Amendment No. 16 to be dealt with because those words are still in the revised text.
§ Lord Rochester
Greatly daring, and fearing the lash of the Chief Whip again, perhaps I may support what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, said. He asked why Amendment No. 11 was allowed to precede Amendment No. 10. The noble Lord the Deputy Chairman responded by saying that Amendment No. 10 was wrongly billed, in the sense that it should have related to page 2, line 2. However, if one looks at the text of the Bill, it is plain, as I read it, that it is line 1.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
If the noble Lord will allow me, I have already explained that there is a misprint in relation to Amendment No. 10. It should read,Page 2, line 2, leave out ('purpose of')".In Amendment No. 11 we have,Page 2, line 2, leave out from beginning".That comes before "leave out ('purpose of')", which gave rise to the difficulty that we are discussing. There is no doubt that the position is as I have stated. Amendment No. 10, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, was correctly pre-empted by Amendment No. 11.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
I do not know whether I am being helpful, but it seems that the words spoken by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London have some relevance. Amendment No. 16, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, is to leave out "and other foundation". That is referred to in Amendment No. 11, which has been carried. We could perhaps regard Amendment No. 16 as an amendment to that amendment. All it is doing is altering the line number of those words. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, has his amendment down as an amendment to the amendment which has just been carried.
I beg to move that in Clause 2, as amended, in line 9, as it now is, on page 2, the words "and other foundation subjects" be omitted.
I am moving a manuscript amendment which I have given to the Clerk. It amends Amendment No. 11, which has just been accepted. I am following precisely the excellent advice given by the right reverend Prelate, to amend the last words of his own accepted amendment, which achieves the same purpose.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
I have not yet seen the manuscript amendment and I am therefore at some disadvantage.
§ Lord Elton
While the noble Lord the Deputy Chairman is looking at this matter perhaps I may intervene as a perplexed Back-Bencher. I have been in this place since 1973 and I can remember many muddles worse than this one. I suggest that we follow a simple procedure and deal with the Bill as it is. When we amend the Bill, an amendment which touches part of the Bill which has been swept away is swept away with it. With the greatest respect and deference to participants who have been injured by that procedure, the onus of anticipating whether the bit of the tree on which they want to carve their name has been lopped off before they get to it rests with those who want to carve their name on it. I have been in that difficulty in the past on the Opposition Front Bench. I sympathise. If we start making special rules as we go along because we see in difficulty good and honest friends who wish to speak, we shall be setting difficult precedents for the future.
I believe that the Committee will be best advised to continue in its ordinary way and to deal with the matter on clause stand part or on Report, if that is appropriate. We should not unscramble our ordinary standing orders, which most of us have learnt with great pain and sorrow in the past, to accommodate ourselves and those who are not familiar with the procedures.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
If the noble Lord will allow me, I should point out to him, with the deepest respect, that the amendment to Amendment No. 11 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, cannot now be accepted, because, if the noble Lord wished to move it as an amendment, notice should have been given before the right reverend Prelate moved his amendment. We therefore move on to Amendment No. 18.
§ Lord Peston
Perhaps I may at least ask for a modicum of clarification. It seems to me that the Bill must take precedence. One may disagree, but the fact is that, as the Government have said, this is a major, if not the central, piece of legislation in the education field for a generation. I refuse to believe that the rules will be such that the consideration of the Bill would be damaged. I should simply like some explanation of when we can discuss the point at issue.
§ [Amendment No. 10 not moved.]
§ [Amendments Nos. 12 to 17 not moved.]491
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)
I now call Amendment No. 18, in the name of Baroness David.
§ [Amendment No. 18 not moved.]
Baroness David moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 2, line 10, after ("as"") insert ("individual").
§ The noble Baroness said: In speaking to this amendment I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 23 and 25. The purpose of the amendment is to replace the term "attainment target" with the term "individual attainment target". The "attainment target" implies a pass/fail type of testing. The amendment that I am proposing would modify the current wording by prefacing it with the word "individual".
§ The intention is to show clearly that the kind of assessment envisaged will be designed to help the progress of each individual pupil rather than setting standards against which to judge the success of pupils. We all know that each child is very different. In other words, the amendment would ensure formative or diagnostic testing as opposed to summative testing.
Diagnostic as opposed to summative testing is advocated by the report of the Task Group on Assessment and Testing, often referred to now as TGAT, set up by the Secretary of State to advise him on the assessment aspects of the national curriculum. In its introduction, the report set out general criteria for a national system of assessment including the following:
the assessment results should give direct information about pupils' achievement in relation to objectives: they should be criterion-referenced; the results should provide a basis for decisions about pupils' further learning needs: they should be formative; … the ways in which criteria and scales are set up and used should relate to expected routes of educational development, giving some continuity to a pupil's assessment at different ages: the assessments should relate to progression.
§ The danger of the kind of testing proposed in the Bill or what we assume is proposed in the Bill is that it would lead to a sense of failure among many of the pupils who did not achieve the national assessment target. However, if the assessment target is individually determined then the likelihood of success is substantially improved for all pupils and their sense of achievement is greatly enhanced. As the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, said earlier today, for children to feel that they have been successful is a tremendous help and encourages them to go on.
The TGAT report makes the point that:
When assessment and testing are carefully aligned to the curriculum as in Graded Assessment Schemes, one of the outstanding benefits that teachers report is the enhanced motivation of pupils. Many pupils seem to need short-term objectives which are clear and which they perceive to be attainable. The possibility of achieving these builds enthusiasm for progress in learning.
§ The only purpose served by establishing national attainment targets would be to publish statistics about national achievements at the key stages of education, and to make it possible for schools to publish results so that the achievements of pupils in one school could be compared with another. Neither of these serves a useful purpose for the educational progress of individual pupils nor for the quality of education. So I hope that this word will be accepted. 492 It would make clearer, I hope, what the Government's aims are or should be and would be nearer to what the task group report recommends. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Hooper
The three amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady David, are somewhat ambiguous. In the context of attainment targets the word "individual" could mean either "single" or "related to each particular child". The former interpretation would add nothing to the meaning, so I take it that the noble Baroness intends by these amendments to ensure that attainment targets and assessment arrangements are individually described to suit the personal needs of each child being assessed. Clearly, such an objective is not quite practicable.
I might also add that it is incompatible with one of the main aims of the national curriculum. One important objective is to make it possible to obtain a clear indication of the progress which each child has made in relation to nationally agreed targets. A system which acknowledged no communality of purpose of the kind that the noble Baroness appears to be advocating would be as unsatisfactory to parents and teachers as it would be to the Government. They all have good reasons for wanting to see pupils' attainments in a recognisable national context.
Of course it is very important to know whether the pupil has achieved to the best of his or her ability and made real progress over the year or term. Programmes of study need to meet the requirements of the vast majority of pupils over the full ability range and attainment targets also need to reflect the different levels of performance we can expect to find at any age.
These are objectives we set our subject working groups and which underlay the work of the task group on assessment and testing to which the noble Baroness referred and about which I shall have more to say on later amendments. But the need for differentiation of this kind does not amount to a case for individually expressed targets or assessment arrangements. It calls for flexibility and common sense, and these will not be lacking in the application of our national curriculum provisions.
The fact of the matter is that the amendment as it stands has no impact at all on the effect of the Bill. It makes a terminological change and no more. The definitions of attainment targets and assessment arrangements would be unaltered and they are the things that count. For this reason, if for no other, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
§ Baroness David
I cannot say I am entirely convinced by what the noble Baroness has said. I shall read very carefully what she has said and then decide whether to come back on Report. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 20 not moved.]493
§ 11.45 p.m.
Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 2, line 14, at end insert ("having full regard to the additional costs, resources and staffing necessary to a proper recognition of pupils as individuals and with varying abilities;").
§ The noble Lord said: I propose to speak also to Amendments Nos. 29, 58, 61 and 84. All are amendments essentially to do with resources. I am making the assumption that the national curriculum will be brought into practice in the form as stated in earlier parts of the Bill including those parts it has not so far been possible to debate and amend. I simply make the point that if the national curriculum is brought in in that form, then we would all regard ourselves as fully committed to seeing that it was successful. We may debate our preference that it should be flexible and I shall in due course discuss the importance of the core as opposed to what is called the foundation.
§ But let us assume that the Bill goes through in that sense unamended. What follows logically, it seems to me, is first that there will be drastic changes in our education system. Indeed I take it to be the Government's view that drastic changes are required and that they will introduce such changes. If we ask ourselves what drastic changes we have in mind I suppose we would say that there would be important changes in teacher training, in teacher retraining and in connection with teacher recruitment. I am bound to say, in terms of new disciplines and the change in existing disciplines, there would be significant changes in the equipment requirements.
§ We have argued on other occasions about the poor state of education building in the maintained sector. I should have thought, again as a minimum, that a Secretary of State anxious to make a success of education would also see to it that whatever was required on the building side was made available. In other words, quite independent of any other changes that may be occurring in the education system, it seems to me that there will be considerable developments affecting resources. In some ways one could view the amendments as saying that the curriculum changes should not go forward without resources. I would prefer to argue that in order that the curriculum changes should go forward, whether or not we agree with them, and become a success, one of the preconditions is that the appropriate resources should be made available. My reading of the Bill is that it does not come to grips with the enormous impact on resources that the changes will make. In saying that, I am taking a fairly minimalist view.
§ I wait to hear what the DES thinks on those matters. However, as I am advised and having done some of the sums, it seems that we are talking in terms of some three-quarters of a billion pounds per annum in addition to the DES budget. That is a conservative estimate. Indeed, to make a success of it I believe that one would want to err on the generous side. In that case, we are talking in terms of £1 billion per annum.
§ I have introduced the amendments to probe and to clarify the resource pressures. I believe that I am being extremely cautious in considering the matter. Many noble Lords have mentioned the importance of teacher co-operation and the fact that, whatever happens, the changes will not be determined by the Secretary of State or his officials but by the teachers. 494 We shall require an amazing expenditure in that direction, although I save for another occasion the question of teachers' salaries which will add to the figures I have mentioned.
§ We have introduced the amendments in order to point out that you do not get anything for nothing. If the Government want the reforms to go forward—at the moment I hold back from stating my view of the reforms as such—they have a duty to support them with appropriate resources. The purpose of the amendments is to indicate in several ways the nature of that duty.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
The amendment is important in that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has introduced for the first time this evening the question of resources for the implementation of the national curriculum, assuming that it stands in the form that the Government propose.
My recollection is that the National Association of Head Teachers calculated a need to recruit in the region of 10,000 additional teachers specifically for the implementation of core subjects. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum in the Bill mentions some relatively small sums which the Government propose to make available. I seem to recollect from the winding-up speech of the noble Baroness on Second Reading that she mentioned some grants which the Government propose to make. If memory does not betray me, I believe that those were of the order of £100 million.
At this stage it would help the Committee if the Minister gave the Government's view on how they will help with the implementation of the national curriculum and what sums they will make available.
§ Baroness Lockwood
Amendment No. 84, which stands in my name, also refers to resources. However, it points to the fact that a responsibility will be placed on head teachers to carry out the national curriculum. My amendment would add the words,so far as is reasonably practicable".In the light of the arguments which have been put forward by my noble friend Lord Peston and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, it seems unreasonable to place on head teachers the unqualified responsibility for carrying out their duties in relation to the curriculum regardless of the difficulties which they are likely to encounter. To quote the National Association of Head Teachers once again, they have, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, said, estimated that some 3,000 additional qualified language teachers will have to be employed, along with an additional 2,500 science teachers and an additional 3,500 CDT teachers.
I put down the amendment with some diffidence because I believe that it is important to have a national curriculum. I hope that the national curriculum will be so amended as to comply with an amendment which I shall be moving later. Nevertheless, I support the whole idea of a national curriculum and I hesitate to give anyone a loophole to get out of adopting the national curriculum. On the other hand, I do not think that we can expect head teachers and others who are given the responsibility under Clause 6 of the Bill to carry out those responsibilities if they do not have adequate resources to do so.
§ Lord Northbourne
I wonder whether I may ask the noble Baroness to explain how the rigidities which will be imposed by the national curriculum can be reconciled with the present immobility of teaching staff. I know that in Kent at least we have a policy of no redundancy other than voluntary redundancy. In the secondary school with which I am personally connected, due to reducing rolls we have a situation in which we have two and a half teachers over establishment, yet we are short of a maths teacher. What are the Government going to do to increase the mobility of teachers to meet the requirements of the new curriculum?
§ Baroness Hooper
The group of amendments deals with two related points. Dealing with consultation first, Clauses 13 and 14 already require the Secretary of State to consult the NCC as respects England and the Secretary of State for Wales to consult the CCW before making orders covering attainment targets, and programmes of study and certain other matters. Wide consultation is also to be conducted in England by the National Curriculum Council, which is to report the results to the Secretary of State. It is only after this that my right honourable friend may draw up a draft order. He then has to consult on that draft order with all interested bodies. Only in the case of orders about assessment arrangements is there no requirement for consultation, but those orders will flow from the proposals for each subject on which there will have been consultation and would be of a technical and administrative nature. The assessment tasks themselves will have been piloted in schools.
Therefore, the Bill contains definite safeguards to ensure that consultation takes place. What the noble Lord now seeks is accordingly unnecessary and I must ask the Committee to reject it.
On resources and the speed of implementation, 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 satisfied as to the availability of suitably qualified teachers and other resources. It is unthinkable that a responsible Secretary of State would do otherwise. If some future Secretary of State did not, then that is certainly something that would be brought out in the consultation processes to which I have referred and which are required by Clauses 13 and 14. It is also something which would no doubt catch the eagle eyes of Members of this Chamber and of those in another place when orders were laid before us to give attainment targets, programmes of study or regulations their legal force.
The figure that has been suggested in terms of resources for the national curriculum is £65 million over three years, which is to be provided to fund work in support of the Government's proposals, including that of the NCC and SEAC and the development of assessment tasks. Local education authorities will not be charged fees for the provision of those tasks or for moderation. The Government will also support the national curriculum through education support grants, on which our proposals for 1989–90 were announced as the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said, in the course of the Second Reading—or maybe it was 496 the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock—and indeed through training grants for teachers. It would be for the local education authorities in schools within the planned level of resources to ensure that staffing, as well as spending on support services, books and equipment, was directed towards achieving the national policy.
I should like to say in relation to teacher supply that the ratio of pupils to teachers is currently at its lowest ever level. The Government's expenditure plans allow for it to fall still further to 17 to 1, which will provide LEAs collectively with scope to redeploy teachers to prepare and implement the national curriculum.
We want the introduction of the national curriculum to be sure-footed and fast enough to bring its benefits to the pupils in our schools as quickly as possible, but not so fast as to disrupt the education of the children already in school or to outdistance the availability of the teachers and other resources needed to secure those benefits. What we have said so far is that we expect to require all primary schools to teach all the core and other foundation subjects to their pupils for a reasonable time from September 1989.
We have also said that we expect to introduce attainment targets and programmes for study in mathematics and science for the 5 to 7 key stage from the same date; and now that we have established the working group for English and have asked it to report this autumn on attainment targets and programmes of study for the 5 to 7 and 8 to 11 key stages, we hope to be able to bring in English for the first of those key stages from September 1989.
We are considering too whether to bring in mathematics and science for the third stage for 11 to 14 at the same time. Thereafter we expect to proceed incrementally—subject by subject and key stage by key stage—as proposals are prepared and resources, including teacher supply, permit. In each case, assessment and testing arrangements would begin to be introduced a year later. That is what we expect, but it would not be right for us to make final decisions now about the detailed pace of introduction. Those decisions need to take account of the advice of the various working groups as well as TGAT and the views of the curriculum councils.
I assure the Committee that we shall want to be satisfied that when the duties are imposed on local education authorities and schools, they can be carried out in an orderly and effective way within the resources available. This is one reason why Amendment No. 84, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, spoke, is unnecessary. The other reason is a more technical one. If a requirement cannot reasonably be complied with in a particular school, this would be a defence against legal complaint that the requirement was being ignored.
We believe that the Bill contains sufficient safeguards on consultation, and we are well seized of the fact that the introduction of the national curriculum must keep pace with resources. I assume that on this basis the presenters of the amendments will choose to withdraw them, since the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said that they were in the nature of probing amendments. If they are not so inclined, I must ask the Committee to reject them.
§ 12 midnight
§ Lord Peston
The noble Baroness has made a very important statement if I understand it correctly. I hope that the Committee will bear with me if I ask one or two more questions in order to make sure that I understand what she has said. Am I right in assuming that with regard both to the core subjects and to the foundation subjects at the different stages, the Government are saying that in no case will these become mandatory until it is clear that the available resources are there?
To take an obvious example and one that concerns us, I am as committed as anyone to an improvement in mathematics teaching and the rise of numeracy generally in our country. We are all perfectly aware of the fact that there are not the maths teachers around. I object very strongly to having non-trained people teaching mathematics. It is not the case that anybody who can do sums can teach mathematics satisfactorily. Am I right in assuming, for example, that if there are not mathematics teachers around, even for stage 1 let alone for stage 5, then stage I will simply not be introduced? Therefore, to anticipate one of the later amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Joseph—and I must say I wondered whether the date of 1998 was a misprint—am I to assume that if the maths teachers are not there until 1998, mathematics will not be part of the compulsory national curriculum until then and that the same point applies mutatis mutandis to all the other subjects? It would be enormously helpful to the Committee if the noble Baroness can tell us whether that is the Government's position. It would considerably ease one's attitude towards the Bill if that were the Government's position.
§ Baroness Hooper
The Government have always made clear as regards the implementation of the national curriculum that they would lay emphasis on the core subjects first and then follow them with the various subjects which form the foundation part of the curriculum. The Government are already doing work in terms of shortage subjects which affect mathematics and science teaching. I believe that the noble Lord can be assured that everything is being done to ensure that the mathematics part of the core curriculum has a suitable supply of teachers well before 1998.
§ Lord Peston
I do not really want to continue; I was asking a negative question. If the maths teachers are not there, will the Government agree that this aspect of the matter cannot go forward? I fully accept that if the teachers are there it can go forward, but that is not really the interesting question. The interesting question is the negative one. I use maths teachers as an example. If they are not there will the Government hold back until we get them?
§ Baroness Hooper
I was trying to give a positive answer to the noble Lord's negative question by saying that we intend to ensure that the maths teachers will be there.
§ Baroness David
Perhaps I may ask a further question. When the noble Baroness was answering, I believe she said that it was expected to get in the first 498 stage for the five to seven year-olds for certain subjects by 1989. I thought the task group report said that would be extremely difficult for several years for the tests to be prepared and so on. Can the Minister clarify that matter?
§ Baroness Hooper
I should like to clarify what I said. We expect all primary schools to teach all the core and other foundation subjects, as appropriate, to their pupils for a reasonable time from September 1989, but not necessarily in line with attainment targets and programmes of study which may not have been worked out by then by the relevant task groups.
§ Lord Peston
In view of the very important contribution to this debate by the noble Baroness, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]
Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 24:
Page 2, line 18, after ("stage") insert ("for constructive diagnostic purposes only").
The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment perhaps I may begin with a quotation from a great educationist, Christian Schiller, who was a Cambridge mathematician and an HMI as long ago as the 1920s. More than 50 years' ago he said:
If a minimum of attainment is fixed such that it is within the power of all, it is demonstrably irrelevant to the vast majority and of no practical value. If a minimum is fixed such that some only can reach it, it must demonstrably be beyond the powers of the rest and its imposition will undoubtedly lead to a distortion of their powers. In my view the goal of a minimum of attainment is incompatible with continuity in the learning process.
In other words, what is implied here is that what is now known in the jargon as "minimum competency testing" cannot improve the quality of education because it focuses on reaching the minimum, usually in relation to over-emphasised basic skills, rather than in reaching the optimum.
§ It has been widely discredited in the United States as the result of very clear-cut evidence that the overall quality of education has actually fallen, mainly because of an excessive concentration on teaching to these tests. Evidence from leaked letters from No. 10 Downing Street suggests that it has not been widely enough discredited in this country.
§ What is required instead is differentiated testing for diagnostic purposes—that is, forms of assessment which take into account the very wide range of ability which inevitably exists in any age group of children and which diagnose both the strengths and the weaknesses of individual children with a view to trying either to build on those strengths or helping to eradicate those weaknesses. The personal characteristics and circumstances and the rate of progress of individual pupils vary enormously. Meaningful assessments of their achievements must take this into account and try to capture the complexity both of the education process and of the attainment of all pupils.
§ We must be both aware of this and very clear about the purpose of testing. Assessing children's performance, building up profiles which indicate their levels of attainment in a wide range of skills, requires a totally different approach to monitoring 499 the performance of the system through tests or comparing schools through tests. In my view, neither monitoring the system nor comparing schools' test scores is likely to increase standards, which we all want to do. However, well thought-out diagnostic tests can be of great help to parents, to teachers, to the pupils themselves, but especially to teachers. The reason they can be very helpful is that they can provide extremely useful information, which can be acted on. If one can act on that information and do something about it there is some hope of increasing standards.
§ If the Government intend to try to combine these very diverse aims of monitoring local education authorities and schools with the quite different aim of assessing individual pupils, what we shall get as a consequence is pressure for terribly simple tests and, indeed, for over-simple tests. The reason that we shall have that pressure is because tests are easier to use for a variety of different purposes if they are simple. But I am afraid to say that tests of that kind simply cannot reflect the complexity of learning, nor can they provide very useful measurements. They have very many dangers.
§ First, they can be used as league tables on individual schools or on individual teachers. As we all know there is a terrible risk that once one sets out league tables of that kind they will be misinterpreted. Some schools which supposedly have very poor results may actually be doing extremely well if one takes into account the nature of their pupil intake. Other schools which may look as if they are doing rather well may be doing very badly because their pupil intake is such that one would have expected them to do very much better.
§ The tests are, of course, also much too crude to provide the kind of information needed to help teachers to improve the standard of performance of individual pupils. But perhaps most important of all, these oversimplified tests will impoverish the curriculum in the end—which I am sure that all Members of the Committee will want to avoid—by encouraging teachers to teach to the test, rather than teaching the range of subjects that we would hope that they would cover.
§ Like the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, I am extremely concerned about the bottom 20 per cent. of the ability range. I agree with him when he says that we have, above all, failed this particular group. Many of them are very disadvantaged in other respects besides their educational experience and their educational attainments. They are quite often concentrated in inner city schools. Would it really be in the interests of these children and of their parents if we published tables showing that their school was at the bottom of the league, even though their school might be doing quite a good job in the light of the circumstances? No, instead the focus must be on school-based assessment, where we can capitalise on the much closer view of the pupil and his attainments which the teachers already have.
§ That is broadly what is recommended in Professor Black's TGAT report. However, the Government have given little indication of their intentions as regards their response to that report. They have given no indication as to whether or when they will publish 500 the second report which Professor Black has now completed. I hope that the Minister will reply to that.
§ It is extremely important that we build on the system of records of achievement which the DES has already initiated. One of the great advantages of records of achievement is that they involve the pupils with their teachers in building up profiles of performance. I believe that the initial evidence from an interim evaluation report carried out on the pilot schemes suggests that the records of achievement have been successful in involving pupils in their work at school and in creating a better relationship between pupils and their teachers. Such records can fit in very well with a system of diagnostic testing. However, they do not fit in well with paper and pencil tests, which focus on minimum competence.
§ The amendment is designed to ensure that we concentrate our efforts on a system of assessment which will raise standards. It can provide the guidance about progress over time rather than a crude snapshot involved in some of the other types of tests I have described. Moreover, I believe that it will save us from an expensive model by setting a clear goal of focusing on the single form of assessment which will help our children and young people. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Hooper
I appreciate the concern expressed about the possible nature and effects of the national assessment arrangements which we intend to introduce in association with the national curriculum. However, I believe that the Government's actions so far show that concern to be unfounded. We are now familiar with the fact that the Task Group on Assessment and Testing was established last year to advise on arrangements for a national assessment system. The group brought to bear on the subject an impressive weight of educational expertise. It produced a report which has been widely welcomed, not least by the Government, as being both sound and innovative in education terms.
When publishing the report last January the Government welcomed the broad framework which it proposed for a national assessment system. They promised to consider its detailed recommendations in the light of comments received and of further advice which they then commissioned from the task group. That advice was recently received and I assure the noble Baroness that it will be published in due course when consideration of it is complete.
In general terms TGAT confirmed the Government's view that an effective assessment system lies at the heart of promoting good learning and teaching; that such a system relates to the key ages of seven, 11, 14 and 16 and is both practicable and desirable; that it can replace much ineffective testing which is now carried out in schools; and in doing so will enhance standards; and that results should be reported to parents and in an aggregated form locally and nationally.
More specifically the task group confirmed that the main purpose of the national assessment arrangements, including testing, should be formative. That is, say, to enable teachers and parents to discover the stage that children have reached in relation to agreed attainment targets for the national 501 curriculum foundation subjects and to make informed decisions about the next step in their education. Testing should also be summative, enabling teachers and others to record in a systematic way the pupil's achievement overall, especially compared with attainment targets for each subject, and should contribute to an evaluation of the work of the education service and its various parts in the light of pupils' achievements.
As to the nature of the tests, TGAT proposed that assessment should be by a combination of continuous teacher assessment and a wide variety of externally prescribed assessment tasks or tests, including pencil and paper tests which are useful in some contexts. To keep teachers' ratings in line with national standards and to improve their professional knowledge and skills, group moderation based on GCSE practice is recommended. In other words, assessment need not relate simply to the result of tests—however sophisticated those tests may be—and both kinds of assessment should derive from the curriculum itself rather than determining the way in which it is taught.
The task group also recognised that some assessments or tests will be partly diagnostic in nature since they will indicate learning problems which need to be further investigated. However, it pointed out that such further purely diagnostic investigation will involve the use of highly specialised tests, necessarily relevant only to a limited set of circumstances and pupils. Since we intend that the main purpose of the national assessment and testing arrangements should be to indicate the stage which every child has reached in relation to the agreed targets, I feel that I cannot accept the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness.
§ Baroness David
The noble Baroness mentioned that the next report will be published in due course. It would be very helpful if available when we are discussing this part of the Bill. Can the Minister give an assurance that it will be published in good time for Report stage?
§ Baroness Blackstone
Perhaps the noble Baroness could say whether the Government have abandoned the idea of multiple choice paper and pencil tests designed to create league tables within schools or local education authorities? It was not entirely clear from her answer. However, I believe it would be in the spirit of the TGAT report, which she implied the Government have accepted, to abandon that kind of testing.
§ Baroness Hooper
It is not the Government's intention to create league tables in any event. However, the inclusion of paper and pencil tests as part of the arrangements was supported by the task group because it has a value in certain contexts. However, it is not to be the only basis on which children are assessed and tested and certainly not at the first stage of seven years.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I must beg to differ with the Minister. I do not believe it is the case that the TGAT report accepted that those kinds of tests should be 502 used; nor did it recommend them. I am rather disappointed and slightly worried by her response.
§ Baroness Hooper
I can only agree to differ. My understanding was that the task group said that paper and pencil tests had their place.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I shall want to return to this matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 25 to 27 not moved.]
§ Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 2, line 19, at end insert—
("(2)(a) Subject to subsection 2(b) below, Religious Education in all maintained schools shall be predominantly Christian.
(b) Where a maintained school has been established as a denominational school, Christian or non-Christian, the Religious Education in that school shall be of that particular denomination.
(c) Parents have the right to withdraw their children from the Religious Education at a maintained school.
(d) The governors of non-denominational maintained schools, whilst ensuring that the Religious Education in that school is predominantly Christian, shall make such further provision as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances, where requested to do so by the parents, and where the number of children involved is appropriate, for the Religious Education of children of other faiths, according to their own faiths.").
§ The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, perhaps I may welcome once again the agreement which has been reached that religious education should be included as first among equals in the basic curriculum. However, as I said during the debate on the amendment of the right reverend Prelate, it is not enough to ensure that religious education is taught without any reference to the content. There has been widespread concern over recent developments in what is often taught in the name of religious education.
§ Many parents and teachers are deeply worried for two reasons. First, both worship and religious education are often secularised and politicised, sometimes to an extent which amounts to little more than crude political indoctrination as illustrated, for example, by a syllabus for GCSE given to me by a teacher in Yorkshire, a copy of which I shall place in the Library rather than take up the time of the Committee at this late hour by explaining its contents. I think Members of the Committee will see the cause for concern if they take the trouble to look at it.
§ Secondly, and perhaps more insidiously, in many cases Christianity has been diluted in a multi-faith approach which is so confusing and so superficial that it trivialises not only Christianity but other faiths as well. Some agreed local syllabuses for religious education which have been developed and approved by committees with representatives of the Anglican and other Churches recommend, for example, the teaching of non-theistic life stances. I believe that the Birmingham agreed syllabus, which I seem to remember was commended on Second Reading by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, includes non-theistic life stances. It is perhaps interesting to note that Dr. Montefiore, as Bishop of 503 Birmingham, in a foreword to some of the accompanying notes to that agreed syllabus, expressed his reservations about using religious education to teach secular, and indeed anti-religious, world views.
§ Dudley local education authority's syllabus actually specifies Marxism as a subject to be taught and also includes the occult. In other parts of the country parents have complained about the way in which religious education has included teaching about witchcraft and the occult. In London a number of religious education inspectors found the situation so serious that they wrote to every head teacher warning them that such teaching on witchcraft and the occult was having an adverse psychological effect on some children.
§ The book Beginning Religion, which was given to me by a teacher, which I am told has been very widely used and which the publishers themselves say has been a best seller, illustrates some of that type of teaching. I shall place it in the Library of this place for Members of the Committee to look at, and I urge them so to do. It will be seen that it contains macabre, grotesque pictures which I believe could actually give some children nightmares. It also discusses shamanism and the Lord's Prayer on the same page.
§ Of course the situation is not all bad. There are some excellent agreed syllabuses and many dedicated and competent teachers. However, increasingly many teachers are feeling the pressure in certain local authorities to play down Christianity and to teach a multi-faith curriculum. Some teachers have even been reprimanded for mentioning the name of Jesus Christ in the classroom. Similarly some children are being forbidden to speak about the essence of Christian faith.
§ In one primary school at Easter time children were allowed to talk about Easter eggs, bunnies, flowers and holidays but they were not allowed to talk about the Christian meaning of Easter. This book produced by the Christian Education Movement on spring festivals is 24 pages long. It reaches Easter on page 20, with pictures of Easter eggs at the centre of the page, and then after a brief discussion on Easter concludes on how to make mobiles for Chinese new year.
As Clifford Longley argued in yesterday's edition of The Times:
Religions lose their inner coherence when broken into bits for the sake of comparison. Most religions have elements which can only seem absurd to those not of their faith when taken out of context".
§ Of course I recognise that such developments in teaching in multi-faith may be motivated by a wish to respect the sensitivities of people of other faiths. However, representatives of other faiths, especially those of the Jewish and the Moslem communities, emphasise that they do not wish us to destroy our Christian birthright in this way. I am most deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, the Chief Rabbi, for making that point so eloquently and so inspiringly this afternoon.
§ Representatives of other faiths have also stressed that they would infinitely prefer their children to attend a school where the Christian tradition is respected rather than to be exposed to secular or multi-faith approaches which belittle all faiths. One 504 Moslem described to me how he visited schools where religious education is denigrated and teachers swear in front of the children. This offends him deeply because as a Moslem he respects the person Christ. Recently at a mosque the imam led Moslems in prayer that the name of Christ would once again be revered in Britain's schools. I cannot help wondering whether our Church leaders have been heard offering the same prayer.
§ Eighty-five per cent. of our population claim to be Christians. Only 5 per cent. adhere to other faiths; but they are not asking us to give away our faith on their behalf. Unless and until we restore a coherent presentation of the Christian faith and the opportunity to experience Christian worship, which is the subject of a later amendment, we deny our young people their spiritual birthright. Because our laws, our democratic institutions, our art, literature, architecture—indeed, our entire culture—have been profoundly influenced by Christianity, all future British citizens can benefit from knowledge of the spiritual tradition which has inspired our country for nearly 2,000 years.
§ Clifford Longley was absolutely right when he pointed out in the article that what is at stake in the amendment before us is more than a platitudinous phrase in a Bill: the amendment is actually intended to call into question the whole philosophy currently behind religious education in many state schools.
§ It may be argued that where developments have occurred which have caused concern to parents and teachers—and perhaps the public—the complaints procedure could be a safeguard. However, unless the provision of predominantly Christian teaching, or something on those lines, is made explicit on the face of the Bill there will be no clear reference point against which to appeal. Virtually anything can go under the rubric of religious education, as we have just seen.
§ Perhaps I may say briefly that I have considered the reply of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London to my earlier question about the procedures for improving unsatisfactory locally agreed syllabuses. Regrettably, I was not convinced by his answer, especially concerning the opportunity of powers of veto which may be exercised by secular authorities or representatives of those on the councils. I am not asking for a reply now but I should welcome an assurance before Report stage.
§ As I draw to a conclusion I emphasise that the amendment before the Committee is so worded that the right of parents to withdraw their children will still be enshrined. There will also be provision for pupils of other faiths to worship and to receive teaching according to their own faith. The word "predominantly" allows some teaching of other world religions; but many people throughout the country of all political persuasions believe that we must restore in our schools the centrality of Christianity as the major spiritual tradition of this land.
§ Finally, I say a few words on practicalities. It may be argued that the proposed amendment would be unworkable because of a lack of qualified teachers. There are several answers to that question and I briefly give just three. First, as I have indicated, many Christian teachers now feel unable to teach the new 505 style religious education because it betrays the integrity of their faith. I know that many of them would be willing to teach again with the definition of religious education that is given in this amendment. Secondly, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has suggested in another place, it should be possible to draw on the expertise of local religious leaders. Thirdly, if religious education is to be allowed to develop on the lines that would be indicated by the words of this amendment, more students might enter teacher training with a view to teaching it. But until or unless the subject is restored to its original integrity there will be no chance of breaking the vicious circle of decline and shortage.
§ I conclude by emphasising that this amendment has no party political connotations. As Members of the Committee will have noted, it is supported by noble Lords from different parts of the Chamber and many more have told me of their strong endorsement. I believe that it may be a little sad that the initiative for this amendment has had to come from the laity, but I am deeply grateful to those nine bishops who gave their support in the letter to The Times this morning. I know too that many thousands, literally, of other Christians, and many representatives of other faiths, support us. I beg to move.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
As I have already said, I have very great sympathy with the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I have been accused of a good many things in my life, but I can immodestly say that I do not think that I have ever been accused of lack of conviction or orthodoxy. It may therefore be convenient if I make some response from these Benches to this amendment.
In passing, perhaps I may say that I am not altogether sorry that the initiative has had to come from a lay Member of this Chamber. It is often forgotten that so much depends upon the laity, both in the supply of teachers and in their taking places on education authorities, standing conferences and so on. Too often the bishops find themselves left with laymen who are agitating for proposals such as this but who show singular lack of commitment themselves to their own religious practices. I do not include the noble Baroness among such people, but nevertheless that is the situation.
I passionately desire to share my faith with others. At the same time I have to recognise that they must be free to respond. In reflecting upon this amendment, two points come to my mind. As a Christian, when I look at the cross, it says to me most powerfully again and again that God chose to redeem us in a way that still leaves us free to choose. Therefore I am naturally hesitant to think in terms of compulsion—of trying to impose religion by legislation, for example.
Perhaps I may remind Members of the Committee that the Church of England has good reason to be a little chary in this respect. In the 16th century our forebears attempted to enforce church attendance by law. They also attempted to make people receive holy communion regularly by law. The results were quite disastrous in many respects. One cannot compel anyone to be a Christian by the very nature of the faith. One can only seek to love them and to win them. Of course at the same time it is absolutely 506 essential that they know what the Christian faith is. That is where the crunch comes. People must know it. Dorothy Sayers turned from writing her novels about Lord Peter Wimsey, much to the disappointment of many of her admirers, to writing books about theology because she said that too many people dismissed Christianity without having the faintest idea of what it really was.
I entirely endorse the need to ensure that the Christian faith is taught and experienced to the full so that at least the response is possible and, if it is rejected, what is rejected is the Christian faith and not some poor, dim reflection of it. My concern is to ensure that there is a proper framework which enables people to respond, which informs and which encourages, but which does not, in a sense, compel.
My second reflection on the amendment is that any provision such as this—I think that the noble Baroness agrees that the wording of the amendment needs attention, although we need not spend time on that now—as a matter of courtesy, which is a Christian virtue as well as a human virtue, must take place after consultation. I know that consultation such as we would normally expect with other Churches and with other faiths has not taken place in the way that we would expect. It is essential that time be given for that consultation to take place, and that if possible whatever is agreed, if not acceptable to all, is at least understood by all.
I do not believe that the agreed syllabuses are as bad as they are portrayed to be. I have looked at them. One might suppose from some of the literature we have received that half are good and half are bad. I believe that relatively few are very bad, as I said yesterday, and that there are many that are quite good. What matters, of course, is how they are taught. I was sorry that in one pamphlet I read there was no reference to the agreed syllabus of Hampshire, which is used by about 20 other authorities. That is a good sign. It is a good syllabus.
Some disparaging remarks have been made about the GCSE. I can only remind the Committee of what I said on Second Reading about the totally committed Christian head of RE who praised the syllabus because it contained the option of choosing Christianity. She said that for the first time in her whole teaching career—she was well on in it—she was able to teach Christain doctrine, Church history and the sacraments.
I do not take such a dim view of the proposal. I believe—agreed syllabuses will not necessarily help this—that there are great pressures on teachers, in one way or another, to conform not so much to agreed syllabuses but to other ideologies and other outlooks. I agree, as I said earlier, that all that is due to lack of concern in the Churches.
I have been involved in Christian education at times full time, since 1952. I have been speaking about this constantly over the years. I have done what I can as a diocesan director of education; as secretary in London; and now as chairman of the board to remedy the situation. But we depend, as I said earlier, upon Christian lay men and women to enable what is advocated to be put into effect. I believe that we are still a Christian country.
507 A statement made by a noble Lord at the end of an earlier debate is constantly being quoted as if it were official government policy. I hope that when the Minister replies we shall hear from her lips what I have heard, for example, from the Secretary of State; namely, that he does not regard this as no longer a Christian country. I do not believe the statement made by the noble Lord. As T. S. Eliot said, this does not cease to be a Christian country until people positively embrace another faith. The great majority of people in this country have certainly not done that. I hope that an affirmation could be given to that effect.
I understand from the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that she intends to treat this as a probing amendment. I am very happy indeed to respond to her in that fashion. I have already been consulting with other Churches about possible ways in which this amendment could come in and win general acceptance. I can give an undertaking here that I shall pursue that course. It is a course which I have already discussed with the Secretary of State himself, with the intention of bringing forward an amendment on Report which I hope might be acceptable to the House. Such an amendment would provide what is sought; it would ensure that the Christian faith, so far as we can ensure it, is taught to parents who do not withdraw their children for other teaching. I support what was said earlier. In my own diocese we have many people of other faiths who seek to come to our Church schools precisely because they are Church schools in which the faith is taught. I think the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury will correct something which Mr. Longley said in that article, but I shall leave it, as I properly should to the most reverend Primate. We have parents asking for their children to come to our schools because true religion is taught there.
I hope that what we bring forward will be administratively workable. It will not, I hope, be divisive, but will recognise the nature of our community today. I hope that what we bring forward will be agreed and will be the result of further consultation and that the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, will accept this undertaking. She has said that she intends asking leave to withdraw her amendment, so perhaps she will feel that we are responding to her initiative in a positive way.
§ Baroness Blatch
Perhaps before the right reverend Prelate sits down I may ask a question and make an appeal. He has set great store by the standing advisory council for education advisory committees at local level continuing with the agreed syllabus, leaving the responsibility to them. Unless an amendment comes back to the House which inserts the word "Christianity" somewhere on the face of the Bill, many of us will find it very difficult to support it. The requirement, as the Bill stands and as the religious education requirement stands, is that the agreed syllabuses can be drawn up. There is no requirement whatever for teaching Christianity at all. Many of us are concerned not so much with the mechanisms for drawing up a syllabus but with the content. That is the appeal that I wish to make to the right reverend Prelate. I hope that he will come back with an answer.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
I shall reply to that point. I forgot to turn over my notes earlier and there is one point which I think the noble Lord, Lord Elton will ask me, so perhaps I could anticipate him.
One of the committees which has to be composed for the standing conference is the Church of England committee. I take responsibility for doing all I can to ensure that that committee, which has a veto in a sense—the four committees have to agree—insists on Christianity being named, as it were, in the agreed syllabus. That, I would hope, would be accepted as the normal result of agreed syllabus procedures.
The problem arises in regard to one of the committees which is representative of what is called other denominations. The question is raised as regards what is meant by that and whether it means other faiths. I can give an undertaking that that matter will be looked at.
I know that some Members of the Committee are afraid that on that fourth committee there could be a majority of non-Christians who would be able to stand out, as it were, in seeking to arrive at agreement. I undertake to look at that point in the discussions which I hope will lead up to a satisfactory amendment on report.
§ Lord Elton
The latter part of the right reverend Prelate's major intervention was of enormous help not only in encouraging the Committee but also in getting it quicker to bed. I do not wish to delay things unduly but I wish to confirm that I was concerned about the composition of Committee A as it were, of the standing conference because it has happened, and in Manchester did happen in 1985, that of the members 23 were non-Christian and 22 were Christian.
I should also point out to the right reverend Prelate that our concern springs in part from the fact that the admirable procedure which he brought in in his amendment today in such a turmoil of procedural difficulty is a paver to his Amendment No. 93. The procedure there is that the committees composed as set out in the amendment can trigger a review of an agreed syllabus but the review is carried out under subsection (8) of the clause by exactly the machinery which produced the existing situation. Therefore all the examples which my noble friend Lady Cox mentioned are entirely relevant unless there is some other long stop.
It is the need for that long stop which has given rise to this amendment, which I have signed as a probing amendment, because we would feel a real pang of conscience if we were to let this opportunity go without putting that long stop in. There are difficulties in it and I would commend to the right reverend Prelate in his conversations and reflections the very caution to which he referred on Second Reading. That was mentioned by the noble Lord sitting in the place of my noble friend Lady Hooper all those years ago in 1944. He mentioned that we did not want the secular courts to debate what Christianity is.
We should in the first part of this amendment—subject to subsection (2)(b) below—have put in words to the effect that the principal 509 component of religious education in all maintained schools shall be a study of the development of the Christian religion as revealed in the books of the Old and New Testaments. That is the effect which I believe, and I think I speak for my noble friends here, we wish to achieve.
I shall not go into why because that is now accepted and if it is not it should be debated on another occasion. I conclude by saying that I am delighted by the commitment which the right reverend Prelate has given. Can he please add to his kindness by allowing us to see the product of his consultation and drafting in sufficient time to formulate a constructive critique of it before it is debated in this Chamber? Otherwise we might be faced with a choice between the imperfect and nothing at all.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
Perhaps I may reply to the noble Lord. I shall try to give more time for consultation before Report than we have had for some documents for consultation in connection with the Bill.
§ Lord Charteris of Amisfield
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, explained the reasons for the amendment with her customary clarity and conviction. I listened to what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said with deep respect and considerable encouragement.
In joining in sponsoring the amendment, I do so not only for myself but also as president of the Prayer Book Society, which is a great honour. It will not altogether surprise the Committee to learn that the executive council of that society, which consists of representatives from all the dioceses in the Church of England, is wholeheartedly in favour of Christianity being taught and practised in our schools before all other religions.
It is in some ways unfortunate that the matter of religious education has to be considered before that of the daily act of worship. Some might think that that is putting the academic cart before the spiritual horse. However, that is the way it must be. I feel confident that those who support this amendment will be equally in support of the other amendment, which says that a daily act of worship should always be predominantly Christian. The two must go together.
I understand that the main argument against making religious education in schools in the maintained sector predominantly Christian is that, to quote the noble Earl, Lord Arran, when he was winding up the debate on 26th February:We are no longer a predominantly Christian nation and our schools reflect the multi-faith nature of Britain in 1988".—[Official Report, 26/2/88; col. 1486.]If that is true and we really are no longer a predominantly Christian country, I can only say that it is a pity. It is high time that we tried to do something about it in a positive way.
No doubt there are some honest atheists as well as less honourable people who would rejoice at the prospect of Britain no longer being predominantly a Christian country. But surely the great majority of people must wish otherwise. The great majority wish 510 this country to remain predominantly Christian because that is our tradition, our history and our inheritance.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who asked during our debate on Clause 1 of the Bill whether the teaching of Christianity would lead to good behaviour, I answer yes. It will not do so overnight but rather over the course of time. It is certain that the study and practice of Christianity in our schools will tend to curb evil and promote the good. That is what we need.
I believe that we are basically much more Christian than we are given credit for. The extent to which we are no longer a Christian country is probably largely a result of Christianity not being sufficiently taught in our schools. I understand the dilemma of the multi-faith approach to religious education. I think that it is a mistake and dangerously wishy-washy. It is altogether too academic. It is like studying different specie of birds; children will learn a lot about them but their spirits will never learn to soar like eagles. In religious matters they will be jacks of all trades and masters of none. It is absolutely right that children should learn about faiths other than their own and learn to respect them. But unless they really know about one, they will not really know anything worth knowing about any.
I believe we have a great opportunity to redeem the past. If we fail to grasp it future generations will not easily forgive us. I hope very much that the Government and the right reverend Prelates will give this matter most serious consideration. I hope very much that the question can be settled without dividing the Committee. However, I must say, and I think that many will agree, that we would not be able to accept without dividing the Committee any amendment that did not specifically pinpoint Christianity on the face of the Bill.
§ 1 a.m.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
This is an important amendment and therefore I hope the Committee will forgive me for adding to the words from these Benches. However, I would not want it to be thought that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London was in any way a lone voice and that he did not have wide support on these Benches both for the steps he has taken in strengthening the position of religious education in the curriculum and also for his attitude to this particular amendment. I have a good deal of sympathy for that attitude because I too share a widespread disquiet about much that passes for religious education.
I have three aims in my own aspirations in this area. First, all children at school here should be given a proper understanding of the Christian religion regardless of their faith. I say this for the rather obvious reason that Christianity is a part of our history. The understanding of our institutions, the development of our law and ethical framework demand some understanding of the Christian religion. It is woven into our literature and into our art. In short, the Christian religion is part of the national story. A national story is an important part of the cement of society. It will, of course, develop but there are continuities which we neglect at our peril.
Secondly, we should aim to give all children some religious insight, not just historical knowledge. In 511 religions people and societies are changed. The one-time orthodoxy that religious movements were in irreversible decline has taken some savage knocks in recent years. Certainly in this country, Christianity has been and remains a profound force in our society. Pluralism, multi-culturalism and secularism are words that reflect contemporary facts. They are not in themselves religions. Sometimes people speak as if in learning about pluralism people were learning about a religion. Of course the school is not the place to aim to secure conversions. That is not to say that I do not hope that it will sometimes happen. But it is, I believe, the place for communicating what it means to have a faith, what it means to worship and to comprehend the connection between faith and morals. That is why the Churches must recruit and give opportunities for training and retraining teachers who are serious about their own faith.
Thirdly, I believe schools should teach that bigotry is a disease which is no respecter of faiths. All education is, or should be, directed against closed minds. But children need to discover a respect for faith by understanding it and must not confuse true tolerance with apathy or indifference. I must say how much I agreed with the noble Lord the Chief Rabbi in his words about the way in which faiths can feed each other.
Such aims as these three are not easily achieved, but, like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, I believe that they will best be achieved by a high degree of local understanding between the interested parties. That is why I attach special importance to the standing advisory councils on religious education under a new dispensation.
But I am doubtful about this amendment as it stands. There is a danger of introducing into the Bill an element that, in my view, could be counter-productive. Whether or not it represents a further element of central direction, there can be no doubt that it seems to take power away from the local areas. I do not believe that agreed syllabuses in general are all quite so bad as some of those which have been illustrated. There has been a good deal of universalising, not by the noble Baroness in her speech but in some pamphleteering which I think has grossly overstated this case.
Although there is much wisdom in Mr. Clifford Longley's article which is quoted, there is one point where he says:What religious education does not provide, except in Roman Catholic schools, is any systematic exposure of the mass of children to the Bible, church history, Christian morality or theology".I have to say that, in my study of agreed syllabuses, there are many which do provide that, apart from the fact that they are provided in all Church of England schools. But I do not pretend that the Church of England or the Churches generally have always played their proper part in the construction of agreed syllabuses. But, given the amendment proposed to Clause 6, it will now be in our power to do more about the examples which have been quoted and which I deplore.
We now have in this country—and I think that we must be deeply grateful for it—a unique consensus among what might be called the religious parties which makes it possible for us to give the subject the 512 central place it ought to have. That is a particular achievement of this country. Moreover, I fear that were this Committee to approve this amendment, it might be taken as an unwelcome signal by other faiths, not least because they have not been consulted about it. I do not reproach the noble Baroness for that, but it is a factor that should be taken into account. In some ways the Archbishop of Canterbury is seen as something of a protector of other faith communities in this country. I feel it my duty to point out that accidental, unintended damage might be done if we were simply tonight to approve the amendment as it stands. In the Second Reading debate the noble Lord, Lord Home, made a speech that was as thoughtful as one always expects from him. He said then that:The question that will face us at the Committee stage is whether to insert into the text of the Bill words that will steer the local bodies which will create the syllabuses for religious teaching in the direction of teaching the Christian religion and the Christian story.He went on to say:At present I am inclined to think there is a place for putting in some additional words if we can find the right wording. That is not easy.I think that the noble Lord, Lord Home, precisely summed up the dilemma facing the Committee. I share the noble Lord's aspiration, but I do not yet think that we have found the right wording. I believe it will be possible for an amendment to be made on Report which will better achieve the objectives which I have in mind and have stated as well as the spirit in which they can be furthered. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has given an undertaking that he will introduce an amendment to this end on Report. I should like to assure him of my own support and, I believe, that of the bishops generally.
I conclude by assuring the noble Baroness and her colleagues that I am as concerned as they that religion, and not some substitute for it, should be taught in our schools. I believe it should be clear that the Christian religion will be the main but not the exclusive means of doing so.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
I believe that the whole Committee will have listened to the speech of the most reverend Primate with relief. Surely, I am not alone in greatly admiring the diligence with which my noble friend Lady Cox has sought to find words to express our wishes in the Bill. I believe that to be important. It is the wish of a number of your Lordships that the story of Christianity and the values which derive directly from Christianity should be taught in our schools.
This is not a question of indoctrination, because that is in none of our minds. It is a matter of knowledge. The knowledge of Christian values and of Christian teaching should be given to our children. As the most reverend Primate has reminded us, at Second Reading I spoke of the values which we are commanded by the Founder of our religion to embrace for life on earth in striving to lead the good life according to certain principles and values. A great many of the children in our schools do not know anything at all about those values. They should know.
I believe that it was my noble friend Lord Elton who said at Second Reading that it was another 513 spiritual debate, and that is true. It also strikes me that a great many of our children do not know and have no idea of the stupendous claims made by the Founder of our religion that man should qualify to be the equal of the Sons of God. That has inspired a great many of the greatest citizens of our country through the generations. Our children should have that knowledge. If they do not have it too many will be handicapped in life.
We are dealing with an amendment and the question is, has my noble friend found the right words, and the best words, to express what so many noble Lords wish? I confess that I am not entirely happy about one word and that is the word "predominant". It has a slightly exclusive flavour and I do not believe we necessarily want to use that particular word. I believe that possibly a clue to a better formula may be found in the word "primacy" which was used by my noble friend Lord St. John of Fawsley a good many hours ago.
I would rather let the guidance given to those who construct the syllabuses be expressed in terms of the prime importance of the teaching of Christianity or, possibly, in the words used by the most reverend Primate just now, that the children should be given a thorough understanding of the meaning of the Christian religion. I am glad that we have more time to think about a different way of presenting this matter. I agree with my noble friend that something should be put into the Bill and it is important that we get it there. I hope that between now and Report stage the combined efforts of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and those representing the Government and my noble friend Lady Cox will be successful in finding the right word.
§ Earl Russell
Perhaps I may be forgiven for borrowing a phrase which has been used elsewhere. I feel I rise as a lion in a den of Daniels for I rise with rather more trepidation than I would wish to express the voice of the honest atheist. I express it with some trepidation because these have been shown today to be dangerous waters for atheists.
Let me say first that I am in profound agreement with the remarks made by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury about the importance of Christianity for understanding history. I say this in a professional capacity. I find that I spend much of my time explaining to undergraduates the finer points of the theology of predestination. I would find that much easier if they knew more about the theological tradition from which it came.
But it is one thing to tell people what Christianity says, another thing to teach them by the authority of the state that it is right. The most reverend Primate and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London touched, I thought extremely delicately, on the record of the state in enforcing religion. It is not in all respects a happy one.
I have the experience of having attended primary school in another country—the United States. I was required at the beginning of the school day to salute the flag and I refused. I said it was not my flag. That was an uncomfortable experience. It had an enriching effect, however. It helped me to understand, among many other things, what Christians mean when they use the word "idolatry", but it also helped me to understand what it is to be in a school which is 514 devoting its authority to a creed one cannot share. It is perhaps a more uncomfortable position than some Members of the Committee may imagine.
I know the right to withdraw is there. That right is vital, but it does not altogether confer what I should like, with the voice of the honest atheist, to ask for—that is equality before the law.
§ Lord Thorneycroft
I rise for just a few moments as a most imperfect Christian, but a layman, to offer a short contribution to this discussion. My aim is a rather simpler aim than some have stated. I should like to see, in what is acknowledged to be a Christian country, Christian children being brought up as Christians in the schools and that they should, as we shall discuss on a later amendment, have an act of Christian worship daily when they are there. It seems to me that those aspirations are shared by millions of my fellow countrymen and they find it difficult to understand why there should be any problem or any doubt about it.
Up to now, the case against the kind of amendment which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has moved has been that we were not a predominantly Christian country. I have never thought that that case could be argued. I was delighted that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London effectively withdrew it. I hope, and indeed I am sure, that it will not be urged from the Front Bench.
I do not know whether anybody has ever tried to tell Mrs. Thatcher that we are no longer a predominantly Christian country, but I think we must face the real situation. Of course there has been widespread immigration from the new Commonwealth, but to take that as an argument that somehow we should abandon our faith and our culture in the schools and be fearful of what we teach there would be an appallingly dangerous argument to accept. It would verge on a racist situation and it would be utterly untrue. In fact, the West Indians in this country have brought an enormous addition to the weight of Christian witness. It has sometimes been more than their white brothers have brought but it has certainly existed. No Moslem is asking us to abandon Christian teaching in the schools.
Today the Committee heard the great speech from the Chief Rabbi urging us to return to our faith and have confidence in it. He assured us that it did no damage at all. He said that what is required in this country is not for Jews to become Christians but for Christians to become Christians. With the West Indians clamouring for it, with the Moslems praying for it, and with the Jews urging it in this House, what case is there for not having Christian education in the schools?
What is the alternative? I ask that deep thought be given to this matter. It is not playing with a few words or having a little compromise. The amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, goes to the root of the alternative, which is some kind of multi-faith education. I beg the Committee to think carefully before going too far along that road. The Chief Rabbi called it a "kind of religious cocktail". The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said that he is nervous of compulsion. So am I. I would be most nervous of compelling people to have a multi-faith 515 education. Of course there is room for the teaching of comparative religion in a pluralist society. It is a fascinating subject when dealt with by men of great ability before intelligent audiences. However, for amateurs to try to teach it to kids of 12 and 13 is asking rather much.
Amendment No. 19 sets out the way in which an agreed syllabus will be set up with men of all faiths and of none drawing up some hotchpotch of ideas. I do not wish to be too critical. I know how difficult things are and I understand the efforts that have been made to reach compromises and agreements. However, it is a million miles away from the Sermon on the Mount. It is a long way from the simple faiths that ought to be taught in our schools, as I hope and trust they will be.
§ Lady Saltoun of Abernethy
I warmly support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and other Members of the Committee. I heartily endorse what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. I have the impression that the noble Baroness does not intend to divide the Committee tonight so I shall await the amendments which are promised at Report with bated breath.
I cannot help feeling that the most reverend Primate and the right reverend Prelate are a little too diffident in selling their wares. If I were marketing a product I do not believe that I should employ either of them as a salesman.
§ Baroness Strange
I should like to support the amendment in the names of my noble friends Lady Cox, Lord Elton and Lord Charteris of Amisfield. It is too late to make a speech but I should like to say what a great support the Christian religion has been to me thoughout my life. I should like others in the future to enjoy the same comfort and support as I do. When I travel or go away I often say a little prayer to myself:Matthew, Mark and Luke and John,Bless the bed that I lie on;And when I wake and when I sleep,I pray the Lord my soul to keep.Four corners to my bed,Four angels there be spread,Two to foot and two to head,And four to carry me when I am dead.I go by sea, I go by land,The Lord takes me in his right hand;And when I die and when I wake,I pray the Lord my soul to take".
We have heard the voice of Judaism in our Chamber today but we have no Moslem voice. I am not a Moslem but on various occasions I have spoken on behalf of the Moslem faith. I rise briefly to endorse what the noble Baroness Lady Cox, has said; namely, that the Moslems feel very strongly that Christian education in our schools should be given a more positive image. I have heard that from a great many of them and those that I have consulted—the eminent Moslem divines—feel that Christian teaching does not necessarily clash with Islamic teaching. Both Christianity and Islam are monotheistic religions and Moslems recognise Christians as people of the Book.
§ Lord Swinfen
I support my noble friend's amendment. Although the number of people going to church seems to have been declining over the last few years, I believe that if one checked on many forms in the space where people are asked to state their religion, the vast majority in this country would say that they were Christian or some form of Christian denomination. Most of those people do not feel capable of teaching Christianity to their children and rely on schools to do the job properly, particularly those who do not attend church, because they do not think of sending their children to Sunday school. Either with this amendment or in a replacement amendment at a later stage we should put the word "Christianity" in the Bill.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
Perhaps I may be forgiven for a brief personal intervention. Many years ago when I first went to a boarding school there was a lady called Mrs. Mullis who was known as the lady housekeeper. She gave a prize for divinity. Perhaps I may say without boasting unduly that I won it. When I went home in what was nearly my first term I was greeted with respect by my parents. It was a number of years before I discovered that that respect to my face was tempered with a good deal of hilarity in the background that I should have been awarded a prize at the age of nine for a subject which is really reserved for doctorates for bishops and high officials of the Church.
As Members of the Committee will see, I did not become a Lord Spiritual as a result of that. I am as temporal a Lord as one could wish to see. However, it taught me a lesson which has not yet been mentioned in this debate. Whether or not it is called divinity, in those days it was not called RE as though it was something on all fours with PT. I hope I shall be forgiven for introducing the idea of divinity into this debate. I have no wish to cause embarrassment.
The point that I am trying to make is simply this. Religious education, if I can bring myself to use the term, is not merely another classroom subject like French, geography, "stinks" or whatever it may be. It is uniquely different from all those subjects because they are directed to the mind, to the intellect and to the brain in the form of information handed out by a teacher. Religious instruction is uniquely different—I repeat those words—uniquely different from those and is not directed solely to the mind and intellect but to the soul, the spirit or whatever word one chooses to use according to the jargon one fancies. It is utterly and totally different. It partakes of the nature of divinity whether we like it or not.
It is the function of the Church—by the Church I do not mean only the clergy but also the laity—to mediate God to man. In the debate on this amendment we are talking about the relationship between man and God. I suspect that it is probably one of the most important amendments that we are discussing in the whole of the debate on the Bill. I hope that when we redraft it—I think my noble friend will probably agree to form a redrafting of the amendment—this fact will not be forgotten. I hope it will be borne in mind that we are talking about religion.
517 Religion as taught in British schools should be Christianity. It is obviously appropriate even for reasons of commonsense, if nothing else, that when a child is taught a subject of this nature he should be able to discuss it. He should be taught it and be able to discuss it with people to whom the subject is familiar. He lives in a Christian community—indeed, it is Christian—and the subject which he has to discuss when he goes home or when he talks to his friends is Christianity.
I take great comfort, and I think most Members of the Committee do too, in the undertaking and the remarks from the spiritual Front Bench, which I so narrowly escaped, especially those of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London regarding his proposals for the future and also the words of the most reverend Primate of All England.
When children leave school they will grow up with a grounding of divinity behind them. Perhaps they will come, as I have come, to attach great weight, attention and importance to, for example, the Bhagavadgita—however, as my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft indicated in rather different words, not until they have grown up.
§ 1.30 a.m.
§ Lord Peston
I rise to speak with some trepidation, but nonetheless someone ought to say that he does not agree. That person is me. I add that I am speaking very much for myself on this issue.
I have no objection to religious education in our schools, although I sometimes wonder how it is that other countries in North-West Europe seem able to manage without compulsory religious education and yet are not renowned for being less religious than we are. However, we have a tradition of religious education in this country and I understood that it was the Government's intention that that situation should continue. However, on listening to the noble Baroness's introduction to the amendments I did not think that she was talking about religious education; I thought that she was talking about religious indoctrination.
The noble Lord, Lord Home, said that indoctrination was not what he wanted. I can only say that to my ears—not from him and, indeed not from other Members of the Committee but from the way that the noble Baroness introduced the amendments—that was the tone of what she said. I object to that very strongly indeed. It is perfectly acceptable that one should desire religious education in schools. Let me say especially that I entirely understand that we cannot comprehend the history of our country, or indeed the history of Western civilisation, without a considerable knowledge of Christianity.
I accept that the Bible is a major document on almost any subject that we may wish to study, certainly our own great literature. For that and many other reasons I am happy for our young people to have an acquaintance with religion and certainly the Christian religion. I should certainly like to hear from the noble Baroness who is to reply for the Government that there is no intention of indoctrination.
I add the point, because I am taken aback by this— and I speak as a non-religious person—that it 518 is not the job of the schools to make up for the deficiency of the home. It is the parents who have the first responsibility and the relationship of the parents to the Church seems to be not a trivial matter, but I have heard little about that. I still argue that the school is secondary.
My final point concerns essentially what I regard as the illogicality of paragraph (d) of the amendment. This states:The governors of non-denominational maintained schools, whilst ensuring that the Religious Education in that school"—I ignore the grammar for the moment—is predominantly Christian, shall make such further provisionand so on. Therefore, I take the extreme case of a Church of England school in which nearly all the pupils are Moslem—indeed, I understand that in one school all the pupils are Moslem. What meaning is to be attached to saying that that school is predominantly Christian when all the pupils are treated as a special case? Paragraph (d) brings out the essential nonsense of the amendment as drafted.
I understand that the right reverend Prelate said that he can produce a form of the amendment which actually corresponds to religious education. I have no worries about that being predominantly, overwhelmingly, primarily—or any other word—Christian. That is not the problem. The point is that it would be educational and not—if I may use another expression—brainwashing. That is my personal view.
§ Lord Thurlow
We should not close our debate on this amendment with the only request for caution coming from those who profess no religious faith. We are dealing with a subject of intense difficulty as the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, acknowledged and as the most reverend Primate and the right reverend Prelate are so well aware.
I am second to none in my hope that spiritual experience and allegiance will be restored to a position of primacy in our society, but it will not come by writing the words proposed in the amendment into a statute.
I merely want to say that I look forward, as do many others, to the amendment that the right reverend Prelate is to bring forward, but I repeat that we have to approach this subject with the greatest caution.
§ Baroness Hooper
These are important concerns and we have been extremely fortunate in the variety of views expressed in the course of the debate.
The Government's views on the Christian content of religious education were spelled out relatively recently to the Chamber by my noble friend Lord Arran when my noble friend Lady Cox raised the same matter for debate earlier this year. He explained then that the Government saw a need for all children, whatever their ethnic or religious background, to be introduced at school to those Christian beliefs and values which permeate our traditions and culture. Certainly there is no hint of indoctrination. The most reverend Primate expressed that extremely well in his contribution.
However, I have to say that the Government share the fears expressed by the right reverend Prelate the 519 Bishop of London concerning the wording of this amendment. I know that these reservations are also shared by the leaders of the Catholic and Methodist Churches. Like us, they see part of the purpose of religious education as being one of bringing people closer together and fostering mutual understanding. We feel there is a danger that, as drafted, the amendment might have the effect of causing harmful divisions between pupils which I am quite certain is in no way the intention of the proposers of the amendment. I therefore welcome the intention of the right reverend Prelate to consider alternative formulations and come forward at Report stage with a revised form of words along the lines that he suggests.
I hope that he makes clear the need for all schools to provide pupils with a knowledge of the Christian faith while avoiding the damaging consequences that we fear might result from the amendment as now drafted. I hope that in the circumstances the noble Baroness and her co-sponsors will agree to withdraw the amendment.
Perhaps I may now come to the proposals put forward by my noble friend concerning collective worship in schools. I am glad to be able to say that the Government fully support the intention of these amendments. There is every good reason why collective worship should be subject to the same enforcement procedures already contained in the Bill for religious education.
I am well aware that many schools have in the past failed to meet the requirements of the law by providing a daily act of worship. The Government would welcome provision to help ensure that such flouting of the law does not continue. I have to say, however, that I am advised that it would not be appropriate to include such provisions in this chapter of the Bill and that they should properly have formed part of Chapter V. I should be grateful therefore if my noble friend Lady Cox would agree to withdraw the amendments on this occasion subject to the Government agreeing to come forward with their own amendments at Report stage. These would relate to Clause 93 which, as my noble friend is aware, relates specifically to the provision of collective worship in schools.
§ Baroness Cox
I am sure that I speak for all my colleagues who sponsored this amendment when I say that we are most grateful to all Members of the Committee who have spoken and given us the benefit of their support and their criticisms. We shall take very careful note of all the points made.
There is one point that I must take issue with in order to put the record straight before drawing this debate to a close. That is to assure the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that I share his hatred of indoctrination. I had no intention to indoctrinate. I hope that the spirit in which I spoke indicated that. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London indicated, education—in this case religious education—is all about freedom of choice. And freedom of choice implies informed choice. One can only decide, perhaps as a child, whether or not to begin to pursue the adventure—the joy as one might 520 see it if one has already tried to embark on that course—of a life of faith if one has some introduction to that faith. One could say that to deny children that knowledge is in itself a form of negative indoctrination.
I am most grateful to the right reverend prelate the Bishop of London for his suggestion that he might be able to devise an amendment which would secure our support. I naturally hope very much that that will prove possible. Given that possibility, it will clearly be premature to consider pressing this amendment at this stage. However, in begging leave to withdraw it, I do so on the clear understanding that any subsequent amendment must enshrine both the spirit and the substance of this amendment.
As the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, has said, we do not believe that we can compromise on the question of making explicit on the face of the Bill some form of commitment to a clear definition of religious education as predominantly Christian. We have an open mind about other forms of wording. For example, I am taken with the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Home of the concept of the primacy of Christianity. Equally, I should be very supportive of the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Elton of an emphasis of the biblical nature of the Old and New Testament bases of religious education.
I am aware that the wording of this amendment as it now stands is still imperfect. It needs improvement. I hope very much therefore that when we return to this issue at Report stage it will be in agreement with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.
Perhaps I may say in conclusion that if there were to be a vote, I hope that it would be a free vote. I believe that the issues transcend all party political commitments. On what I hope is a hopeful and optimistic note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 29 and 30 not moved.]
Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Foundation subjects and key stages]:
The Deputy Chairman of Committees
I should point out that, if Amendment No. 31 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 32 to 45.
On a point of order, will the noble Lord repeat what he just said about omitting certain amendments, because I did not hear?
The Deputy Chairman of Committees
With pleasure. I said that if Amendment No. 31 is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 32 to 45. They will have been pre-empted.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 31:
Page 2, leave out lines 21 to 31 and insert—
("(a) English, mathematics, science and personal and social education in the areas of:
(b) in relation to schools in Wales which are Welsh-speaking schools, Welsh.
§ (2) Subject to subsection (4) below, the rest of the National Curriculum will be such as to fulfil the individual needs of pupils in accordance with the aims of section 1(2) above, and will include education in technology, history, geography, languages, arts and crafts and P.E.").
§ The noble Lord said: At this time of the morning I shall keep the Committee for the least possible length of time. I had a lengthy speech prepared, which I have chopped down to very little. I am moving the amendment because I see Members of the Committee who may wish to speak to it.
§ One thing that puzzles me about the Bill is that the lofty aims mentioned in Clause 1 do not seem to be borne out by the curriculum. Clause 1 speaks of moral development and of educating for the responsibilities and experiences of adult life. Neither of those objectives is borne out in the curriculum.
§ The areas of education that I have mentioned in the amendment are ones that I want the Committee to see down in black and white so that the Committee may think about them even if it does not agree with them. Other Members of the Committee will speak much more eloquently about health than I can. I am concerned that children know little about diet and eat unhealthily. They are storing up troubles of obesity and coronary disease for when they become older.
§ The Government's answer to that point will probably be that health, and the other subjects I have mentioned, will be taught in a cross-curricular manner. I do not agree that that is the right way to teach those subjects. Health can be taught as part of biology. One learns about the respiratory system and the teacher says, "By the way, it is not a good idea to smoke", or the reproductive system, and the teacher says, "By the way, be careful about AIDS". That approach is not adequate. Such matters are personal and should be taught to the child directly. The child should be taught, "You must take care of your body". Such subjects need to be taught in that way and not as coincidental to other subjects.
§ On parenthood, we are told that one marriage in three breaks down. I do not know whether that figure is correct. It is the type of thing that one hears. A great many marriages do break down. Family breakdown is a potent source of crime. I was speaking to the director of the NSPCC the other day. He told me that a great deal of child abuse and neglect was caused because parents had no idea of how to look after children. They do not understand their needs and their wants. They simply need to be told. They do not understand the need for what is called emotional bonding at a very young age and they have no idea of how to create a stable and happy home. To revert to the health matter for a moment, children who are not well—children who are ill—cannot work effectively. Children who are unhappy because their home background is unhappy cannot work effectively.
§ My next point is economic awareness and I do not want to do more than just mention it. Many families are in a very serious situation with debt. This surely 522 could be helped by children being taught about it at school.
§ I do not want to speak about the environment because it has already been debated fairly thoroughly this evening. It just needs to be mentioned. Children need to be taught social and civic responsibilities. They need to be taught to vote; not how to vote, but to vote at all. If our democracy is to work as a democracy, voting is a duty. Nobody would disagree with that, but a great many people do not regard it as such. They have to be taught how to disbelieve the press, how to be good neighbours and how to live in a community and generally to understand and tolerate others.
§ The matter of world citizenship has also been thoroughly debated this afternoon and this evening so I do not want to go into any detail about it. But I feel that if this Bill is to be worthy of the name "great", this pretentious and high-sounding epithet, "great", it cannot leave unmentioned such points as I have put in the amendment. On these matters our society depends. My view, which I have made clear in the amendment, is that it should form part not just of the curriculum, but of the core. It should be on an equal basis with the three "Rs". I beg to move.
§ 1.45 a.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
I rise to move Amendment No. 32. I must say that I find myself in some difficulty because I have a group of amendments linked with that amendment and a further group which comes later. But as they are all listed together—
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Davidson)
I am afraid you cannot move Amendment No. 32.
§ Baroness Lockwood
I beg your Lordships' pardon. I wish to speak to Amendment No. 32; I quite appreciate that I cannot move it at this stage. The difficulty is having to speak to amendments which are so diverse in their nature.
The first group of amendments to which I wish to speak is related to the core and the foundation curriculum. These amendments have a threefold purpose. The first purpose is to include technology in the core curriculum rather than in the foundation subjects, and by so doing to upgrade technology alongside the other three core subjects. That would make the core curriculum a four-subject core. The second purpose is to make the foundation subjects a menu of subjects listed in the Bill, of which four could be selected. That would give a basis of eight subjects for the main core of the curriculum.
The third objective is to introduce more flexibility into the curriculum enabling greater choice for schools and enabling schools if they wish to take more of the subjects which were in the foundation group or to take other subjects perhaps some with a local or regional relevance.
I do not wish to deal in any detail with the prescriptive nature of the proposed curriculum as quite a lot has been said about that already. But I want to say a little more about technology. Unlike the 523 noble Lord, Lord Annan, when he referred in an earlier debate to technical education, I see technology not as a subject for the non-academic pupils alone but as an across-the-board subject necessary for all abilities.
Technology has implications for all aspects of our lives and it has much to contribute in preparing children for the world in which we live. There are, however, different interpretations of technology as a subject. Some see it in a very narrow way, involving perhaps craft subjects and making things. Some see it as a mainly information technology. I should like to see it broadly defined as an examinable subject in its own right and also as a resource feeding in to other subjects. Perhaps the Minister could indicate how the Government see the subject. We noted what she said in an earlier debate about a working party having been set up to draw up the programmes for the curriculum content and to set the attainment targets. I was very glad to see in the announcement of the setting up of this working group that technology is also to be linked with design. I think that design and technology go very much together.
There is also a need to see that technology is taught equally to girls. I am well aware that placing a subject in the core or the foundation curriculum does not necessarily mean that it will be taught equally. But technology is another subject which is regarded as being more suitable for boys than for girls. Yet studies by the secondary science curriculum review and by Her Majesty's Inspectorate have indicated that girls' participation in both science and technology is dependent upon the curriculum content—the curriculum content which relates to the experience of girls rather than just to the experience of boys. So I hope that this aspect of the subject will also be taken on board by the working group.
I now turn to my second group of amendments, which is concerned with careers education. Careers education is not catered for in the Bill, yet I think all of us in the Chamber would agree that it is of vital importance to the education programme of children that careers should be included in it. Children need objectives and accurate information about careers before they select the subjects for their GCSE.
Reference was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, this afternoon to the dropping of subjects, particularly by girls. It is very important that we take note of this in relation to careers opportunities. Some of these subjects might not be dropped so readily if more schools were well equipped to teach careers as a subject and to explain the importance of certain subjects in relation to job opportunities. We all know, and it is well documented by the Department of Employment in its Approaches to Career Service Practice No. 12, that girls are concentrated in a much narrower band of jobs than boys. Therefore careers education is particularly important for them.
The amendments do not call for an additional core or foundation subject. They recognise that careers education can be catered for through the national curriculum in the form of modular and cross-curriculum provisions to which the Minister referred in an earlier debate. However, it is important to note that without an obligation to take careers education 524 on board in the national curriculum, it could be missed out or its importance could be minimised. The amendments attempt to rectify that. However, they call for no more than an identifiable programme of careers education and guidance. I hope that the Minister will find that acceptable.
In the very long list of amendments which are grouped together is my Amendment No. 40. It merely seeks to require the Bill to state that somewhere in the school timetable there shall be provision for some instruction in the essentials of first aid and accident prevention.
I am certain that this is not the proper time to embark on a speech about the necessity of teaching people about resuscitation—although resuscitation at this hour might not be wholly inappropriate! I am not sure that this is a proper time for doing anything other than going home to bed. However, I have put the amendment down to get some indication from the Government in the matter.
As a doctor in general practice and more particularly as resident surgical officer in a very busy general hospital, I have seen over and over again the consequences of inadequate knowledge of elementary first aid and total lack of knowledge of the essentials of accident prevention. I have seen children who have been badly burnt, perhaps as a result of a pan being left simmering on the stove with the handle sticking out so that it is easily knocked over. I have seen many injuries made infinitely worse because those present at the time, who might well have been children, had no idea what to do.
All children should know how to control a severe haemorrhage, not in a highly technical way but merely by applying firm continuous pressure over the bleeding point. That is not a difficult matter to teach; once taught, it can save lives. The last thing I wish to do is convert all school children into amateur doctors. There are enough of those already. I merely wish to see that all school children are given some instruction in the basic elements of first aid, such as how to control a severe haemorrhage or what to do about burns. How many modern children know that the first thing to do with a burn is to plunge the burnt area under cold water immediately? If that is done, the damage and the shock are substantially reduced and lives are saved.
When the noble Baroness comes to reply, I hope that I can disentangle her replies to so many amendments. At an earlier stage when the noble Earl was replying to a series of amendments I was not quite sure which objections applied to which amendments. In the end I began to think that all the objections applied to all the amendments. However, in this case I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to say that schools will be required to give the instruction stated in my amendment. Perhaps she will also tell us what the Government will be able to do if they find that schools are not giving such instruction. If it is given, I am sure that we shall save lives which are now unnecessarily lost.
§ 2 a.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
I should very much like to support Amendment No. 40. I am president of the 525 Spinal Injuries Association and have been horrified over the past few years by the severe neck injuries caused by rugby accidents. I cannot tell you how serious the problems are. Young people break their necks so that they have no movement from the neck down: they cannot use their arms, they cannot feel from their necks downwards. Accident prevention is vital.
There are also dangers in the swimming pool. People dive on top of each other. I know of a case in which one person dived on top of another: one broke his neck and the other broke his back—two accidents in one.
As a member of the British Red Cross Society, I also fully recommend first aid lessons in all our schools. There is glue-sniffing among very young children. To know how to resuscitate, how to put a child in a recovery position can save life. It does not matter how young they are, it all helps. I very much hope that the Government will take seriously these very important needs.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
We seem to have another rather ill-assorted series of amendments. I should like to revert to the general scope of what was proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. As far as I understand it she wants in Amendment No. 32 to bring technology into the core curriculum and in Amendment No. 36 to reduce the number of obligatory foundation subjects to four only, allowing an element of choice as to the other three. That seems rather a good idea.
Earlier we lost the principal amendment of the noble Lords, Lord Joseph and Lord Peston, which would have had the advantage of decoupling the core from the foundation subjects. I think that that would have been very desirable because there would have been an obligatory core and then foundation subjects which were subject to guidelines. We have lost that for the moment, at any rate for this stage of the Bill. I think that possibly the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, has leg two of that amendment coming up as Amendment No. 34 and no doubt he will be proposing it at that stage. However, until we hear from him, the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness seems to me to be sensible and to take us some way in the direction of the flexibility that many of us were seeking earlier on.
I have one query for the Government as to whether technology goes into the core or stays among the foundation subjects. I think that it would be helpful if the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, would tell us a bit more about what the Government mean by technology. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has talked about design and technology, which are of course intimately connected. There is also a subject area called craft, design and technology which is currently taught in schools as a GCSE subject—and a very good one in my opinion. Possibly that is what should be included. Perhaps the noble Baroness would tell us that that is the gloss which the Government wish to put on technology. I think that we need clarification from the Government on that point.
However, it seems to me that, unless at a later stage the main proposal to be moved by the noble Lord, 526 Lord Joseph, was adopted in principle, this is a sensible series of linked amendments which would introduce greater flexibility into the curriculum. It would also allow more time for the concerns expressed by various speakers, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, on first aid, for that which I am shortly to express on health education and for various other subjects of a similar nature.
I regard this as a probing amendment at this stage, but I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to clear up some of my doubts as to the Government's intentions, in particular in relation to technology.
§ Baroness David
I wonder whether we could have clarification as to which amendments are being grouped together. Nobody has said which amendments we are considering, yet we are moving on.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness if I am correct in understanding that there is a whole group of amendments which appears to have been agreed informally between the Government and the Opposition. It started with Amendment No. 31, which was Lord Ritchie's amendment, and then came Amendment No. 32, which was the amendment of the noble Baroness. Amendment No. 33 followed and then it went on to include Amendments Nos. 36 to 42. There are quite a lot of other amendments after that. Is that the Government's understanding of what we are debating?
§ Baroness David
I was not sure that everybody fully understood this. I know that I have put down these amendments but this has not been said in the Chamber, which makes it perhaps difficult for some people.
§ Baroness Birk
In that case, I think I had better speak to my amendment, which is an entirely different animal altogether. It is Amendment No. 39. One of the reasons that I consider it to be quite different is that it takes two words that are in the Bill and asks for a slight substitution. It does not bring in new subjects or areas. In fact, it is unfortunate that the amendments are linked in this way. However, I am sure the Minister will deal with them all separately. I do not envy her in that task, but we seem to have got into what I would call an unfortunate mix-up. The amendment in my name and the names of three other noble Lords is at least short and simple. It replaces "music, art" with "the arts". Of course I was delighted to find the word "art" in the Bill. Naming only music and art—and art in this context, I imagine, is generally understood to mean fine art or visual art—by definition excludes drama, dance, design, film, TV and other aspects of the media.
It is clear, as was pointed out in Committee this afternoon and previously in another place, that any subject that is not mentioned in the list will have a hard struggle to get into the curriculum. We have a Minister for the Arts and an Arts Council, so there is no difficulty in it being clearly understood what is covered and what is meant by the "arts". Many schools and local education authorities now offer a balanced art provision under the direction of an 527 adviser or senior teacher with special responsibility for the arts as a whole. But with a national curriculum, the situation has changed. As the Bill now stands, it is damagingly narrow in its prescription and could set back the cause of arts in schools that has been advanced so rigorously in some areas of the country in recent years. I feel sure that that is not the intention of the Government, but I fear, as do other noble Lords, that such may be its effect.
One way to overcome this difficulty would be to list subjects to be included. However, not only would that lead to questions of what should be included and what should be omitted, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said this afternoon in our first debate, education is a growing and developing subject. I believe the arts also falls comfortably into the same category. It will not be set in concrete but will continue to develop under this umbrella title.
The 1982 Gulbenkian Report on the arts, which treated the arts subjects as a single field of learning, was welcomed by the Government. All major reports and initiatives in arts and education since then have followed the same pattern. This amendment would protect that principle and give schools the flexibility to respond to their own needs in their own way. The Bill uses the term "science" to cover all science subjects. Therefore the term "arts" should cover all arts subjects and would in no way be out of place with what is in the Bill at the moment.
Unless the Bill is amended in this way, I feel that we could see the teaching of arts in schools severely cut because of the priority given to other subjects which are named. There is bound to be a decline, for instance, in the number of dance and drama teachers. It is pointless to claim, as it is sometimes done, that drama may be included in English and ballet may be a part of PE. Neither of those subjects is the correct resting place for drama or ballet. The arts have a special contribution to make to a multi-cultured education and they have always served the special needs of non-academic children. If our society is to be civilised and appreciative of the arts then its future depends upon what youngsters learn in their formative years. We owe this to our children and I believe that we can ensure it by making a small semantic change.
§ Lord Gibson
I have put my name to the amendment simply because I believe that the words as they stand are too restrictive. If the word "music" had been left out, the word "art" could have done duty for the arts as a whole. In specifying "music" it leads one to interpret the word "art" in the way in which the noble Baroness has suggested. It is a semantic matter and I hope that the Government can accept it. It is a small matter, but a very important one.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
I believe that we are back in the situation where the Government have not quite thought through the wording of this part of the Bill. "Art" in the singular form would, to most people, simply bring to mind fine art and the appreciation of pictures and matters of a visual nature. That is the way in which we would normally understand the 528 word. I believe also that a doubt would arise as to whether design, for example, were included under that heading. As the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has said, the singular form could be interpreted to be excessively restrictive. For those reasons I have also put my name to this amendment. It is a point which is parallel to the one I was making about technology. We want to know what the Government mean by "art" and only then can we decide whether we accept their formulation. In the meantime it seems to me to be inadequate and I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness has to say about it.
§ 2.15 a.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
I should like to support what my noble friend Lady Lockwood said as regards Amendment No. 90 and careers education. I want to speak to Amendment No. 47. The purpose of the amendment is to try to introduce greater flexibility into the curriculum and to allow head teachers and governors to do exactly what the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, told the Committee was important during the Committee stage of the 1986 Act. In other words, to respond to local needs and circumstances and to the preferences of parents so that schools can have their individual curricula aims. It will give parents, through the governing body on which they will be represented, a genuine opportunity to play a part in expressing their views.
The proposals in the Bill at present give parents very little scope in spite of all the rhetoric about parents and parental choice. They get little or no mention in this part of the Bill. The amendment will also allow head teachers to take into account the skills and the qualifications of the teachers in their own schools. This is especially important in small, rural schools where the range of expertise among the teaching staff will necessarily be smaller because there are fewer teachers. It will also allow sensible adaptations to be made where there are teacher shortages which are acute, as they are in a number of key subjects.
I do not believe that my noble friend Lord Peston had an adequate response from the Minister to his question about what would happen if there were not enough maths teachers to go round. In this amendment I am suggesting a mechanism to allow schools to deal with difficulties where there are not enough teachers to go round. Insisting, for example, that all children study a modern language, if there are not enough modern language teachers, will not increase the quality of education either for those who are very talented in modern languages and who would have been doing them anyway under the present system or for those who are not talented and who probably, under the present system, would not have been doing them throughout their secondary education. It may well lead to a situation, unless we build in flexibility and allow heads and governors to make adjustments, in which talented young people cannot take two modern languages simply because there are not enough teachers to go round.
It will also avoid—and this is perhaps the most important point of all—the rather old-fashioned subject oriented approach built into the Bill at present. That approach neglects very important 529 areas: economic understanding and awareness, a whole range of life skills, careers education (which has already been mentioned), moral development and many other examples.
I should perhaps remind the Committee just how little progress we have made in this list of foundation subjects since the turn of the century. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in the Second Reading debate suggested that many of these subjects were what she had learned at school 60 years ago. In fact, it goes back very much further. The 1904 secondary regulations were almost identical to some of the subjects listed if we substitute technology in these proposals for an ancient language and art and music for drawing and singing.
Good schools do not simply list subjects as packages of knowledge to be learned. They try to look at subject matter and teaching and learning processes and organise them around a set of aims which relate to the needs of contemporary society rather than to packages of knowledge.
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 finding both resources and space for initiatives such as TVEI.
One of the more interesting developments in our secondary schools recently has been growing opportunities for work experience and closer links between schools and industry. For these to survive and to be taken further, would it not make some sense to allow heads, backed by their governors, to have the freedom to pursue such links in various parts of the curriculum? Very scant attention is paid to this in the way that core and foundation subjects have been framed.
Let us not bureaucratise and centralise the curriculum too much. Let us leave some scope for heads and their governors to work together to produce a curriculum within the framework set out by the Government which can change rapidly according to changing circumstances and avoid the kind of ossification that I fear we may otherwise get. Many professional organisations in education, I believe, would support the amendment. It will strengthen the Bill and help to do what we all want, which is to increase standards as many speakers have already said.
I believe that the amendment is totally consistent with what the noble Baroness the Minister said earlier about wishing to implement the national curriculum in as flexible a way as possible to allow schools to bring in a wider range of subjects in various combinations to meet their own local needs.
§ Lord Sandford
I should like to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, not exactly to support 530 her but to agree that there will be a number of different ways of approaching the teaching of the core and foundation subjects. I believe that her suggestions go too far but my colleagues on the Front Bench will express their views about that.
I believe that a great deal of time will be saved in discussing all the separate topics if the Minister could assure the Committee that before the next stage the Government will explain how the issues will be handled in relation to the core and foundation subjects. Perhaps they could indicate the progress being made in issuing guidance to the core and foundation subject working parties. I believe that such an indication will save an enormous amount of time and trouble. I do not see how the Committee can cover individually all the topics which have been raised.
§ Baroness Faithfull
Amendment No. 49, tabled in my name, is among this group of amendments. I shall not repeat them because all the subjects have been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and other Members. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that one does not wish to continue to repeat the various subjects.
However, the two subjects that have not yet been mentioned are classics and science. I know that many people in this country believe that at the fourth key stage the subjects mentioned in Amendment No. 49 are sought-after and wanted by the older pupils.
§ Earl Russell
I should like to support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. On Second Reading the cry of "flexibility" was coming from all quarters of the House. The Minister gave a hint that one might be pushing on a partially open door. Before I came into the House this morning it was made clear to me by some of my colleagues that they believed the amendment appeared to meet the cry for flexibility in a particularly suitable way. My colleagues in universities are much concerned about what happens in schools as a result of a national curriculum. The amendment achieves a certain amount of good in that it helps to meet the point made by my noble friend Lord McNair about the preservation of the classics, it makes it possible to study more than one modern language; and it makes it possible to study three serious sciences. To many of my colleagues those points appear to be of some importance.
I warmly welcome the fact that the amendment also recognises that not all children are the same. On Second Reading my noble friend Lord Ritchie of Dundee reflected on prospects of teaching music to tone-deaf children. I heard that remark with great sympathy, being tone-deaf myself. That is one of the many reasons why I should like to support the amendment.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
Amendment No. 92 has not been spoken to and I see that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, is absent. I believe that it is an important amendment which deals with a totally different subject; traffic education. I have recently received approximately five disturbing letters from 531 parents whose children have been killed on the roads. Some of them were killed by drunk drivers. I believe it to be vital that children are taught road safety in the schools. When the Minister sums up the long list of subjects I should be grateful if she would say something about traffic education in our schools. It would make the debate on Report much easier.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
Perhaps I may support what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said. It seems to me that it would be extremely helpful if we could have some idea of the remit which has been given to the various subject areas working parties before we come to the next stage of the Bill.
§ Baroness David
I should like to comment briefly on this mammoth list. I have great sympathy with every one of the amendments which has been put down, particularly that of my noble friend Lady Blackstone in which she asks for this flexibility between subjects. I should like to remind the Committee that the last words refer to "Section 1 (2) above"; so it relates to what is happening under Clause 1. I also have great sympathy with the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, because it will be very difficult to keep children of 15 and 16 who are not interested in the core and foundation subjects as listed in the Bill at school.
It seems to me that it all goes to show that these sections are far too rigid and inflexible. If our first amendment and the amendments which went with it had been carried, there would have been no need for this raft of amendments trying to get in this, that and the other subject, because there would have been an opportunity to do so. However, at this stage, it is too late to achieve that.
§ Baroness Hooper
I find myself able to agree with many of the sentiments expressed in the course of this debate. However, I fear that the conclusions I reach are rather different. I am confirmed in my view that it is in the best interests of all pupils to study a full range of subjects up to the age of 16 but to add subjects of the students' own choice, particularly in years 4 and 5 of secondary school.
Perhaps I should try to disentangle the three themes in the debate, and the amendments before us, rather than deal with each amendment in turn. First come the amendments which seek, in a declaratory way, to ensure that the foundation subjects can be taught in various combinations with each other and other subjects at the discretion of the head teacher. I hope that I do not need to go over old ground in establishing that the Bill does not in any way encroach on the ability of teachers to organise the curriculum as they see fit and to offer any subjects they wish in addition to the foundation subjects.
The national curriculum will ensure that important and valuable subjects are not squeezed out of the curriculum by less important ones. In that context, the new schedule of the noble Baroness, Lady David, offers a useful list of examples. I do not want to ban the teaching of any of those subjects from our schools, although many seem more suitable for an evening class than the crowded school timetable. 532 However, I am very glad to think that the national curriculum will make sure that pupils are in no danger of being offered television studies instead of technology or surveying instead of science.
Secondly, there are those Members of the Committee who wish us to identify and add to the foundation list certain important topics which include first aid and accident prevention, home economics including personal and social education, life skills and health education, social, cultural and environmental cross-curricular themes, road safety and careers education. Here again we are on ground very much like that which we covered in our debates on Clause 1 of the Bill. Those are all important themes and all are most likely to be covered in one way or another in national curriculum programmes of study. However, they are not the only important themes or topics which are not spelt out in detail here.
We have not sought to map out the full curriculum in this clause of the Bill. We are specifying the important subject areas to be covered and it will be for the subject working groups, with guidance from the Secretary of State and in due course from our new National Curriculum Council, to ensure that such themes and topics are appropriately covered. Perhaps, if I may give some reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, I should spell out that so far the maths and science working groups have been established and are due to submit their final report in June. We have just set up the English and technology with design groups, which will be reporting within the next year. History and geography will come later, as will foreign languages, and guidelines will be established for music, art and physical education. However, the criteria which have been given to the working parties in existence include consideration of cross-curricular themes.
As I said, although all the themes which have been raised by those amendments are important, perhaps at this hour I may be allowed to deal with two particular points rather than all of them. On the arts—a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk—we recognise that our proposals for the various creative arts subjects must be consistent with each other and must also take account of developments which have taken place in the field of integrated arts. I believe that we may expect the National Curriculum Council to ensure that. However, at the same time we do not want to lose sight of the particuar attributes of each individual arts subject, and we fear that the effect of this amendment would be just that. We are concerned that replacing art and music as foundation subjects with some generic title covering all the creative arts would result in less attention being given to arts subjects in the national curriculum and in those subjects being treated with less rigour than they would if they were separately identified, as they are in the Government's proposals. I do not believe that that is the wish of the noble Baroness.
Perhaps I may confirm that dance, to which she referred, is part of drama and physical education, as is music. Art can take in all forms of visual arts, including film and the plastic arts. Equally, moving on to the other subjects which were dealt with 533 particularly by noble Lords opposite in relation to technology, I am very pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, shares the Government's view that technology should be a component of the national curriculum. Design and technology are vital areas of the curriculum and of great significance for the economic well-being of this country. Making technology a foundation subject, as the Bill already provides, automatically guarantees its place throughout the compulsory period of schooling.
The design and technology working group which we set up last week will advise on attainment targets and programmes of study for technology within the national curriculum. I am not persuaded of the advantage of ranking technology alongside the core subjects of mathematics, English and science, to which priority has to be given in implementing the national curriculum.
Everyone agrees that literacy, numeracy and scientific ways of thinking are at the heart of the curriculum; they underpin learning in other subjects, including design and technology. Therefore I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Indeed, in the light of my more general explanation about the flexibility already available within the Government's proposals for the various subjects in the national curriculum, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw the amendments to which we are speaking.
§ 2.30 a.m.
§ Baroness Birk
I have just one point to put to the Minister. The arguments which she used against accepting the amendment were much the same as those which I used for moving it. That does not get us very far. I hope she will take the amendment back and reconsider it. I appreciate that the hour is very late but I think the issue should be looked at again, because all she said was that drama would go back into English and ballet into physical education. I realise, as do those people who are concerned with the arts, that that is not a good arrangement. Perhaps she will look again at the matter, because none of the amendments has yet been moved.
§ Baroness Hooper
I feel that I must stand by the fact that we think that the subject is adequately covered by the provisions in the Bill.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
I think I am right in saying that I am the only Peer who has actually moved an amendment; the others have merely been spoken to in connection with mine. Therefore it falls to me to say a final word about it. We have been debating the national curriculum for nearly 12 hours and one wonders whether we have achieved anything good. I must say that the prize goes to the civil servants who thought up a thousand or two negative answers: how to say no in a thousand different ways.
We have ranged over various aspects of the national curriculum in the past hour or so. All one can hope is that some impression has penetrated to the Government Front Bench and that some of our ideas and proposals will filter through to those who have to make the final decisions—to the Secretary of 534 State, the National Curriculum Council and the task groups, and that they will reflect to an extent some of the carefully thought-out ideas which have been spoken to in this Committee. In the circumstances—
Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, he referred to the many hours which have been spent discussing this matter, and for lack of progress he thought the prize should go to the civil servants who supplied the answers. I suggest that the second prize should perhaps go to those who were responsible for the grouping of the amendments.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
The grouping seems to have given rise to some confusion. In the circumstances and at this hour of the morning I bid the Committee "Good morning" and ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ 2.37 a.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 31) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 20; Not-Contents, 30.
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Birk, B.||McNair, L. (Teller]|
|Blackstone, B.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Peston, L.|
|David, B.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Dormond of Easington, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Rea, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L. [Teller]|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Russell, E.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Seear, B.|
|Lockwood, B.||Winstanley, L.|
|Arran, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Joseph, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Kimball, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Reay, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Cox, B.||Sandford, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller]||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller]||Thurlow, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Trafford, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.535
§ [Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.]
§ 2.45 a.m.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees
Before calling Amendment No. 34 I should remind the Committee that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 35 to 45.
Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 34:
Page 2, line 24, leave out subsection (2).
§ The noble Lord said: After all the preliminary skirmishing, we can now get down to serious discussion on the Bill. Before I joined this place I was most concerned that major legislation was discussed at this time of night. I must tell the Committee that I, at least, am wide awake. I am looking forward to the discussion on this amendment. I assume that it was the stimulus of the earlier debate on religious matters that got one's mind working.
§ We have reached a fascinating topic. There is nothing between us on the notion that there should be a national curriculum. We had a long argument earlier about how mandatory that curriculum should be. I think that pretty well all Members of the Committee accept that there should be a national curriculum. We now come rather more to the logical structure of that curriculum.
§ I can see a definite distinction between what the Bill refers to as core subjects and foundation subjects. I do not believe that the Bill's language is felicitous. I want to call the core subjects the foundation subjects. I have argued on other occasions in this place that mathematics and English, and almost certainly science, provide the foundation that everyone needs to be, I shall not go so far as to say educated, but to have the chance of being educated. The other subjects, which are called foundation subjects, desirable though they are for nearly all young people, do not have the foundation quality about them.
§ The main point I wish to make is that the national curriculum would be more satisfactory if it did not include those other subjects and concentrated on the core. I shall examine that point a little further. Why would I call the core the foundation? Starting with mathematics, the reason is that so much we do is mathematical. However, much more important than the mathematics, and certainly mathematics by rote—the type of mathematics I did when I was at school—is logic; that is, the ability to start from premises and in the case of mathematics to reach certain conclusions. That is why mathematics is so important. In my opinion it is a mistake to interpret mathematics as a calculating ability. The essence of mathematics in this context is its logical qualities. That is why I should like to see mathematics given a primary role, as it is in the core, or as I should like to say, in the foundation.
§ I do not have to speak at any length on English. Again it seems to me that without a true ability in this field no other learning is possible. I have never understood colleagues in university who have somehow accepted that we have first-class economists who at the same time are illiterate. That has never made any sense to me: the ability to write the language correctly and attractively cannot be separated from the subject itself. I am always 536 suspicious of those who cannot write but claim to understand the subject. So we need not argue about English: clearly it should be there.
§ Now we come to science. Again, I hope that our concept of science in this context is not the science of learning how to heat a test tube and things of that sort. All the cleverer boys in my school always knew that the right way to do experiments was to do them, then do the theory and write the answers to the experiments down from the theory, not from our imperfect attempts at measurement. We were also cleverer than that; we knew that the experiment was meant to be somewhat imperfect so we always added slight error to the exact calculations which we knew we ought to have found.
§ What then is the point of science? It is precisely to understand the experimental mode, to understand fallibility. When I have argued this before, one of my difficulties with the whole approach to the mandatory national curriculum has been that it seems to me that the Government do not recognise fallibility. Why do we consider choice? Why are we keen on flexibility? We are keen on it because we might be wrong. That is why we do not want this to be imposed. Science tells us about fallibility, about the need to take a statistical view of the world and all that sort of thing.
§ So, although the amendment in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, is to leave out subsection (2), the main part of the logic of leaving out subsection (2) is the desire to emphasise subsection (1)(a). I do not need to pursue subsection (2) in any great detail because in a sense it has been discussed interestingly throughout the day. Attractive though each one of the subjects in subsection (2) is, and even though most—and I have to say to the Minister most, not all—young people would benefit from some acquaintance with the majority of them, I do not quite see the compelling nature of all of them for the whole period. Let me take my favourite one, for which I do not see the argument at all. That is geography. I am totally at a loss as to where geography gets the status which allows it to sit side by side with history, and for that matter side by side with English, over the whole period of the mandatory curriculum. I am not saying that geography ought not to be there: what I fail to see is its mandatory nature. I have to say that I would tend to argue that for almost all the topics. I should like to see pretty well all young people do history. I think it is a great loss not have an understanding of the history of one's country. I would add that it is also beneficial for young people not merely to know something about the history of other countries, but to know something about the countries' history books. There is nothing better for someone's education than to read an American version of the War of Independence or a French version of the battle of Waterloo. It will do one the world of good. So, keen as I am to have our young people read our history, I think the broadening of mind should take us beyond that.
§ My main point is not that. I do not want to bandy individual subjects about, I simply want to argue that in a sense the foundation subjects are altogether a misconception of what the national curriculum should be about. I can see them as desirable, I can see 537 them as guidelines. I cannot see them as mandatory or having the same role as what is called the core, but what I should like to call the foundation.
§ That is why I believe that Amendment No. 34 enables us to elucidate the whole nature of the curriculum. I could go further and argue also about the issue of freedom of choice here, because I do favour freedom of choice in the curriculum. To go back to an earlier argument of mine, I really do not see children and their parents in the maintained schools having to accept lack of freedom of choice because they have chosen to go to maintained schools as opposed to independent schools. So there is a freedom of choice aspect, but it is not central to what I have in mind. What is central is the vital, fundamental importance of the core curriculum. It is that I most wish to press upon the Committee. I beg to move.
I sympathise strongly with the Government's impatience to raise standards and to broaden the education of our children. I happen to think that they have gone the wrong way about it in relation to the national curriculum. I eagerly support the noble Lord, Lord Peston, in the amendment which in effect would retain the mandatory requirement in regard to the core subjects but make the foundation subjects discretionary. I do not think any Member of the Committee doubts that the foundation subjects will be taught in nearly every school. The problem is one of flexibility. Every child is different in his or her strengths and weaknesses. As the previous debate showed, the real problem we are discussing is the pressure on time. If of course the Government were to decide to lengthen the school week or the school year, that would provide a different background.
I want briefly to put the case that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, has already argued in particular terms of the non-academic child. Let us imagine for a moment that we have technical schools in this country. Let us imagine that there are large numbers of pupils in our schools who, on the whole, being non-academic—it does not follow, of course, that only the non-academic are technical—would be interested in technical vehicles of general learning.
Would it be possible, within the straitjacket laid down by the Government, to give them the extra time they would need, after satisfying the foundation subject as well as the core subject requirements, to have real immersion in different aspects of technology? I doubt it, bearing in mind all the different special subjects the Committee either argued for, or denied itself the pleasure of arguing for, because of the hour of the night. There will be plenty of bids for the 30 per cent. of the curriculum time that the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, constantly presents as the defence of the Government against inflexibility.
I have satisfied myself through inquiries that the French, who seem to do very well with what they call a national curriculum, have no mandatory requirement for the same subjects to be taught to all children. They exempt a significant proportion of their children from preparation for the "bac" and provide them with a special curriculum—I am talking 538 of between 10 and 15 per cent. of their children—that features strongly technical subjects plus, it is true, a smattering of history and a smattering of civics which is not a foreign language in their case but mainly technical subjects.
The Government, I know, are desparately keen, as are all sides of the Committee, to help particularly the children who do not benefit from the present schooling. They will be bitterly disappointed if their understandably impatient desire to get a broad and balanced curriculum in fact does damage to the non-academic. Just suppose that non-academic children need more time for maths or English than is provided in the standard syllabus. Suppose that that extra time eats into the 30 per cent. that the Minister will probably tell us is available. Suppose, in addition, that some of the favourite subjects of Members of the Committee which were listed in our previous debates find their way into the 30 per cent. What time will be left to suit the non-academic child?
I ask the Committee to consider whether we are doing the service which we wish to do to those who most need our help and to reflect on whether a technical curriculum, were we to want it for a proportion of our children, would be possible within the straitjacket which the Bill imposes. If we adopt the amendment, the result will be that core subjects will remain manageable. That will account for the main, understandable and legitimate endeavour of the Government.
We all accept that the core subjects are the gateway to all other subjects. What it will mean is that the mandatory requirements on foundation subjects will be withdrawn. I think that we all agree that in nearly every school nearly all, if not all, the published subjects will be taught. If we follow the amendment, we shall remove the straitjacket and say to the Secretary of State, venturing into programmes of study and attainment targets for the foundation subjects, that we shall, by the amendment, give the flexibility for which we are all arguing. We shall do it by retaining what is in our view the indispensable element of the mandatory requirement for the core subjects. I support the amendment.
§ 3 a.m.
§ Baroness Seear
I do not wish to rehearse the arguments which we had earlier today and which both noble Lords have put so ably. I merely wish to say that I support the amendment very strongly indeed.
§ Lady Saltoun of Abernethy
I entirely support the concept of the foundation subject. However, I am still very concerned, as is the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, about the non-academic child. I am also very concerned about the exceptionally talented child who may need to spend a great deal of time, for instance, practising on a musical instrument or practising ballet in order to achieve his or her greatest potential. If I could be satisfied that exceptions would be made for all those children, I would support the Government wholeheartedly. I am not satisfied and I should be grateful if the Minister could tell me what the situation of such children will be.
§ Baroness Hooper
We return with these amendments to a fundamental challenge to our national curriculum proposals. There are two central reasons why I ask the Committee to reject the idea of a national curriculum consisting of core subjects only. The first and most important is that such a national curriculum would not serve the purposes of a true national curriculum as set out in Better Schools, as practised in other countries and indeed as practised in some of our own better schools.
The second reason is that in seeking to constrain the national curriculum in order to increase flexibility for individual pupils, as is suggested, the amendments deprive a large target group of the benefits of a broad and balanced curriculum. We believe that there is ample flexibility built into our proposals for use where appropriate.
As regards the need for a full range of subjects to be offered to all pupils, I shall quote once more from Better Schools:The Government believes that all pupils should follow a broad, balanced and suitably differentiated programme until age 16".Is a curriculum consisting of English, mathematics, science and perhaps technology and history broad and balanced? Better Schools thought not:the Government's policies for breadth and balance require that … the curriculum for all pupils … should contain English … mathematics; science; a study of the humanities; aesthetic subjects; practical subjects; physical education; and a foreign language for most pupils".We stand by all of that. We stand by its general philosophy and its details.
My noble friend Lord Joseph also made some excellent speeches on this theme. He told the Historical Association:I am clear that history is an essential component in the curriculum for all pupils".He told the Geographical Association:Geography is important to the balance of a broad curriculum. I see it as an important element in a broad education in the humanities for all pupils".Yet now both he and the noble Lord, Lord Peston, would leave both subjects out of the national curriculum.
Better Schools has been endorsed by virtually all within and outside the education service, though not without some backsliding and protest of the kind that we are now facing in introducing a national curriculum. Its curriculum model—and now that of the national curriculum—has been incorporated into the criteria for the technical and vocational education initiative which is helping to offer a broad and balanced curriculum in a way of particular relevance in our technological age. It is a model which works well in many European countries. Why, I wonder, should its architect abandon it and retreat now to a narrow core?
One reason we have heard is the need for more flexibility. That has been a central theme of the speeches made against our full range of foundation subjects. However, as I said in an earlier debate, such argument confuses flexibility with laxity. Choice can be a synonym for soft options. The Bill contains all the provisions needed to cater for genuinely appropriate flexibility.
Will the noble Baroness permit me to intervene? I am grateful to her. I do not think that she will ever find a quotation in Better Schools for which I was responsible or in any of the speeches of mine which she quotes to suggest that I ever thought of imposing mandatory requirements for any of those subjects. I spoke, heaven help me, in terms of exhortation and example and not in terms of imposing the law. That is the difference.
§ Baroness Hooper
I understand that and I believe that to be part of the problem, because the exhortation did not work.
To continue the theme of flexibility, or freedom of choice if one so chooses to call it, to allow for individual circumstances, this is and can be achieved in many ways under our proposals. I stated some of those earlier so I hope that the Committee will bear with me if in passing through them again I repeat some of my earlier statements.
There is 30 per cent. of the average school week available for other subjects or topics in years four and five. That is one and a half days, and indeed longer in schools which work longer hours. I believe that it allows a number of the subjects that we have been discussing in the last amendments to be included in the curriculum.
The national curriculum will not be prescribing in great detail what schools and teachers should do, as I have said more than once. It will set out a framework and key objectives but will not prevent considerable variation in what is being offered in classrooms and the various schools. Each foundation subject will contribute towards a number of cross-curricular themes which will be capable of inclusion with other subjects in a variety of ways.
On implementation it is intended that the core subjects and technology should be introduced first and the remainder of the foundation subjects over a number of years. In saying that, we recognise that because of the need to train teachers in some subjects we may have to move at a slower pace. This could well be the case for modern languages, for example. Meanwhile much development work is going on in offering foreign language to pupils of all abilities. Some subjects such as art, music and physical education, will have guidelines only, so the amount of time to be devoted to them is indeed much more flexible and will possibly leave more than the 30 per cent. of time for other subjects that I quoted outside the national curriculum. Programmes of study and attainment targets will allow for considerable differentiation by ability in each subject.
At this point I hope to be able to reassure the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, that they will cater explicitly for the below average pupil, who will have his objectives defined positively and not by reduction from an unrealistic goal. They will also allow the brighter pupils to progress as quickly as they are able. Indeed, we must remember that the detailed provisions of each subject in the national curriculum will come before both Houses of Parliament in the shape of orders which will be introduced to bring in each separate subject. For groups of pupils of particular types and in particular circumstances the Bill allows the Secretary of State to define exceptions to any 541 general orders or indeed exceptions from studying a particular foundation subject where necessary. Therefore, the needs of pupils with particular problems—for example, problems of mobility or maybe language development—can be fully met.
Our proposals also meet the needs of pupils who progress so rapidly that they meet the highest national curriculum targets before the age of 16. They can move on to different challenges.
For individual pupils with severe problems, the Bill allows permanent modifications to the national curriculum through the statement of special needs or temporary modifications by the head teacher. With all that flexibility it is difficult to see how the individual needs of pupils will be ignored. They can certainly be ignored only too easily in the present system. But at all stages the national curriculum requires teachers to consider pupils as individuals and to offer them the full range of subjects in an appropriate way or to make specific and well thought out alternative arrangements.
Confining the national curriculum to three core subjects would ensure that too many pupils would concentrate heavily on those subjects to the exclusion of others. These three subjects are relevant and necessary but they are certainly not sufficient; a curriculum consisting solely of those subjects would certainly not be broad and balanced.
Where is the end to early specialisation which other countries rejected long ago and which employers and others in this country speak against with one voice, if we confine ourselves to the core subjects?
The amendments that are before us would leave in legislation provisions which would fail to meet the important aims and objectives on which I had understood the Committee to be at one with the Government. I therefore ask the Committee to reject them.
§ Lord Peston
I am deeply disappointed with the reply of the noble Baroness because it does not seem to me to address itself to the argument that was put forward. In pressing for the core curriculum, as being the central mandatory part, none of us is arguing that there should not be a broad curriculum. None of us is arguing that at all. Indeed, our whole point is that there should be a much broader curriculum. Our view esentially—and we could in due course table such amendments if this amendment were to be carried—is that there should be a broad range of possible subjects.
My query about the foundation subjects is this: why precisely these subjects and why make them mandatory? I am not in favour of undue specialisation. I entirely accept the view of the noble Baroness that we have been too specialised. The reason for that lies much more in the examination system than in anything else that I could put forward. I simply do not understand why there should be this particular list. I could produce a much broader list and say, "Choose any six from that". What is special about this list? The noble Baroness has not given us any answer whatever to that question—none whatever.
To return to my question: why is geography there, as an example? Why could there not be some other 542 subject there instead of geography? Why not another science? Why could not a second language go in? One could go on endlessly.
I ask the noble Baroness whether she will be good enough to give us the argument which says that we are mistaken. We are not against a broad curriculum. I can assure her that we are entirely in favour of a broad curriculum. What we are objecting to is this particular mandatory list which makes no sense to me or to any other educationist whom I know.
§ Baroness Hooper
The noble Lord may not be arguing against a broad curriculum, but what he is arguing for is the means of dispensing with the methods of ensuring that broad curriculum. I answer his query by saying that what we are doing with the subjects which are enumerated as foundation subjects is building on those best practices in many of our schools to which a number of your Lordships have referred. It has been frequently said in the course of this debate that many of our schools already deliver the national curriculum. It is in building upon best practices that we have seen the way forward with this Bill and its proposals. That is how we have found our subjects.
The Committee will realise that the case has been put and it is not possible for me to be satisfied with the answer. I do not believe that the Government are justified in imposing a legal straitjacket outside the core, and I shall therefore press the amendment.
§ 3.17 a.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 34) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 28.
|DIVISION NO. 3|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Birk, B.||Peston, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L [Teller.]|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.|
|David, B.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Rea, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Joseph, L.||Russell, E.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Seear, B.|
|Lockwood, B.||Thurlow, L.|
|McNair, L. [Teller.]||Winstanley, L.|
|Arran, E.||Hesketh, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Belstead, L.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Kimball, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Reay, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Cox, B.||Sandford, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Trafford, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.543
§ 3.24 a.m.
§ [Amendments Nos. 35 to 44 not moved.]
Baroness Faithfull moved Amendment No. 45:
Page 2, line 29, after ("State") insert—
("( ) in relation to the third key state, home economics to include personal and social education;").
§ The noble Baroness said: It may be thought by Members of the Committee that I should have spoken to the amendment in the last grouping. However, because of the peculiar listing it did not appear and so I did not speak.
§ Thoughout the debate I have been slightly worried because the Committee has talked so much about academics and non-academics. I should like to talk about the intelligent children whose interests lie in a practical sphere. I refer to home economics and I include personal and social education. In the amendment we press the Government to consider home economics as a foundation subject. It includes personal and social education, which some prefer to call "life skills".
§ Home economics falls into two distinct but interrelated parts. There is the teaching of the practical skills which require intelligence and imagination. They can lead to an academic life but they often lead to working in the practical sphere. By that, I mean skills in the practical sphere of nutrition, preparation of food and the running of a home, and their application in commerce and industry. For instance, British Gas employs a large number of home economists.
§ Without the practical skills in the community, where would Members of the Committee be? Where would we have obtained our food, our comforts and the support of all the people who are behind us? We could not be here were they not. They are important people of an intelligent, imaginative and practical nature. I shall not say that we would welcome such people being better trained, because nowhere could one have more excellent service than in your Lordship's House. However, when I dine in college in Oxford, I wonder where they would be without the home economists. Where would the schools be without practical people? Where would the colleges be? They would not be there, because they would be busy cooking their food and looking after themselves and they would not have time for their intellectual pursuits. I believe it to be most important that intelligent children of a practical nature should have the right and the opportunity to enter the practical spheres.
There is also the interrelated sphere of home economists. I refer to Dr. George Tolley's presidential address to the Institute of Home Economists. He quoted from T. S. Eliot:
Home is where it starts from.
The amendment speaks of "personal and social education", but many people call the subject "life skills". That has been referred to already by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee. It means having a knowledge and understanding of child development, child care and human relationships. As has already been stated, one in three marriages breaks down, there is cruelty and child abuse and there are poor relationships. If that subject were to be taught in
schools at a later stage, or even at an early stage, our have already been made and therefore I shall not repeat them at this late hour. I beg to move.
§ 3.30 a.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
As my amendment is listed along with the previous one, and to make the matter clear, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will speak also to his amendment, No. 102, so that the Committee is brought up to date. I have tabled the amendment to the core subject of science because that is where I feel it is most fitted.
In speaking to Amendment No. 46 I should like to try to explain how important it is that our children are ensured an education which encompasses the basic life skills, including health education. With academic pressures and competition among schools that might be the choice of parents who seek the schools which may have the highest examination results but do not consider the wider educational needs of children. What is the point in educating children if they cannot cope with the realities of life and do not have the knowledge to avoid what is dangerous and bad for their bodies and general well-being?
If children do not have such education they may not have a long life. The evidence that smoking causes many health problems is now well-known. The danger of drug abuse does not seem likely to go away. The upsurge in the drinking of alcohol is increasing among young people, as is the suicide rate.
The need to learn to be a good parent and have a healthy lifestyle in diet, exercise, sexual activities and the skills to run a home seem of paramount importance. Education is the only hope if the cycle of deprivation and abuse which often surrounds young people from all walks of life is to be broken. The recent report on public health in England recommends in paragraph 4.21.3 that a supporting curriculum development of health education projects suitable for use by children of different age groups be part of education.
The Brewers Society is most supportive of educational initiatives. The CSE biology syllabus has been widely available and deals with the effects of alcohol on the body. There is also available to schools through the British Institution of Traffic Education Research an interactive video on the same subject. It would be a great pity if those benefits were lost to education.
There is now a global shadow of AIDS hanging over the world. Education is vital. Young people need to know the implications involved and how to avoid spreading the virus. The faculty of community medicine is concerned that there is no mention of personal social education in the proposals for the national curriculum.
Health care is becoming expensive. The government emphasis on individual responsibility for health should surely be complemented by ensuring that children are sufficiently educated to exercise that responsibility. Somewhere in the Bill that vital need should be written in so that health education and life skills are not neglected or forgotten. Educating our future generations to promotion of good health and prevention of disease and deprivation must be cost- 545 effective to the nation and the only hope for a thriving future.
I am not sure where such a provision should be placed in the Bill, but that is a matter for the Committee to decide.
§ Lord Rea
I support both the amendments and speak briefly in support of the Amendment No. 46 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. I am aware that the science working group has already gone a long way towards constructing the core curriculum for science and is now examining many suggestions, some of which include the topics in the amendment. The group's provisional curriculum already includes some of the topics which are under the headings of life skills and health education.
The organisation of which I am executive chairman, the National Co-ordinating Committee on Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease, is more and more aware of the importance of early childhood influences in the development of this disease, which is the most important killing disease in the country. We have already sent in our comments on the core science curriculum and I hope that our suggestions will prove acceptable. Briefly they relate to the place of nutrition, home economics and physical activity in the curriculum and both the good and bad effects of behaviour on health.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, will probably say that we need not fear because these topics will be included, and to some extent already are included, in the basic core science curriculum which is, I agree, a valuable and well thought out document. However, it would be helpful to the science working group if the words of the amendment, or similar words, were included somewhere in the Bill to strengthen its hand against competing demands and to ensure that these topics have a proper place in the finally accepted core curriculum.
With that one minute statement I shall sit down so that we can all soon go home.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
I hope it will be with the agreement of the Government Front Bench and the noble Baroness that I am both supporting her amendment and speaking also to Amendment No. 102, which attaches itself not to the same place but to the National Curriculum Council. It seems to me that this is a cross-curricular matter and with due respect to the noble Baroness perhaps we should revert to it at a later stage of the Bill. The place I have chosen is perhaps slightly better than the place that she has chosen. At present I am simply advancing this as a probing amendment, but it is an important amendment on which I should like to have some answers.
The noble Baroness will be well aware that health education covers a great variety of matters. I have seven listed here: the prevention of drug and alcohol misuse; prevention of AIDS; prevention of teenage pregnancies; reduction in teenage smoking; improvement in the national diet, improvement in levels of physical activity and fitness; and preparation for parenthood.
On those grounds the Health Education Authority advocated the setting up of a cross-curricular 546 working group to examine the place which it thought health education should take within the sphere of personal and social education—which in fact at present takes place in a large number of schools. I do not know the exact percentage, but it is widely taught.
The HEA also asked for the appointment of a member of the National Curriculum Council with expertise in health education. I am not aware whether that was conceded but no doubt the noble Baroness will give us the answer. The chairman of the Health Education Authority wrote to the Secretary of State on 22nd February. The HEA has some valuable suggestions, but the chairman wrote that,there are certain key aspects of health education which cannot be fully covered in science".He went on to say:we remain concerned at the lack of any reference to PSE in the consultation document or in subsequent Ministerial statements. We fear that this may result in an unintended diminution in the status and time allocated to PSE by secondary schools".The Minister of State, Mrs. Rumbold, replied on 24th March. She seemed to hold out some hope of a positive government response. She said:As you say, we expect that Personal and Social Education will be one of the areas of the curriculum which the National Curriculum Council will want to consider early".She went on to say:My colleagues and I will take on board your suggestion that we should look for an opportunity to make clear in a public statement that we continue to attach importance to good PSE courses, not least as an effective way of teaching health education. We will aim to include such a statement either in what we say in Parliament during further consideration of the Bill, or in a public speech".I am offering this opportunity to the noble Baroness. Perhaps she would like to make a statement on those lines.
Finally I would add this. The noble Baroness may expect me to do so knowing that I have taken a considerable interest in AIDS and have introduced two debates in this Chamber on the subject. The excellent production of the HEA is available for use in schools. It has a number of modules which require a certain amount of time for their absorption. There are also videos, one of which is prepared by the DES, which are quite useless if they are simply shown for a single 25-minute run, are not prepared for in advance and there is no time for feedback afterwards.
In addition to those items that I have mentioned which form part of what one might call traditional health education, there is this very large area which has to be accommodated. The noble Baroness has chided me previously for not having sufficient faith that parent governors will be sensible about this matter. However, it would be very helpful if the Government reiterated Section 18 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 to governors and schools up and down the land. That enjoins governors, although the final decision is theirs, very seriously to consider whether they will include sex education in the curriculum. If they decide against it, they must publish the reasons. That could be helpful in ensuring that we have room for this AIDS education in schools.
I do not wish to detain the Committee further at this time of night. We may wish to return to the subject at a later stage of the Bill. It would be helpful 547 if the noble Baroness could tell us what thoughts the Government have had on that and whether she is prepared to take up the undertaking given by Mrs. Rumbold to make a statement on the subject.
§ Lord Craigton
I speak to Amendment No. 48. We all know that environmental education is today an essential element in the education of all young people. I believe that it should be recognised as such in this legislation for the national curriculum.
The Secretary of State for Education has said:We take environmental education seriously as a cross-curricular theme within the national curriculum.The Minister for Education has said:Environmental education draws on and makes unique contribution to a range of subject areas".The employment at the ministry of an official for part of her time on environmental education is at least an acknowledgement of government concern. I believe that environmental education is too vitally important to be left to a part-time official and statements of support from Ministers from time to time.
I should like to ask the noble Baroness this question. How can the Government show that they consider environmental education to be an important element in the education process if they omit specific reference to it in the Bill? Will she tell us what encouragement the Government will give to those teachers, anxious and committed to teach environmental studies who at present feel they do not have the remit to do so, and to other teachers who as yet are unaware of the contribution they can and should make?
Finally, will the Government spell out in detail what instructions they will be giving to those groups, particularly the subject working groups, and other bodies formed to implement the national curriculum to ensure that cross-curricular themes, including environmental education, are not only included but actively encouraged and properly co-ordinated within the framework of the national curriculum?
§ 3.45 a.m.
§ Baroness David
My name should have appeared on the amendment; so I should like to give every support to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton. As I chaired the Environmental Education Committee when the United Kingdom was preparing its response to the world conservation strategy, I feel strongly about the issue. I too should like to see environmental education mentioned in some way on the face of the Bill. Our discussion earlier on the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hatch and Lord Pitt, covered some of the arguments. I shall not go into them at this hour of the morning.
I give my strong support to the amendment. I hope that for once we will hear a respectable response from the Minister, not the usual complete turning-down of the proposal. I am also extremely sympathetic to the amendments tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Faithfull and Lady Masham. I regret the need to have such amendments, but given the present structure of the Bill they seem inevitable.
§ Baroness Blatch
One of the difficulties is that there have been so many pleas to have subjects included in the list of foundation subjects. Those we have had so far are health and physical development, family life and parenthood, economic awareness, social and civic responsibilities in a multi-racial society, environment, world citizenship, first aid and accident prevention, home economics, life skills, social, cultural and sex education. A serious difficulty arises if we consider any of those as foundation subjects in isolation, with one being mutually exclusive of another.
I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister to consider this matter. All of those subjects are important in our children's educational life. The list compiled during the debate should be handed to the various working parties on the individual subjects so that they think not only about the subject area but also laterally and across the curricula. This will enable all aspects of the subjects to be taken on board and somehow woven into matters to be achieved in the course of studies.
I can slot some subjects into the science category and some into physical education, for example. Rather than fight over those subjects to be included as a foundation subject, they should all be fed into the committees so that they find their way into our children's general education.
§ Baroness Lockwood
I support the principle that lies behind the three amendments. One of the difficulties we face is that if the Government insist that the curriculum shall be so confined and prescriptive there will be moves to extend it. That will be due to the feeling that if a subject is not mentioned among the core or foundation subjects, it will not be taught. There is scope within the range of foundation subjects to cover the issues before us. No one will be sure about them if they are not now mentioned in the Bill.
I support the very reasonable amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. It refers to the third key stage at which home economics should be taught. That is the right time for children to be taught the subject. The noble Baroness referred, although she did not use the term, to the less academic child. It is important for all boys and girls, across the ability range, to be taught the subject. It will help them to come to terms with some of the practical and emotional issues they will face in relation to their personal lives and in the community.
§ Lord Peston
Perhaps I may comment on what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said. It seemed to me that she put her finger on the central issue, which is precisely connected with what some of us are objecting to. The possible list of subjects which someone thinks ought to be mandatory is much longer than even the noble Baroness says, and she could produce a list twice as long as that with no trouble whatsoever. That is the basis of our objection—that we can think of so many things that are desirable in a broad curriculum, and certainly those that have been mentioned, including those which the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has brought up. We want an explanation still of why those included are there and those omitted are not 549 there. I have to repeat ad nauseam that I have not yet heard any argument from the Government Front Bench which explains that.
Perhaps I may add one other point. I myself would not be happy if in a sense the way in which we get these other subjects in is by pretending that they come under some of the other subjects. To take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, on the environment, one could probably fiddle that in by saying that it was geography. But I would much rather that it were called the environment: I do not see why it has to be called geography. Why can it not be described as environmental studies? Why does it have to be called geography? For all I know, I could get home economics in as technology. However, I would much rather it was done in a straightforward way, so I appeal yet again to the noble Baroness to give us an explanation of why those of us who support the broad curriculum cannot have just that.
§ Baroness Hooper
As I said earlier, I recognise that the Committee wishes to include in the list of foundation subjects important topics such as personal and social education and life skills. As I said then, this is an area where the Government have already identified a need for coverage within the national curriculum and have taken steps to ensure that it has a role to play in the curriculum.
Perhaps I may elaborate. Life skills and PSE can cover a range of different topics within the curriculum, including such matters as were described by my noble friend, Lady Faithfull: parenthood, child care and development, aspects of sex education, family budgeting and money management, careers education, the development of interpersonal and social skills, as well as health education itself. As with health education, such topics can be covered in a number of different ways. Some Members have already referred to these either as cross-curricular themes or, not infrequently, as being provided within a timetable programme of personal and social education.
I can assure the Committee that the Government fully recognise the importance of the kinds of topic that have been identified. That is one of the reasons why Clause 1 specifically requires the curriculum as a whole to prepare pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.
Many of the matters which fall within the terms "life skills" and "PSE" will eventually be covered by the national curriculum as cross-curricular themes. For instance, we should expect the development of interpersonal and social skills to be a matter to be covered in different ways throughout the national curriculum, but we do not believe it would be appropriate to identify PSE in general as a matter for study in one or more of the foundation subjects. The range of topics that can be covered under this heading includes sensitive areas of the curriculum which should rightly be left to the schools themselves to determine. Sex education in particular is a case in point where, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, I think it was, said, the law already places on school governors the responsibility for determining what, if any, sex education is provided in their schools. Our 550 proposals for the national curriculum will not change that in any way.
Other aspects may be equally sensitive. We feel that the schools themselves must be left to determine whether and how such matters are dealt with. I should also emphasise that we anticipate that one of the first tasks of the National Curriculum Council will be to look at the cross-curricular themes as a whole so that they have proper frameworks for considering the working group's recommendations. We also envisage that personal and social education as a subject area will be one of the areas which the National Curriculum Council will want to consider early in its existence, not least in order to improve general understanding of what should generally he included in a course of study under the title "PSE". I am not sure whether that will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, but I hope that the proposers of these amendments will recognise that the Government do appreciate the importance of personal and social education and life skills.
As for Amendment No. 48, which requires social, cultural and environmental cross-curricular themes, I hope that what I have already said may have gone some way to reassure my noble friend Lord Craigton that his hopes too will be fulfilled under our current proposals in the ways I have described. As has been said, we have included environmental themes in our remit to the science working group. Social and cultural themes will also be covered as appropriate, but I shall have to give more thought to the suggestion of my noble friend Lady Blatch about referring a general list of cross-curricular themes to the working groups. We do not, however, feel it would be right to put into primary legislation some important themes and we could not possibly hope to cover all important themes without doubling the size of an already weighty Bill.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, feels that his query about why some subjects are included and others not has not been satisfied, but I do believe that the subjects that are enumerated as foundation subjects are those which will give the best chance of a broad and balanced curriculum to all the pupils in our schools. I must emphasise again that we do have that day and a half at least which can be used. There is no reason why people should not study the environment as a subject as the noble Lord suggested, or indeed other areas as specific subjects. There is that day and a half for that.
So I hope with a view to not doubling the size of this already weighty Bill that Members of the Committee will not seek to press any of these amendments, worthy though they may be.
§ Baroness Faithfull
I am very grateful to my noble friend, particularly in regard to what she has said about personal and social education. There was the other arm of the amendment dealing with the practical side of home economics, but at this late hour I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness Masham of Ilton moved Amendment No. 46:
Page 2, line 31, at end insert—
("( ) In subsection (1) above the core subject of science includes life skills and health education.").
§ The noble Baroness said: I should just like to say that I shall go back to my various colleagues who have an interest in this matter and see what we shall bring forward on Report.
§ As the noble Baroness has said, these are very important subjects. She has not told us whether there will be examinations in them. There have been in the past and it would be more satisfying if we knew that there were. As they are so important we should be more satisfied if that could be written in the Bill somewhere. However, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 47 to 50 not moved.]
Lord Peston had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 51.
Page 3, line 10, at end insert ("In exercising these functions the Secretary of State must declare the general criteria according to which he has acted and give specific reasons corresponding to the case or cases under consideration.").
§ The noble Lord said: I shall just say a word on Amendment No. 51. This is a general purpose amendment which is applicable to all exercises of the Secretary of State's powers. It is a problem that I intend to discuss in more detail and, it is to be hoped, with one or two more Members than are present now in Committee. I shall not move this amendment at the moment.
§ [Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 not moved.]
§ 4 a.m.
Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 53:
Page 3, line 15, at end insert—
("( )(a) An order under subsection 4(b) above shall not be made by the Secretary of State unless he has received an application to make such order from the governing body of a school which is supported by both:
- (i) a resolution passed by a majority of the parents of registered pupils at the school present and voting at a duly convened Annual General Meeting of such parents and notice of which contains a statement of intention to move such resolution and confirmed by another resolution passed by a majority of the parents of registered pupils at the schools in a postal ballot held after an interval of not less than 3 months and not more than 6 months beginning with the date of the Annual General Meeting at which the said resolution was passed, and
- (ii) the local education authority by whom the school is maintained;
- (b) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State in exercising the power conferred by subsection (4)(b) above to take into account:
- (i) the linguistic character of the community that is served by the school which is the subject of the application referred to above;
- (ii) the resources, in terms of teaching staff, courses and material resources that are available to such schools for the teaching of Welsh as a foundation subject;
- (c) When an Order is made by the Secretary of State under subsection (4)(b) above such order shall specify the period not exceeding 5 years for which the order shall have effect and the conditions (if any) subject to which it will have effect; and to ensure, where he proposes to make such order
552 that such provision as is reasonably practicable will be made for the teaching of Welsh to those registered pupils at the school whose parents desire them to be taught Welsh as a subject.").
§ The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 53 I shall also speak, for the convenience of the Committee, to Amendment No. 54. Those two amendments relate to the place of the Welsh language in the national curriculum in Wales.
§ Amendment No. 53 concerns the power reserved by the Bill to the Secretary of State to exempt a school or a part of a school from the requirement to teach Welsh. The amendment is particularly concerned with what is not in the Bill as regards the exempting power. Nowhere does the Bill state in what circumstances or in the light of what criterion the exemption power will be exercised by the Secretary of State. We are on the side of those parents, teachers and educationists who say that that power is one of great significance. The grounds upon which it is to be exercised should not be left absolutely to the discretion of the Secretary of State of the day, although he will have the final say.
§ I shall deal briefly with the main parts of the amendment. First, the Secretary of State should not trigger the exemption power unless he has received an application from the governing body of the school supported by the parents and by the LEA. As it stands, a draft order may be laid by the Secretary of State without an application having reached him from the governing body or from the LEA.
§ There are many reasons why parents and the local education authority should be directly involved. Parents should be involved because their children's education is involved and parental views are important. The Government can hardly be averse to that principle because it is one of the main issues with which the Bill is concerned. The LEA has a proper interest because it will have responsibility for the curriculum. It will also have a proper interest because to allow one or more of its schools to exempt Welsh from the curriculum could undermine and disrupt its arrangements for its other schools. Perhaps I may give one example. If individual primary schools are in a position to opt out of the teaching of Welsh without regard to other local provision, that could undermine the provision made by the LEA at secondary level.
§ Secondly, the Secretary of State should take account of the linguistic character of the community served by the school because the varied linguistic pattern in Wales does not permit a blanket solution. We also say in the amendment that the Secretary of State should have regard to the availability of Welsh-speaking staff and teaching material in the Welsh language.
§ Since I put down the amendment it has been suggested to me that a further express matter which the Secretary of State should take into account is the objective of preserving, fostering and enhancing the use of the Welsh language as a medium of communication. I agree with that suggestion.
§ The principles which we have incorporated in the first part of the amendment are the broad principles on which the current Welsh language policy is based. Those principles are workable. Our object in the first part of Amendment No. 53 is to put it to the 553 Government that Parliament and not the Secretary of State of the day should determine the guiding principles which will govern the exercise of exempting power.
§ The amendment goes on to provide in the first part of paragraph (c) that the decision to exempt a school from teaching Welsh in the curriculum should be reviewed periodically. It is suggested in the amendment that it should be reviewed every five years.
§ Finally, in Amendment No. 53 there is a point of considerable substance in our view at the end of paragraph (c). Where Welsh will have no place in the school curriculum the exemption order should provide how the reasonable requirements of parents living in the district served by the school and who desire their children to be taught Welsh are to be met. The National Curriculum in Wales document published by the Welsh Office in December last, drawing as it did on the principles set out in the earlier Welsh Office documents and also on the 1927 report, Welsh in Education and Life, made out a powerful case that children in all parts of Wales should have access to the Welsh language and the culture associated with the language. One feels that that case is not fully reflected in the drafting of the Bill. We should therefore be grateful if the department could give careful consideration to the last limb of paragraph (c) of the amendment.
§ It is quite clear from the discussions which we have had with the bodies with a special interest in the place of the Welsh language in the schools of Wales that there is a huge gap in this part of the Bill. We share their hope that the gap will be filled. This amendment attempts to do just that.
I now come to Amendment No. 54. This is a brief amendment which seeks to redefine the meaning of a Welsh-speaking school. This definition is crucial because only in such a school will Welsh have the status of a core subject. In other schools it will be a foundation subject; such schools may be exempted by the Secretary of State from the requirement to teach Welsh. When the Government first drafted the Bill a Welsh-speaking school was defined as:
a school where subjects other than Welsh are taught wholly or partly in Welsh".
Although the meaning of the word "partly" in the context of the clause is not entirely clear—and I am not quite sure whether the Minister can offer clarification tonight on the meaning of the word—nevertheless the original definition was applauded by all who wished to see the survival of the language as a living tongue.
§ One cannot help thinking that a curious thing happened on 17th December of last year at the Committee stage of the Bill in another place. On that day the Government introduced an amendment which redefined a Welsh-speaking school as a school where more than one half of the foundation subjects other than Welsh are taught wholly or partly in Welsh. The new definition stiffens considerably the criteria to secure core status for Welsh. In a primary school five out of the nine foundation subjects apart from Welsh will have to be taught in Welsh instead of two subjects which need not be foundation subjects as originally required. In a secondary school six out 554 of the 10 foundation subjects will have to be taught in Welsh instead of two subjects which need not be foundation subjects, apart from Welsh. It should be pointed out that religious knowledge is often a subject taught through the medium of Welsh but it will not be counted in the calculation as it is not a foundation subject.
§ The new definition has been described by Ministers as being an improvement on the original. With respect to the Minister we do not think that it is an improvement. It is a new definition which introduces immense complications by raising substantially the threshold for a school to pass in order to secure core status for Welsh. The amendment now before the Committee lowers that threshold. It is supported by headmasters, teachers, directors of education and all the educational bodies that are involved with the Welsh language. It is also supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, who unfortunately is not able to be with us at this time of the day. I beg to move.
§ Lord Hooson
I rise to support both amendments but to speak only to the second, which is the crucial one. It is extremely unfortunate that we should be discussing a matter of crucial importance to the future of Wales and the Welsh language at 10 minutes past four in the morning. The government managers should have been aware of the delicacy of the position in Wales with regard to the subject of the Welsh language. The Bill is of crucial importance to education in the country at large; it is of supreme importance so far as concerns the future of the Welsh language.
At Second Reading I had the opportunity of concentrating on the grounds for this amendment today; namely, the difficulties that arise in Wales with regard to the new definition of a Welsh-speaking school. As soon as the definition was changed at the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, alarm bells rang throughout Wales. It is of considerable significance that the present amendment is supported by Members of all the major parties as well as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, from the Cross-Benches. It is a measure of the uncertainty and alarm that is felt.
As I said at Second Reading, successive Conservative Secretaries of State have had a very good record on the Welsh language. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, in his place since I am able to say that to his face. I believe that people of all parties in Wales who are concerned with the survival of Welsh culture are very appreciative of that fact. However, on this occasion the Government changed the definition of a Welsh-speaking school to suit what is a bilingual school in an Anglicised area which would immediately come within the definition. But in naturally Welsh-speaking areas such as Gwynedd and Dyfed, very rarely are six or more subjects taught in Welsh. That is because in a school which is naturally Welsh-speaking there is often pressure by parents to insist on more subjects being taught in English, so that the child learns to speak English as well as he can speak Welsh. They would not come within the definition. The consequence would be that within those schools, in the basic 555 Welsh-speaking areas of Wales, Welsh would not be a core subject; it would be a foundation subject with the right of withdrawal under certain pressures.
I believe that the Government must be alive to the extreme disquiet felt throughout Wales on this issue and that they will be willing to reconsider this matter. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, will not put the amendment to a Division this morning and that the Secretary of State will think again and approve a new definition which is much fairer.
§ Lord Thomas of Gwydir
The time is nearly 4.15 a.m., the early hours of the morning. For that reason the Committee will be deprived of the penetrating, persuasive and sparkling speech that I had prepared for this amendment. The amendment to which I have put my name is Amendment No. 54.
All I shall say is that I embrace and adopt all the compelling points made by the noble Lords, Lord Prys-Davies and Lord Hooson, in their admirable speeches. I ask my noble friend the Minister to pay attention to what has been said about the Government reconsidering the definition of Welsh-speaking schools. It is absolutely clear that the case put forward for reconsideration is absolutely unanswerable. For that reason I hope that my noble friend will say something which will meet our anxiety.
§ 4.15 a.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
The clear intention of the Government in Clause 3 is that Welsh should be part of the national curriculum in Wales. For those Welsh children who receive a bilingual education, Welsh should be a core subject along with English, maths and science. In order to achieve this it has been necessary to define the schools concerned, which the Bill refers to as Welsh-speaking schools. Bilingual education in Wales has never been previously defined in statute and it has not been an easy task to arrive at a satisfactory definition.
There is need for care in both directions. We have to be careful that we are not imposing Welsh as a core subject on schools which are not really bilingual and where it might not be acceptable or appropriate for all the pupils. On the other hand, we want to be sure that we have covered the schools that ought to be covered. The definition as it stands is not excessively stringent and it asks only that more than half of the foundation subjects other than Welsh itself are taught at least partly in Welsh. It is not necessary for them to be taught wholly in Welsh.
The amendment would reduce that requirement to no more than three of these foundation subjects being taught partly in Welsh. I wonder whether a school doing no more than that could be said to be offering a genuinely bilingual education. I am aware that concerns have been raised with my right honourable friend on behalf of a few secondary schools which would just fail to come within the definition. But the Government see the definition as a challenge to them to teach more subjects through the medium of Welsh. This can only enhance rather than damage bilingual education. Nevertheless, I believe that the amendment spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Prys- 556 Davies, and supported elsewhere in the Committee goes too far. Reducing to just three the number of foundation subjects taught through the medium of Welsh for a school to be Welsh-speaking would risk including schools that are not bilingual in character. This would be particularly the case at primary level. Furthermore, it would remove the incentive which exists under the current definition for schools to teach more subjects through the medium of Welsh.
Having said that, I am not sure that we have the definition quite right. We made one change in the other place, as has already been pointed out. If the noble Lord can see his way clear not to move Amendment No. 54 when we come to it, I undertake that the matter be considered further with a view to the Government bringing forward an appropriate amendment perhaps more in line with the wishes that have been expressed tonight than is presently the case in the Bill as it is drafted.
Perhaps I may now turn to Amendment No. 53, which is strictly speaking the amendment that we are considering. The Government understand well the concern that has motivated Members of the Committee to bring forward this amendment. I am grateful for the contributions that we have heard. There is concern in Wales that as a result of the specific power to make exemptions from Welsh as a foundation subject there will be widespread opting-out from Welsh throughout Wales. This is not the Government's wish or intention.
About 80 per cent. of schools in Wales currently teach Welsh and the Government do not intend to allow this level of provision to decline as a result of the national curriculum. This Government have been very supportive of the Welsh language, as recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, both in terms of policy and financial support. The proposals for Welsh in the national curriculum which reflect the widespread support for the language in last year's consultation exercise reinforced this policy. Ministers have made it clear that the exemption power will be used as a safety valve sensibly and sensitively.
Let me first say why the Government believe this amendment to be unnecessary and in some respects undesirable. It would make it more difficult for a school to be granted an exemption from Welsh. The procedure envisaged in the amendment would be both time consuming and difficult. But it would also, I fear, be very divisive. It takes an exemption power intended to be used with care to avoid the imposition of Welsh where it would clearly be unacceptable and turns it into potentially an annual local debate about the position of the language in each school. That is to lower the status of Welsh in the curriculum substantially below the other foundation subjects. The national curriculum prescribed by the Bill places Welsh in the national curriculum for all maintained schools in Wales. That reflects the overwhelming majority of the responses to the consultation exercise in Wales. It is right, therefore, that any power to make exemptions should be exercisable entirely at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Wales.
I hope that, in the light of that consideration, the noble Lord will not want to press Amendment No. 53 and, in the light of what I said earlier, will not seek to move Amendment No. 54.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
I note that the Minister has resisted Amendment No. 53 very strongly and at this hour of the morning I shall not take the view of the Committee on the merits of the amendment. We shall study carefully the Minister's words and take advice from the many bodies in Wales which have supported the amendment.
Turning to Amendment No. 54, it appears to me that the Minister has shown an underlying sympathy with the need to redefine the meaning of the term "Welsh speaking school". I trust that between now and Report stage the Government will come to accept that their first thoughts on the subject were their best thoughts. I therefore beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 53.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 54 not moved.]
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ House adjourned at twenty-three minutes past four o'clock.