HL Deb 05 May 1988 vol 496 cc756-812

8.12 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 4.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 72. Page 3, line 38, at end insert ("having regard, in the case of assessment arrangements for pupils in the last key stage, to the requirements of the General Certificate of Secondary Education.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 72 is about the GCSE. I hope that we can deal with it very briefly. The noble Baroness will remember that I asked her a question about the GCSE. She was extremely reassuring about the Government's determination that the GCSE would be a success. I should like some clarification.

As I understand it, the Bill provides for assessment procedures for the final stage and yet at the same time pupils will be taking the GCSE. I should like to hear a little about the relationship between the assessment procedures and the GCSE. Will they be separate or somehow co-ordinated? Any further points she has to make about GCSE will be most welcome. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

We have indeed already touched upon this subject today. The task group recommended that at the last key stage—age 16—there should be no immediate change to GCSE to fit the national assessment arrangements, but that the GCSE criterion syllabuses would in due course be revised as appropriate to incorporate the 16-plus attainment targets and programmes of study. The nature of the revisions required would only become clear following the development and implementation of the national curriculum and assessment at the younger ages. The task group also considered that when a pupil was not studying a subject to GCSE level, he or she could be assessed against less demanding attainment targets. So they will indeed be separate.

The subject working groups which are developing recommendations on the attainment targets, programmes of study and related assessment arrangements for all the foundation subjects will consider the interface with GCSE and make recommendations which will be subject to public consultation before the Government reach conclusions on them. In view of this explanation I hope that the noble Lord will feel satisfied.

Baroness David

I should like to ask the noble Baroness a question about the timescale. There will be other possibilities of targets, tests, or whatever you like to call them, at age 16 as well as GCSE. Will the GCSE eventually be phased out in favour of the rest? Can she tell us the number of years before we can expect some changes?

Baroness Hooper

We discussed this matter in some detail during debate on the national curriculum at the beginning of the week. It may reassure the noble Baroness if I say that the GCSE is and will remain central to our plans for raising standards in schools. We intend the GCSE to form the basis of assessing most pupils against national curriculum attainment targets at age 16, but the foundation subjects of the national curriculum will be phased in over a period, starting with the core subjects. I cannot give the Committee the ultimate limit.

Earl Russell

I should like to say a few words in favour of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I speak personally on this issue because I have a son who is studying for the GCSE. One of the loudest snorts of contempt that I have ever heard him utter came when I quoted to him the recent observation of the Secretary of State that the GCSE was the best prepared examination in history. It represents a very considerable burden of work. The course work has proved to be much heavier than expected. That does no harm. If, however, I were to exert my parental influence and try to get my son at the same time to take seriously a large number of tests in other subjects in which he is not interested, it might prove beyond my powers.

I accept and welcome the remarks of the noble Baroness about thought being given to this matter but once again the Committee is asked to buy a pig in a poke. It is not being given an adequate basis on which to make a judgment. The noble Baroness says she will take thought of it, but in times gone by—indeed, even at the present day—one knows what is meant when the Sovereign says, "The King will take thought of it". It means that this Bill is not ready to pass.

Lord Peston

I hope we shall continue to keep up our efforts on the GCSE. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 73 to 75 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Hayter)

I have to announce that if Amendment No. 76 is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 77 and 78.

Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 76: Page 3, line 46, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Baroness said: I spoke to this amendment when we discussed the group of amendments starting with Amendment No. 4. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 77 to 79 not moved.]

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 80: Page 4, line 10, at end insert— ("( ) Before making an order under subsection (2) above, the Secretary of State shall give notice of the proposal—

  1. (a) to such associations of local education authorities, bodies representing the interests of school governing bodies and organisations representing school teachers as appear to him to be concerned: and
  2. (b) to any other persons with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable,
and afford them a reasonable opportunity of submitting evidence and representations as to the issues arising.").

The noble Lord said: I wish merely to expand upon some remarks I made earlier; I do not wish to speak at great length. The amendment refers to consultation by the Secretary of State. I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has mentioned the matter but I do not remember the exact words and a copy of Hansard is not yet to hand.

I believe that any sensible Secretary of State would want to consult the LEAs, bodies representing school governors and, most certainly, teachers. This discussion gives me a chance to say something about the teachers and to reinforce what my noble friend Lady Blackstone has said. There will be a major change in the educational system of our country whatever happens. We all agree that the teachers are essential to this change; we all agree too, I believe, that at the moment the morale of teachers is too low and needs to be raised. That is for the other side of the Committee—the Government—to do. There is not much that we on this side can do. I want particularly to emphasise the need to take teachers' views into consideration.

I remember the old days. Any suggestion that such consultation should take place is quite different from saying that one has to do what those bodies say. In other words, the Government must decide and act. I believe that a sensible Secretary of State would want to consult anyway. However, to be on the safe side—at some time there might be a Secretary of State who is not very sensible—I should like to see that duty written explicitly into the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

The amendment relates to consultation on orders made under Clause 4. On all orders establishing or amending attainment targets and programmes of study, consultation is already required in a way which goes well beyond that contained in Clauses 13 and 14 of the Bill. We have been referring to the Task Group on Assessment and Testing and indeed the task group did not deal with the question of consultation on the specific assessment and testing arrangements and instruments to be adopted under the new system. But we do not consider it necessary to provide for statutory consultation on orders establishing assessment arrangements for the foundation subjects for a number of reasons.

First, the main aspect of assessment on which public debates are needed—its role as part of the national curriculum, the age points at which it should generally be applied and the establishment of SEAC as the body charged with securing quality control in this area—is being debated on the primary legislation. Secondly, I suggest that only such purely mechanical aspects of assessment arrangements as the commissioning, trialling and storage of tests could be regarded as free-standing. In the main these arrangements will have to follow from the attainment targets and programmes of study, orders relating to which will be subject to full consultation on Clauses 13 and 14.

It could hardly be said that we plan to decide on the assessment arrangements without consulting the wishes and opinions of the public and informed educationists. As I indicated, the TGAT report published last January proposed a coherent national assessment system which has been the subject of wide public debate. The Government will take into account the views expressed in that debate before reaching their own conclusions on the report and on the group's further advice. Again, as I have indicated, it will be for the subject working groups to make recommendations about attainment targets and programmes of study and the assessment arrangements appropriate to them. Those recommendations will also be the subject of formal public consultation before any decisions are made on them.

In these circumstances I can see no need for formal consultation on orders which will be made to give effect to matters already fully debated and to a large extent consulted upon in other contexts. I must therefore ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Peston

Before doing so, can the noble Baroness clarify this point? In the areas where the Secretary of State will consult, will he make it known, positively, to interested parties that their views are desired; or will the interested parties take it for granted that the initiative must lie on their side? Will consultation mean a positive statement, such as "I should like you to tell me what you think"; or the negative approach, "If you have anything to tell me, come and tell me."? Have I made myself clear?

Baroness Hooper

Perhaps it is not entirely clear. Where formal consultation is required, obviously consultation will be requested. Otherwise, it is open for anybody to come forward and to contribute.

Lord Peston

With that reassurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Courses leading to external qualifications]:

Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 81: Page 4, line 23, after ("means") insert ("recognised by the Secretary of State at the date of the passing of this Act for the purpose of authenticating the General Certificate of Secondary Education qualification, or").

The noble Baroness said: I am hoping that the reply we had earlier to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Peston, about the General Certificate of Secondary Education means that I shall receive a satisfactory reply to this amendment.

The amendment deals with the clause which provides for the Secretary of State to decide what may or may not be taught, and what may be recognised as an objective for a course. It should include specifically recognition by the Secretary of State of those examinations already accepted for the GCSE.

The objective of this amendment is to make it quite clear that all the work that has been done to get the General Certificate of Secondary Education off the ground and to establish standards and examinations for it, will be accepted and incorporated into the new proposals. It will be a frightful waste of time and effort if all that work is then again to be re-examined and questioned.

Are we to understand that where programmes for GCSE have been accepted, they will be accepted by the Secretary of State? To make this clear, this should be incorporated into the Bill.

Baroness Hooper

This amendment would make each of the five independent GCSE examining groups a designated body, empowered to give statutory approval to qualifications and syllabuses. The intention, presumably, is to enable each examining group to approve its own qualifications and syllabuses. But this would completely undermine the objective of national quality control of independent scrutiny and approval. This national oversight of the system is a key element of the existing, voluntary arrangements under the Secondary Examinations Council, and it forms an essential basis for the statutory arangements now envisaged. The five GCSE examining groups in England and Wales bring experience of GCE and CSE examinng and longstanding reputations for high standards. But it is nevertheless essential to have an independent guarantee of the standards across those five separate groups from a national perspective. The current voluntary arrangements do not provide that guarantee. That is why these provisions are in the Bill.

Earl Russell

I must confess that I listened to that reply with some misgivings. The effect of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, would make it impossible for the Secretary of State arbitrarily to abolish the examining of a subject.

We suppose that the Secretary of State did not have that intention; and that it was necessary simply to receive such an assurance. We have not received that assurance. I agree that it is necessary that the list of subjects should from time to time change. However, that decision should be taken properly by professionally qualified people. We do not believe that the Secretary of State is one among their number. The power to decree by order that this subject shall not be taught is a power to which we do not feel happy to agree.

Baroness Hooper

The case for effective national approval is supported by experience. Under the O-level and CSE, the examining boards approved over 25,000 syllabuses for use in schools. With GCSE they have currently produced many fewer—just under 2,000—but the number is growing. The GCSE examining groups were directly responsible for approving some 900 of these, the Mode 2 and 3 syllabuses. SEC has now scrutinised nearly half of the 900 approved by the groups and so far, I understand, has found only 19 that come up to standard. That evidence, I submit, points sharply to the need for effective national approval with teeth.

Earl Russell

The discussion is about the powers of the Secretary of State. This has not been answered.

Baroness Hooper

I believe that I have made statements showing the need for a national system which obviously implies that it is the Secretary of State who will be involved.

Baroness Seear

I find the answer extremely unsatisfactory once again. However, I shall read what the noble Baroness has said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 82 not moved.]

Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 83: Page 4, line 25, at end insert— ("(4) Where sufficient parental demand exists in any maintained school for tuition towards the qualification of a designated body, it shall be incumbent upon the governing body, the head teacher and, where appropriate, the Local Education Authority, to satisfy that demand.").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 83, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 152.

Baroness Hooper

I apologise to the noble Baroness for intervening. My 8.mderstanding is that in speaking to Amendment No. 83 she would also speak to Amendments Nos. 143 to 152.

Baroness David

That was also my grouping.

Baroness Cox

I am very happy that my remarks may be taken as relevant to that wider range of amendments.

My concern relates to the provisions in Clause 5 which give the Secretary of State the right of veto over any public examination that may be taken by pupils up to the age of 16 at any maintained school.

The noble Lord, Lord Peston, earlier accused members of the Committee on this side of the Chamber of not being sufficiently concerned with what he regarded as rather dirigiste aspects of some of the proposals in this Bill. I would argue that some of these dirigiste provisions have been necessary in order to correct some of the very real problems that currently exist in our education system. However, I believe that the measure in Clause 5 is an example of dirigisme which is not necessary and which would be harmful to parents and teachers, because the provision to be provided in Clause 5 would give power to a Secretary of State that has never been held before.

At present the public examinations have no mandatory basis. The old GCE O-level, and before that the school certificate, developed by consent between universities, the examining boards, schools, teachers and parents and employers. However, there was always the opportunity of taking different examinations in schools in England and Wales. For example, pupils could enter for City and Guilds, Royal Society of Arts or Scottish O-levels. However, under Clause 5 such a range of examinations may be taken only with the consent of the Secretary of State. I would argue that this is an unnecessary and an undesirable potential restriction.

I also argue that it is especially timely—and is made especially relevant at the present moment—because of growing dissatisfaction with the current GCSE and especially with some syllabuses within the GCSE. For example, the history syllabus of the Southern Examination Board, some would say, is hardly history. Indeed, concern is expressed by teachers and parents for the growing emphasis on empathy rather than knowledge. One question in a trial paper asked pupils to pact themselves in the shoes of the PLO and to justify the PLO murders of Israeli athletes at Munich; and of the TWA hijacking and the subsequent murders associated with that. Alternatively, some of the literature to be studied in some English literature syllabuses is thought by some teachers and parents to be of rather poor quality—perhaps even verging on some kind of modern pornography.

Another cause for concern expressed by many teachers is the high proportion of course work compared with assessed work at the end of the two-year study. For example, in some schools it is possible to obtain one's GCSE with 100 per cent. of the marks being achieved through course work at the school over the previous two years, with no examinations being set at all. That is despite the stated intention of the Government at the time when the GCSE was originally set up that course work would on the whole not account for more than 20 per cent. of final marks. In many schools it is now possible for subjects such as English language and English literature to be achieved by 100 per cent. of course work.

At present parents, teachers and those concerned can threaten to turn to other examining boards, other syllabuses or even to another examination altogether. Indeed, they have the freedom to carry out such a threat and to choose to take other exams. The obvious choice is Scottish O-levels or perhaps to attempt to continue with GCE O-levels, given that the London Examining Board and possibly others will still be offering O-levels to overseas students or to individuals. One might ask: why not allow home students to take O-levels if they want to? Why not even allow other new exam boards to establish themselves if they seem to meet a need?

However, even with the present freedom that we ostensibly have the situation is sometimes fraught with problems. For example, Members of the Committee may have read in newspapers of the courageous teachers of Lewes, in Sussex, who were profoundly disturbed by the history syllabus. But when they wanted to teach instead for the alternative Scottish examinations they were banned from discussing with parents even the possibility of providing these alternatives. They were not allowed to do so on school premises; they had to meet on the pavements to talk to parents about alternative exams. They were accused of insubordination, threatened with disciplinary action and possibly dismissal for raising the question of alternative exams.

Lord Joseph

Will my noble friend allow me to say that I do not think any such ban came from the Government? It was from the governors. Is that correct?

Baroness Cox

Absolutely correct. I am grateful to my noble friend. I was just about to point out that this indeed came from the head, I understand, with the backing of the governing body. That was the source of the prohibition. The teachers felt that they were living in East Germany rather than in East Sussex. They were also forced to offer an alternative history course for the Scottish O-grade, which they felt a commitment to do; but they had to offer it off the schools premises in their own free time as well as teaching for the GCSE in school. Perhaps it is worth noting that the alternative exam is so popular with the parents and pupils that more than 40 of this year's fifth-year pupils are taking it and another 40 of the fourth-year pupils are involved in preparing for that alternative examination next year.

I give that example because it shows the kind of problems that could arise should this legislation in future preclude freedom for parents and teachers to offer a range of examinations if they are not happy with those which are currently provided or which might be approved. I argue that my amendment would strike an appropriate balance between parents' and pupils' interests and the role of central government.

I turn very briefly to the provisions in Clause 17. Our concern is that the clause would give the Secretary of State power to extend similar powers of direction concerning examinations to pupils beyond the age of 16. What it means in practice is that the Secretary of State would be able to direct the same for GCE A-levels; for example, permitting only A-levels and nothing else. But there are alternative examinations which students might wish to choose, most notably the international baccalaureate. That is already taken by pupils at Sevenoaks school and is accepted by Oxford and Cambridge as an equivalent to A-levels for university entrance. I submit that those provisions in Clause 17 should either be deleted or should be modified in the form of the amendment which I put before the Committee for consideration to permit freedom for alternative examinations.

I hope therefore that my noble friend the Minister will agree to consider these points, which are designed to allow flexibility for schools and colleges to enter pupils and students for as diverse a range of examinations as are appropriate for them as individuals and for local needs and requirements. I hope, also, that the provisions will ensure that the designated list will be as wide as possible, again to allow as much freedom as possible for young people to develop their interests and attain as wide a range of qualifications as they wish and which might be appropriate for them.

I see no justification for the provisions as they stand in the Bill at present. I beg to move.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The noble Baroness has put the case very clearly. She has generalised on a particular case in Sussex. It seems to me that if such an occurrence is possible the Government should try to ensure that there cannot be room for it. It is extraordinary to think that there is any school where it is not possible at least to contemplate taking a different examination, although it depends how it works out. If a large number of pupils in the school want to take a different examination it is probably possible to do it quite cost-effectively. However, if only one or two are concerned it could cause extra cost and one may have to think whether there is perhaps a way for parents to meet the cost of the entrance to the exam, which was what happened in the authority where I was involved in Scotland.

I believe that the Government should consider the possibility of making sure that such an eventuality cannot arise. I was glad that my noble friend Lord Joseph pointed out that it was the governors who prevented the action and not the local authority. That is a very important point because it makes the whole difference to the case. I hope the Government will consider this to see whether they can do anything to improve the situation.

Lord Young of Dartington

I should like to support Amendment No. 83. It seems to me that the criticisms that have been made from many quarters about the dirigism which underlies so much of this Bill would be tempered in a tiny, featherlight way if the amendment were taken on board by the Government. The wording may not be suitable but one would hope that the general intent of the amendment might be taken up and incorporated sensibly into the final structure of the Bill.

There is a new trend in the secondary school system which speaks in favour of the amendment and which is perhaps worth mentioning. It is the increasing use being made in schools of open learning material on Open University lines, but at a different level. These methods are being used in many schools which do not have a full complement of teachers to cover the full range of subjects that may be in demand in those schools. That certainly will be the case when the national curriculum comes into existence. Many schools will not have the right complement of teachers, which may give a new and important place to open learning methods which enable children to study in the school under the supervision of a teacher who is not necessarily the subject teacher for the subject they are taking, but can effectively, as experience has shown, supervise the work of individual children or a group of children.

That will mean that any school can have a much wider range of choice about both the subjects taken and the examinations to which those subjects will lead. The Royal Society of Arts has been mentioned. The City and Guilds can also be appropriate in other circumstances, and so can Scottish qualifications. Such a system would allow for considerable variation in methods of learning and the approach to different subjects which can be taken within the one school. But if it were to be laid down that all the children, including minorities, should follow the course which leads to only one examination, with the examinations of perhaps only one or two boards, this new type of freedom which a new kind of technology of learning is making available would not be there and people would not be able to take advantage of it.

In view of that, and of the opening up which could occur with the use of open-learning materials, it would be appropriate that similar measures to those proposed should be incorporated in the final legislation. It would be a tiny tilting of the balance towards freedom in schools which many fear will be largely circumscribed by the general tenor of the Bill when it becomes an Act. I hope that the Government will be prepared to consider seriously what lies behind the amendment and will do their best to come to terms with it.

Lord Joseph

The Committee may be surprised to find that, as the person notoriously responsible for introducing the GCSE, I rise to support my noble friend's amendment. I am proud of having introduced the GCSE. I believe that I can take the credit for inventing the ingredients of differentiation and the accompanying grade criteria which I hope will be introduced before too long. I am proud of introducing those concepts into what had been widely canvassed as an examination form. I am particularly proud because I believe that in that way the examination can be used to stretch pupils of every ability.

Nevertheless, I recognise the worry that has emerged, particularly in industry, as a result of the specimen papers—and they were only specimen papers. I am not anxious that the GCSE should be protected by anything approaching a monopoly. I recognise that the Bill falls far short of giving a monopoly to the GCSE but, who knows? it may not be as good as we hope it will be.

I should like to remove the misconception about empathy, for instance. The idea—which I strongly supported—of introducing empathy was precisely in order that pupils should learn to realise how much our forefathers lived in a world where immortality, for instance, was largely accepted. It was far more widely accepted than now. I wanted pupils to understand that, for instance, in the past there was a widespread belief in hell. It was possibly more widespread than today. I wanted pupils to appreciate that our forefathers lived in a climate of perception very different from today. I now find that what appeared to me to be a broadening and deepening idea of empathy has been used to seek to associate pupils with concepts of terrorism, for instance. To my mind that is a straight abuse of the original idea.

Returning to the amendment, let us suppose that the GCSE does not satisfy parents, or a group of teachers, or a group of employers that the children with the classification from GCSE are adequately educated for their standards, intentions or purposes, although I hope that that will not prove to be true. Why should those who set the GCSE examination not face competition from an ad hoc group which may be set up to set examinations that would meet the wishes of parents or teachers? I am all for some protection, but the great protection will be that a new examination would not be used if it did not meet the requirements of groups of parents and teachers. Since in the examination world we are living in a world of commerce where costs must be covered, it will be no light or riskless endeavour for a group to set up an alternative examination unless it reckons that there is a market.

I urge the Government to contemplate loosening the restrictions imposed by the clause, not because I believe that in the event the GCSE will cause discontent on any scale, but because it should have the potential competition if it should fall below expectations.

Lord Kilmarnock

I am glad that the noble Baroness mentioned the case of the parents in Lewes. Despite the admirable intentions behind the movement towards empathy, introduced and referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, and which in principle I entirely support, there is evidence that it has been abused. A case in point is that of the Lewes parents.

In a minor way I have had a similar experience. I have a 15 year-old son who I discovered was being taught the history of the Labour Party before he had been taught about the glorious revolution of 1688. I happen to be interested in the history of the Labour Party because I am interested in politics. However, my child—fortunately or unfortunately for him—is less interested in politics. In my view he should have been taught about the glorious revolution of 1688 before entering into the minutia of the Labour Party of the 20th century which could—

The Earl of Longford

Is it not prejudicial to free thinking for one to talk of the revolution of 1688 as glorious? Many people believe that it was disgusting.

Lord Kilmarnock

I believe that a committee of both Houses of Parliament is considering how the event, whether glorious or otherwise, should be celebrated. I used the word "glorious" in its popular conception and I am not giving it any other weight. Whether glorious or otherwise, there is no doubt that it was an extremely significant event in English history and I believe that the teaching of it should have come before that of the history of the Labour Party. Perhaps it is a minor detail, but in such circumstances I should have liked to have a choice about the course my child might have studied and the examination he might have taken.

Finally, may I say how glad I am that the noble Baroness mentioned the international baccalaureate. I have tabled Amendment No. 110 which addresses that point. Perhaps it should have been discussed in this group, but I shall speak to it briefly in due course and hope that the noble Baroness will support it. At a later stage in the Bill we shall see whether the issues can be brought together.

Earl Russell

I listened with considerable sympathy to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. They are matters of real concern and I have heard the story from colleagues many times. However, when I hear it from colleagues it is a little less exciting and little less black and white than I have heard tonight.

I believe that steps are being taken to try to do something about the situation. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, spoke about empathy. I think that what is being attempted is valid but extremely difficult to get right. It demands a great deal of skill on the part of the examiners for which they need practice. They are getting that and also a good deal of advice.

Although I have a great deal of sympathy with the principle behind what the noble Baroness is asking, I should like to say that if pupils are taking two different types of examination in the same school at the same time, considerable demands are made on the teaching workforce. Today the Committee has seen fit to reject an amendment asking that the proposals should not be implemented until sufficient teachers and resources are available. I cannot see how the Committee can pass the noble Baroness's amendment unless a similar amendment to Amendment No. 58 were passed by the Committee. In that case it might be a different matter.

Baroness David

I support what the noble Earl has just said. I should also like the Minister, or the mover of the amendment, to give the meaning of the word "sufficient" and say who will decide that. Is it a word which appears quite often in legislation?

9 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

Clause 5 is intended to provide essential underpinning for the national curriculum. It is widely recognised that school examinations exert a powerful influence over the curriculum. It is therefore necessary to have a statutory guarantee that examinations are fully in step with the statutory national curriculum. However, the clause also has a wider purpose, to ensure that external examinations provide the strongest possible basis for the assessment of pupils' achievements at the age of 16. Nevertheless, there is no intention that the clause should create a harmful straitjacket or enforced monopoly.

I have some sympathy with Amendments Nos. 83 and 85 as proposed by my noble friend. Of course, schools must be responsive to the wishes of parents in curricular as well as other matters. The Bill imposes a requirement on schools to publish information. We envisage that this information will include the courses, qualifications and syllabuses offered by the school and that there will be separately published lists of nationally approved qualifications so that parents will have ready access to relevent information. The Education (No. 2) Act 1986 and the provisions of this Bill regarding school governing bodies ensure that the parents' voice is heard more loudly than before and parents will have more influence over the school curriculum policy through the governing body.

I draw back, however, from placing a statutory requirement on schools to accede to parental wishes in the selection of qualifications and syllabuses. Parents may have strong views, and in some cases considerable detailed knowledge, on how subjects should be taught. The proper place for those views to be expressed is through the governing body in contributing to the formulation of curriculum policy.

We are fully aware of the criticisms of GCSE history to which my noble friend and others have referred. There may be shortcomings in some syllabuses and weaknesses in some specimen papers. However, the shortcomings of particular syllabuses and specimen papers are not an argument that GCSE itself is inadequate. We shall of course continue to look at this matter and to keep the GCSE under review, but I assure the Committee that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent alternative examinations being used by schools, and in particular the international baccalaureate which has been referred to.

I take the opportunity to commend to the Committee the government amendments to Clause 17, Amendments Nos. 123 and 151, which are tabled in my name. These are technical amendments which do not alter the intention of this clause as approved in another place. The amendments clarify the arrangements for local education authority complaints machinery and for the publication of information if the provisions of Clause 17 were activated. They make clear, for further education colleges, first that the requirements in Clause 15 concerned with the publication of information will apply only in respect of information about qualifications and syllabuses and courses of study; and secondly, that the requirements in Clause 16 for local education authority complaints machinery will not apply.

In saying that I cannot accept my noble friend's amendments in this case, nevertheless I wish to commend the government amendments to the Committee.

Baroness Cox

I am grateful for the contributions to this debate. In response to the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady David, perhaps I may say by way of clarification that I should have thought a definition of "sufficient" might be a viable teaching group, but I agree that it is a loose phrase and I take that comment on board when considering where one might go from here.

I am grateful for the sympathy of my noble friend. However, I am not sure that it meets the point because, as I read the provisions of the Bill at the moment, the Secretary of State can have the overriding power to determine for which exams schools may enter their pupils and I believe that the power of the governors might be relatively ineffective. However, I shall go away and reconsider the provisions of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Duties with respect to certain requirements]:

[Amendments Nos. 84 to 86 not moved.]

Baroness Cox moved Amendment No. 87: Page 4, line 33, leave out ("section") and insert ("sections 25(1) and").

The noble Baroness said: Perhaps I may speak very briefly to Amendments Nos 87 to 89 because they were grouped with Amendment No. 28, but due to the complexities and seriousness of the issues involved in Amendment No. 28, I did not speak to these amendments. However, perhaps I may now speak to them briefly for clarification. To save the time of the Committee, may I briefly touch on Amendment No. 141, again to clarify the position.

Amendments Nos. 87 to 89 amend Clause 6(1)(c) so as to lay a duty on local education authorities, governors and heads to observe the statutory requirement for worship as well as, as is already in the subsection, the statutory requirement for religious education.

Amendment No. 141 amends Clause 17 which is the new complaints procedure, so that worship is also included in that procedure along with religious education, which is already there.

I am raising this matter for clarification because I recollect that in the small hours of Wednesday morning the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London welcomed these proposals, as did the Minister when she indicated her acceptance of them. However, the Minister said that it would be most appropriate to deal with them under Clause 93. I take that point because Clause 93 is where the main point about religious worship arises. The only reason I seek clarification now is because it seems that unless this point is taken on board it might mean that worship will not be covered by Clause 6 and the complaints procedure there. I should like assurances that worship will be so covered, as I believe was intended, and I believe that that is what was agreed on Tuesday night; but I wish to confirm that.

Baroness Hooper

Perhaps I can give my noble friend the assurances for which she has asked, and I do not believe I need to add anything further to the remarks I made on the last occasion.

Baroness Cox

With that kind assurance for which I am most grateful, and the understanding that this will be brought back by the Government on Report, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 88 to 91 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Lord McNair moved Amendment No. 92: After Clause 6, insert the following new clause:

("Road Safety Education.

.—(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations requiring schools to provide road safety education for their pupils in such form and manner, and at such times as may be prescribed.

(2) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult with any person (including any representative organisation) with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable.").

The noble Lord said: According to the groupings, this matter has been debated. That is stretching the word "debated". So far as I can remember, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, said one sentence and I cannot recall the reply that was made to it. This matter is so obviously sensible and desirable that I wonder whether the noble Baroness could say something about the policy of the Government as regards the inculcation of children to the idea of road safety?

Baroness Hooper

We debated the whole subject of the number of amendments under this heading and the general response was that this is a subject that we believe to be important; that it should be dealt with in the normal school curriculum as a cross-curricular theme, if necessary, but that there should be room otherwise to deal with it in the amount of time which is available for specific subject areas.

Lord McNair

I am grateful to the noble Baroness and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendment No, 93: insert the following new clause:

("Standing advisory councils on religious education

.—(I) It shall be the duty of every local education authority to constitute a standing advisory council on religious education to advise the authority upon such matters connected with the religious instruction to be given in accordance with an agreed syllabus as the authority may refer to the council or as the council may see fit.

Reference below in this section and in section (Advisory councils: supplementary provisions) of this Act to the council are references to any council constituted by a local education authority under this section.

(2) The matters referred to in subsection (1) above include, in particular, methods of teaching, the choice of books and the provision of lectures for teachers.

(3) The council shall consist of—

  1. (a) the representative members required by subsection (4) below; and
  2. (b) where any agreed syllabus for the time being adopted by the authority is in use at one or more grant-maintained schools, a person appointed by the governing body or (as the case may be) by the governing bodies of the school or schools concerned;
and may also include co-opted members.

(4) Subject to subsection (5) below, the representative members required by this subsection are persons appointed by the authority to represent respectively—

  1. (a) such religious denominations as, in the opinion of the authority, ought, having regard to the circumstances of the area, to be represented;
  2. (b) except in the case of an area in Wales, the Church of England;
  3. (c) such associations representing teachers as, in the opinion of the authority, ought, having regard to the circumstances of the area, to be represented; and
  4. (d) the authority;
and references below in this section to representative groups on the council are references to the members appointed by virtue of paragraphs (a), (c) and (d) above respectively and, where members are required to be appointed by virtue of paragraph (b) above, the members so appointed.

(5) Where members are required to be appointed by virtue of paragrapn (b) of subsection (4) above, the representative members required by paragraph (a) of that subsection shall not include persons appointed to represent the Church of England.

(6) On any question to be decided by the council only the representative groups on the council shall be entitled to vote, and each such group shall have a single vote.

(7) The representative groups on the council, other than that consisting of persons appointed to represent the authority, may at any time by a unanimous decision (with each group having a single vote on the matter) require a review of any agreed syllabus for the time being adopted by the authority.

(8) On receipt by the authority of written notification of any such requirement, it shall be the duty of the authority to cause a conference constituted in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 5 to the 1944 Act to be convened for the purpose of reconsidering any agreed syllabus to which the requirement relates.

(9) The council shall in each year publish a report with respect to the exercise of their functions and any action taken by representative groups on the council under subsection (7) above during the last preceding year.

(10) The council's report shall in particular—

  1. (a) specify any matters in respect of which the council have given advice to the authority;
  2. (b) broadly describe the nature of the advice given; and
  3. (c) where any such matter was not referred to the council by the authority, give the council's reasons for offering advice on that matter.").

The right reverend Prelate said: I set out the arguments in favour of this amendment in the debate on Amendment No. 2 and I shall not repeat them. It will help the Committee if I briefly set out the details of the amendment because it is not easy to understand without cross-reference to the 1944 Act.

Section 29(1) of the 1944 Act provided for the establishment of a conference to produce an agreed syllabus. The conference was mandatory but only existed during the period when the agreed syllabus was being prepared. Theoretically, it then ceased to exist. The composition of the conference was established in the fifth schedule to the 1944 Act. Section 29(2) of the 1944 Act gave the authority the power to establish a standing advisory committee on religious education but did not require it to do so. It also set out what it could do and no more than that. The amendment before the Committee retains Section 29(1) of the 1944 Act; that is, requiring a conference to be established. It does so on precisely the same terms as the fifth schedule to the 1944 Act and it is mandatory. However, Sections 29(2) to (4) of the 1944 Act will be repealed. In their place will be Amendment No. 93 and the later Amendment No. 94.

The significant changes are that the standing advisory council on religious education is required and it is provided for in the same composition as the conference. We were advised that it was desirable to retain the same composition, as far as possible, between the two bodies for reasons which I need not go into this evening.

In the 1944 Act the provisions for the standing advisory council gave it no power to require a review, whether once or more than once. The amendment provides for that power for review. During the discussion on Clause 2 I said that it provides for a mandatory requirement both for a conference and a standing advisory council. It gives the council power to require a review. As I said, the complaints procedure is also introduced, though not under this provision, in order to cover religious education. I hope that in due course worship will be included too. Indeed, the inclusion of the amendment in the Bill will bring it under the complaints procedure.

I shall not at this stage deal with any matters arising on the composition of the conference in view of the amendments that follow in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, but I shall want to go into a little more detail when I comment upon his amendments. Let me remind the Committee that this amendment is the result of extensive consultation and it has been agreed to by, one might say, all the interested parties. I hope that it will now be accepted by the Government. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi)

I now call, as an amendment to Amendment No. 93, Amendment No. 93A:

Lord Thorneycroft moved Amendment No. 93A: Subsection (3), at end insert— ("The Council shall be so composed that it will at all times contain a two-thirds majority of members representative of the Christian churches.").

The noble Lord said: I rise to move this amendment to the new clause which has been so helpfully described by the right reverend Prelate. I can best abbreviate my remarks if I recall the Committee to where we stand on this matter.

We have agreed that the position of religious education in the Bill should be elevated. That was done by an amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate to Clause 2 which was broadly accepted by the whole Committee with perhaps one or two dissenting voices.

We have agreed that we are a Christian nation. The old idea, which was current a few months ago, that somehow the influx of immigration from the new Commonwealth, other faiths and so on had somehow detracted from the strength of the Christian faith and tradition or the need for Christian worship, has no longer been argued.

We agreed to give sympathetic consideration to an amendment by my noble friend Lady Cox, laying down in specific terms that Christian education should play a predominant part. The Churches are considering the precise wording which would give best effect to that proposal. These matters were agreed without Divisions, without party dissention or dissention between sectarian beliefs. I am sure that if it is possible that is the best way to proceed on these difficult matters. If Divisions have to take place, they should take place on Report and I hope on a free vote.

To summarise the position; we are seeking to get Christian education in the schools, but Christian education in a very tolerant form. We are seeking a liberal education which recognises the importance of other faiths and ensures that they also are described and respected. We are not seeking indoctrination. We are seeking a fair and open-minded description of this great Christian faith and tradition.

We now come to the point in the Bill which is, so to speak, the machinery of all this. It is where the local authorities find their way to agreed syllabuses and agreed ideas of teaching. As the right reverend Prelate described, this is what his clause seeks to do. I agreed with him when he said that it is a pretty complex matter but, if I may say so, I do not think that is his fault. It has grown over the years. It consists of about four groups of people. There is the Church of England or, in Wales, the Church of Wales. There are other faiths which used to be called other denominations and were thought of as Christian denominations. However, it is no longer thought of in that way and it consists in very substantial part of other faiths—for example, the Moslems, Sikhs, Hindus and so forth. There are groups of teachers and there is the local authority itself. The decision as to what is to be done about education has to be arrived at by unanimous arrangements between those four groups.

I must say that on the whole Christians are not in a majority in all this and and so we get a situation in which Christian education is finally determined on what can be described as the lowest common denominator of broadly, not wholly, Christian groups. It is said that all this has been arrived at after very careful negotiation. I respect that and I know the difficulty of negotiation. I have great respect for the right reverend Prelate. I understand his difficulties, but I am bound to say that in your Lordships' Committee we have to look beyond careful negotiation. We have to look at what is right and what is wrong.

In a way we have to judge the effect of these things by what actually happens. I wish to be fair about this. It may be an extraordinary set-up, but I think the right reverend Prelate would agree that out of it emerges in some cases not a bad syllabus. In some cases there is good Christian education that goes forward. One must pay tribute to men who triumph over all difficulties and get a good solution out of perhaps not very fertile ground.

Then there is another group, which receives a mish-mash. It is taught what might be called multi-faith syllabi. It is taught a little about all religions. It receives what the Chief Rabbi in a brilliant speech the other day called a religious cocktail. We are not urged by the Moslems to do this. The Moslems tend to pray that we shall get back to the Christian faith. We are certainly not urged by the Jews to do it. The Chief Rabbi argued powerfully on the other side. The multi-faith approach is an educationist idea. It became a fashion at a certain time. There were working parties which thought that it would be rather good to do this. Whatever else it is, it is not a Christian education. It is something else. That is the middle group.

There is yet another group. This falls into the disaster area where witchcraft and other ideas find their way into the teaching of children. My noble friend Lady Cox, who has taken such a leading and important part in this matter, will talk a little more about the result of such syllabi later on. That is the position as it is today. In the view of many people in this country—and I do not mean just my view or that of my noble friend Lady Cox but also those of parents—it is wholly unsatisfactory state of affairs and something has to be done about it.

In order to pinpoint the idea I have put down this amendment. I agree that if we are to amend the clause properly the Committee will have to have something much more elaborate than the amendment I have put down on the Marshalled List. One would probably have to delete the clause and start with something else. I have put down in simple words the approach that I am trying to argue. The approach is that if we want a Christian education we must ask the Christians to provide it.

In these advisory councils there should be a majority of Christians so that they determine the main line. There would be others—by all means there should be others. There would be members of the Moslem faith. Certainly I hope that there would be members of the Jewish faith. In a brilliant speech the other day my noble friend Lord St. John of Fawsley described the enormous part that Judaism plays in Christianity. It would be almost impossible to teach one without strong references to the other. All that would be there.

However, the main theme and trend of the education would be determined by men like the right reverend Prelate and members of other Christian denominations. If we want to have a tolerant Christianity, if we want, as I believe we do, the teaching of Christianity in the schools, and if we want it to be taught in a way that is not narrow or bigoted but proudly for the great faith that it is, tolerant of other religions and explaining the great contributions that they make to the world, I can think of no better people than men like the right reverend Prelate to do it. It would be more sensible not to have decisions by committees but a meeting in which Christians and members of the Christian Churches themselves worked out how best this type of Christianity should be taught. It is to urge that approach that I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Morton of Shuna

I hope the noble Lord will not press these amendments, as we did indeed discuss them on Tuesday under Amendment No. 93 and at that stage we had no notice of them. As I said then, there is a problem that, while we accept that there should be a mandatory body in each local authority, there is a certain difficulty on our side in that that body should have a set form for each local education authority.

I should have thought that there is even more difficulty if, as proposed in Amendment No. 93A, one must have a two-thirds majority in each local authority. That situation may be most difficult to achieve in certain local authorities. There may be even more difficulty in ascertaining whether the noble Lord and I would agree on what a good Christian education was.

It has occurred to me that the right reverend Prelates, the Bishops of Durham, Liverpool and Manchester, have on occasions talked of an ethic which I recognise as being a concept with which I agree. I can only claim to be an elder of the Church of Scotland so, therefore, if I agree with the bishop that may be very surprising. However, it is even more surprising, on occasions, when those Members opposite agree with the bishops, because on other occasions there have been slight disagreements with them. Therefore, if one starts talking about what a good Christian education is, even among those of us who claim to be Christians, it must be said that there have been centuries of disagreement and therefore I think we should be careful and not try to go too far too fast. For those reasons I hope the noble Lord will not press the amendment.

9.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London

I am most grateful first of all for what the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, has just said. I hope in what I have to say that I shall not appear to be in any way unsympathetic to those who wish to ensure that a proper Christian education in provided. However, the issue is not quite as simple as it has been made out to be. It is necessary for us to realise that we must strike a balance between compulsion on one side—which I think we all agree is not what we are seeking—and the comparative religion approach on the other, which does not teach anything about religion or religious experience. We have to strike a balance between the two.

The second point I should like to make is this. We are not talking about the Christian faith in a church; we are talking about teaching the Christian faith in our schools. Such teaching involves the local authority, the teachers and also the different churches. Therefore we must ensure that there is agreement among them as to what is being taught. It would surely be folly to try to force any one of those parties to do something which would cause them great unease or difficulty.

We must therefore realise—whether we like it or not—that in providing a Christian education in our schools there are other parties involved, apart from the Christian church of individual Christians. Therefore I believe it is necessary to have the kind of provision we had in the conference and in the standing advisory council so as to ensure that there is agreement among all those people involved. For that reason I do not agree that one can simply solve the problem by an amendment of the type which the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, has proposed because it does not fit, so to speak, into the system which has, on the whole, worked.

As I said previously, I do not take such a gloomy view of agreed syllabuses because the real problem very often is how they are taught. As regards Amendment No. 93C, I have a certain amount of sympathy with its contents but I shall return to that in a moment.

I have a real difficulty with Amendment No. 93A. I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, was talking about one of the committees within the conference or the council. If he was not, he was asking us to break the law, because he would be requiring us to have religious tests for members of the authority and for teachers. If he is proposing that, further legislation is necessary so that we do not break the law. We cannot look at the whole body and say that the council shall be so composed at all times so as to have a two-thirds majority of members representing the Christian Churches. That is unworkable. Even if we were allowed to ask whether the members of the authority or the teachers were Christian, we should still have the difficulty of deciding whether they were representatives of the Christian Churches, because the Churches might not agree that they were adequate representatives.

Having said that, I come to my comments on Amendment No. 93C. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, is afraid that in an authority the composition of the other denominations' committee might be so balanced that it had a preponderance of non-Christians on it who could then veto any agreement within the council or within the conference. That point needs to be looked at. It relates to the composition of the committee for the other denominations and not of the council as a whole. The veto operates on two occasions only. There must be unanimity for the conference to adopt the syllabus. There must be unanimity within three of the committees to request a review.

It is possible to conceive of a situation in which one of those committees might be so constituted that it would use the veto to prevent a review. That may be rare, but it is a possibility which should be covered. It is a matter at which we can look in the light of the undertaking I gave when we were considering Amendment No. 2, and which I am prepared to give again now.

The amendments are the result of consultation. I believe that a change in the composition of the Christian denominations committee should be made only after the fullest consultation with the other Churches and representatives of other faiths. I can promise that that will happen. We have already set in motion steps to enable consultations to take place. In fact they have already begun.

Some Members of the Committee may have had a letter from the secretary of the Free Church Federal Council indicating general support for the kind of direction in which I have been pointing in both debates. I have some sympathy with the point that has been raised and which needs looking at again.

I do not believe that the noble Lord had his direction right with the previous amendment. The first amendment is unworkable. I hope that with the assurance that we will take his point seriously he will beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Cox

I shall speak briefly in favour of the amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft. I understand that it is an attempt at drafting and is not the final form. The point I should like to take up refers to the proportion of Christian representatives on Committee A which at the moment includes representatives of different denominations, and which seems now to be changing its definition to "faiths". I believe that the right reverend Prelate said that he would clarify that matter on Report.

The point I should like to make is that in some of those committees as they are currently formed, Christians are in a minority. For example, Manchester has 45 members, but only 22 are Christians; Bradford, 32 of whom 14 are Christians; and of Brent's 23 members eight are Christians. It might be suggested that it would be good to see a representation on those committees of some of the new churches which are at the moment sometimes not represented, such as the community churches, the black churches, which are among the fastest-growing Christian groups in the country at the moment. Some consideration of the composition of those committees could usefully be reconsidered.

It is important to look at the significance of the Christian component, and to ask whether it matters. I would argue that it does matter—and I am delighted to see that the right reverend Prelate agrees that this is a problem—because of the need for a unanimous vote to agree to require a review of an agreed syllabus. Given the evidence that has been so widely expressed in your Lordships' Committee and outside by Clifford Longley and by the nine bishops in The Times on Tuesday, I think it is agreed that there are problems to do with some of the syllabuses, and that the composition of the arrangements as they now stand is such as to make it hard to initiate changes for those syllabuses.

The requirement for a unanimous vote means that every member of every group has a power of veto which could well mean that the procedures could be stifled. For example, members of groups representing teachers' associations—who, I am told, may often be agnostic or atheistic—can express a power of veto. In discussion with colleagues who have served on those committees I am told that those representatives may only have to threaten to use their power of veto—and sometimes they have no compunction whatever about doing so—in order to reduce the contents of an agreed syllabus to, as my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft said, a lowest common denominator of the kind which has caused such concern.

I appreciate that the right reverend Prelate has explained why historical reasons have led to the question of the consensus vote being there; but I am grateful to hear that he is prepared to reconsider that, and I am delighted to be reassured on that basis.

The Lord Bishop of London

The noble Baroness said that I gave historical reasons. I do not think that that is quite accurate. My point would be (and I must say this) that if we removed this veto does the noble Baroness really want the situation where Christians are trying to ensure that a good Christian agreed syllabus is taught in the schools without the agreement of the authority, the teachers, and others? I feel that this is something I would not wish to contemplate.

If that is what we are forced to do, then I believe that we are faced with a different situation where the withdrawal of classes is the only solution. It was not just historical but because I believe that it is possible to combine a sound, full Christian education if the Christians really take their part in their own committees. It is possible to do that with the agreement of the other parties, and that agreement must be sought.

Baroness Hooper

My noble friend Lord Thorneycroft has indicated that these are probing amendments. We have had considerable debate on this subject so I feel that it is not necessary for me to add to what has been said by the right reverend Prelate except to agree with him that this is a complicated and sensitive matter which needs carefully looking at.

Lord Thorneycroft

I thank the noble Baroness for what she has said. The right reverend Prelate said that we must be careful not to do things which would cause great unease. When the right reverend Prelate is considering these matters, he should not underestimate the great unease which exists in this country at the moment about the failure—and it is a failure—to give Christian education properly in our schools. I fully accept that this amendment is not the correct amendment to achieve all that and that there are problems about the drafting and all these things; but we have to do something more than exists at the moment. We must somehow devise machinery a little more apt to produce the results which millions of parents are asking for in this country. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will bear those things in mind. With that, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 93A by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 93B and 93C not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

We have been discussing amendments to Amendment No. 93 moved by the right reverend Prelate. We now go back to amendment No. 93.

On Question, Amendment No. 93 agreed to.

The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendment No. 94: Insert the following new clause:

("Advisory councils: supplementary provisions.

.—(1) Before appointing a person to represent any denomination or associations as a member of the council the local education authority concerned shall take all reasonable steps to assure themselves that he is representative of the denomination or associations in question.

(2) A member of the council appointed by the authority may be removed from membership by the authority if in the opinion of the authority he ceases to be representative of the denomination or associations which he was appointed to represent or (as the case may be) of the authority.

(3) Any member of the council required by section (Standing advisory councils on religious education) (3)(b) of this Act may at any time be removed from membership by the governing body or (as the case may be) by the governing bodies of the grant-maintained school or schools concerned.

(4) In subsection (3) of that section "co-opted member" means a person co-opted as a member of the council by members of the council who have not themselves been so co-opted, and a person so co-opted shall hold office on such terms as may be determined by the members co-opting him.

(5) Any member of the council may at any time resign his office.

(6) Subject to subsection (6) of that section, the council and, in relation to any question falling to be decided by members of the council of any particular category, the members of that category may regulate their own proceedings.

(7) Nothing in subsection (7) of that section shall be read as requiring the question of how any representative group on the council entitled to participate in the decision there mentioned is to cast its vote for the purposes of that subsection to be decided unanimously by the members of that group.

(8) The validity of proceedings of the council or of the members of the council of any particular category shall not be affected—

  1. (a) by a vacancy in the office of any member of the council required by subsection (3) of that section; or
  2. (b) on the ground that a member of the council appointed to represent any denomination or associations does not at the time of the proceedings represent the denomination or associations in question.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Establishment of Councils]:

Lord Dormand of Easington moved Amendment No. 95: Page 5, line 4, leave out ("ten or more than fifteen") and insert ("twenty or more than thirty").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the two amendments standing in my name. Time is getting on, but I hope that the brevity of my speech will not be interpreted as meaning that these matters are comparatively unimportant. I know that I and many others voting inside this Chamber and outside feel that they can have a very considerable effect on the main purposes of this Bill. The problems and challenges inherent in the establishment of the national curriculum will be many and varied. It is inconceivable that a group of 10 to 15 people, chosen by the Secretary of State, will be able to deal with such a range of issues and problems.

Among the very wide range of interests and expertise which the councils will need to include are those of the local education authorities, the parents, churches, higher and further education, industry and commerce, the examining boards, women with special reference to gender inequality issues in the curriculum, and the ethnic minorities, with special reference to anti-racist strategies and the promotion of a multi-ethnic curriculum within the context of a national curriculum. A curriculum or assessment council of fewer than 20 members simply could not bring together the breadth of interests, experience and expertise to discuss and seriously consider the issues involved.

The debates in another place and already in your Lordships' House on this Bill have recognised the central and essential role played by teachers in implementing the curriculum. In the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, in her introduction to the Bill: The Government believe that their [teachers.'] contribution is crucial to the success of the policies embodied in this legislation, for it is teachers who have the responsibility for promoting high standards of excellence in learning and personal development".—[Official Report, 18/4/88; col. 1212.]

As far as the value of teachers is concerned, I doubt whether it would be possible to improve on that sentence, and I congratulate the noble Baroness on it. I am surprised to hear myself saying that because it is probably the only thing on which I shall agree with the noble Baroness. However, I reiterate it and say in all sincerity that to my mind that sums up exactly the situation concerning the contributions which teachers make.

The clause currently requires only that: members so appointed shall include persons having relevant knowledge or experience in education".

It is certainly not spelt out but presumably the Secretary of State intends this to mean teachers. The claim of teachers to be represented on the grounds I have already mentioned is pre-eminent.

Virtually every teacher belongs to a teachers' organisation. Teachers are not compelled to be members in order to practise their profession, theirs is no casual association. They do not drift into membership, they pay a considerable fee annually to their organisation to represent their interests. A council that does not have a substantial body of teachers in its membership is unlikely to be knowledgeable or indeed credible about the curriculum and assessment. Teachers will need to be appointed in a representative capacity or they will speak for no one but themselves and will be accountable to no one.

On many occasions in the past under both Labour and Conservative governments some people have been appointed in a personal capacity because of the eminence of their experience and knowledge of education. I do not think that that would fulfil the purpose of the clause.

I suspect that the word "teachers" will be heard more than any other word in these long days of debate. That is as it ought to be. As the Minister said, they are fundamental to the success of the service. Unfortunately, the praise is too often merely passing, although it is genuine.

The amendments provide an important opportunity to use not only the dedication of teachers but their expertise, their professionalism and, above all perhaps, their commitment. The councils will be much the poorer without the teachers' contribution. Indeed, it may not be too much to say that they may not fulfil their purpose. I commend the amendments to the Committee.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Davidson

I support my noble friend's amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I speak against the amendment. Unless I misunderstood the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, he was suggesting a form of representation on the councils. I set aside for the moment the argument about numbers. I wish to speak about how the teachers find themselves on the committee and the idea that they should in some way be representative of the bodies to which they belong—the NUT, the AMMA, the PAT and so on.

One of the greatest sadnesses to me is that we do not have a professional teaching council in the country. I believe that great efforts are being made to form a professional body to look after the professional interests of teachers. Until that day comes, I cannot dispel the black cloud that hangs over my perception of the situation with teachers coming predominantly from the NUT, the NAS/UWT, the AMMA and so on, the arguments between them, and the destructive force that this was, for instance, in the Burnham Committee. The Professional Association of Teachers, which had a minority of members, was squeezed out in many local authorities, and on the Burnham Committee it had to fight hard until the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, found representation for it.

I hope that we shall never resort to that kind of membership on the councils. We want professional teachers who walk tall in the professional sense and who represent the professionalism of teachers as individuals. They should not come from the teaching unions by some quota system. I am sorry to have to say that, but I cannot remove from my memory the destructive way in which the formula suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, would work. I hope that we will have the finest of our teachers on the teaching council. As I said, for the moment I set aside the argument on numbers.

Lord Dormand of Easington

The noble Baroness may have misunderstood at least part of what I said. The main thrust was that these would be not personal appointments but representative of the teachers' organisations. If the noble Baroness infers that there would be a certain number of NUT, AMMA and PAT representatives, that is not correct. I am saying that the teachers on the councils would be representative of their associations. This has been done many times in the education world. The teaching unions would decide among themselves who would represent the teaching profession as a whole.

As I said, we do not accept for a moment that teachers do not walk tall. One can say of every profession that there are some people who do not measure up to professional standards. I think that it is fundamentally important, not only to this part of the Bill but to all parts of it, to recognise that teachers on the whole do an excellent job.

Baroness Blatch

In the light of what has been said, I do not believe that I have misunderstood the noble Lord.

Baroness Seear

With all due respect to both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, there is nothing in the amendment about whether members are representative. It is simply a question of the number of people on the councils.

Baroness Hooper

To clarify the position, I believe that we are speaking to Amendments Nos. 95 and 98. I am sorry to have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, that the harmony which exists between us in our views on the role of teachers cannot extend to those amendments. Amendment No. 95 seeks to increase the membership of the National Curriculum Council, the School Examinations and Assessment Council and the Curriculum Council for Wales. Membership would be increased from between 10 and 15 members to between 20 and 30 members.

The Government do not believe that it would be helpful or efficient to have such large councils. The provision in the Bill for councils of between 10 and 15 members provides adequate scope for the appointment of people with a wide range of backgrounds and experience, while having bodies which are small enough to take decisions and operate quickly and effectively.

I recognise the need for councils to have access to a wide range of expert advice and counsel. There is plenty of scope for tapping the expertise of a wide circle of people through co-option on to sub-committees of councils. We have provided for that in Schedule 7.

Those arguments apply with even more force in the case of Amendment No. 98. That amendment goes further than the previous amendment and seeks to include representatives of teachers' organisations on councils. We regard it as being particularly important that the councils, which will be responsible for providing advice and support in the difficult business of introducing the national curriculum, are free from outside pressures and that individual members can give their undivided loyalty to the councils and the work in hand.

The introduction of any representational element in the composition of councils could undermine those aims. I hope and believe that there will be people who are teachers or who have teaching experience on the councils. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendments.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 96: Page 5, line 5, after ("State") insert ("after consultation with such organisations as he may recognise as representative of local authorities, teachers, school governors and parents").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment raises a slightly different point in relation to the councils. The purpose of the amendment is to include a consultation process before the curriculum assessment councils are appointed by the Secretary of State. As the Bill is drafted, it is the Secretary of State who determines without consultation who shall be members of the National Curriculum Council, the Curriculum Council for Wales and the School Examinations and Assessment Council.

The amendment does not prevent the Secretary of State from deciding on the membership of the councils. It merely attempts to ensure that his decisions are informed by the knowledge and advice provided by the appropriate bodies representing the different interest groups: local authorities, teachers, school governors and parents. Such consultation would enable the Secretary of State to make a better qualified judgment about who the most appropriate representatives will be. He obviously must consult somebody. The amendment would not restrict his power to decide and merely assists him in the process.

If the term "representative organisations" is objected to, I should like to point out that in the major Act controlling the National Health Service—the National Health Service Act 1977—the powers of the Secretary of State to set up the central health services council and the standing advisory committees are subject to a duty to consult representative organisations. So this amendment is not moving outside what has already been done in other legislation. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

The Government are not unsympathetic to the thoughts which lie behind the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady David. We recognise that the various organisations mentioned may have views on the membership of the councils which are to be established under the Bill. Indeed during the debate in another place about some amendments which would have required various bodies to be consulted on membership—some of which, I hasten to add, sought to restrict the Secretary of State's powers to appoint members far more drastically than does this amendment—my honourable friend the Minister of State said very clearly that she would listen to advice and suggestions from organisations with an interest in education. In fact, as I understand it, the department has already received a number of helpful suggestions about membership, not only from the kinds of organisation mentioned by the noble Baroness in speaking to her amendment but also from bodies representing voluntary schools and independent schools' organisations. All the suggestions have been considered very carefully and, indeed, any constructive and well-intentioned advice we subsequently receive will be listened to carefully, right up to the time when my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announces the complete membership of the new councils.

This informal consultation does not detract in any way from the Secretary of State's responsibility under the Bill for appointing the chairmen and members of the councils. But we are clear that it is both right and necessary for the appointments to be personal appointments by the Secretary of State of the day. Only in that way can we be sure that the councils—and the advice which they will give—will be independent, impartial and free from the influence of particular groups or interests. A mandatory requirement to consult representative organisations would detract from that principle, no matter what discretion was allowed the Secretary of State in the selection of the bodies to be consulted. It is central to this part of the Bill that the councils will be independent bodies. We do not wish to depart from that principle. Were we to do so in the way that is suggested it could also give rise to unnecessary and unacceptable delays in making appointments to the councils when such appointments were urgently required. That too would be unacceptable.

I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will accept that we are open to advice about membership from any quarter and that statutory consultations on the subject would be unhelpful in practice.

Baroness David

I think that that is an absolutely ridiculous answer, if I may say so. There will still be personal appointments under the amendment and apparently the consultation is to be carried out anyway. In order to give satisfaction and to appear to be limiting the Secretary of State's powers by the minutest extent surely it would be sensible to accept the amendment and make a lot of people feel much happier about the Bill altogether?

Lord Hylton

It seems that this rather modest amendment has considerable constitutional implications and should therefore be taken very seriously by the Committee. We may be reasonably satisfied with the present Secretary of State, but there is no knowing who will be appointed to that post in the future. I personally think that it is very important to have some provision in the Bill which will lay down the kind of pattern of behaviour that is to be adopted not only now but also in future years.

Baroness Seear

We too are extremely concerned that the noble Baroness should turn down the amendment in this way and should claim that the fact that the Secretary of State is to make all the appointments personally will ensure that the councils are independent. I have to tell the noble Baroness that that really gives me absolutely no assurance whatsoever on that matter. How are we to know that the Secretary of State will not appoint all his cousins and his sisters and his aunts, which is perfectly possible under the Bill as it stands? What guarantee is there that because he appoints the members personally it will be an independent council? That is a most astonishing statement.

Baroness Hooper

I have to say that I am somewhat persuaded by some of the arguments that have been advanced this evening. If the noble Baroness will permit me, I should like to take this matter back, without commitment, and perhaps deal with it at another stage.

Baroness David

Of course I have to accept that suggestion. I must tell the noble Baroness that if she had not agreed to take the matter back I should have divided the Committee on this issue. I feel very strongly about this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I have to inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 97 is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 98 or 100 as they will be pre-empted.

10 p.m.

Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 97: Page 5, line 8, leave out from ("members") to end of line 9 and insert ("shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions of subsections (3) and (4) below. (3) Members of each Council shall be appointed by the Secretary of State after consultation—

  1. (a) with such associations of local education authorities, bodies representing the interests of voluntary schools, bodies representing the interests of school governing bodies and organisations representing school teachers as appear to him to be concerned; and
  2. (b) with such other persons, including organisations representing parents, as he thinks fit,
and he shall have regard to the desirability of the membership of the Council reflecting a balance of academic and other expertise in accordance with the aims of securing a balanced and broadly based curriculum. (4) Not less than sixty per cent. of the members of each Council shall be persons having relevant knowledge and experience in education (including, in particular, education in maintained schools) and in appointing such members the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of including at least two persons having relevant knowledge and experience in education in voluntary schools.").

The noble Baroness said: To some extent Amendment No. 97 repeats what was put forward in Amendment No. 96 but adds a very important point. As the Minister said that she would take back and consider Amendment No. 96, I propose to elaborate on the point in my amendment which is different. I would also ask the Minister to take into consideration Amendment No. 97 at the same time as she is considering Amendment No. 96.

The point of substantial difference between Amendments Nos. 97 and 96 is that we ask for the council to be made up predominantly of people who have both experience and knowledge of education. After all, curriculum and assessment are essentially matters for professional teachers who, with their knowledge, should have a predominant voice in the way they are to be decided. Those two matters on which the council will advise the Secretary of State lie at the heart of the educational process and are the core of the whole Bill. We have talked about curriculum and assessment for the last 24 hours—no, I stand corrected, for the last 48 hours. It seems quite absurd to draw up such things without a very substantial voice being given to people who have both experience and knowledge of education.

The Minister must by now realise that many of us are deeply suspicious about the powers of the Secretary of State which recur and are embodied again and again in the proposed legislation. The powers of the Secretary of State mean to a very considerable extent the powers of the DES. As I said on another occasion, what experience does the DES have of teaching? I know we shall be told that it is being advised. But the advisers are being picked by the Secretary of State. The concentration of power in the hands of the Secretary of State on a matter of such importance fills us with the deepest apprehension.

We are not asking for members of the teaching profession or people with knowledge and experience of education to be appointed by the organisations. That is not our intention. We are saying that professionals should have a predominant voice in a matter where the requirements are so strongly professional.

Lady Kinloss

May I ask for guidance? If this amendment is agreed to, why can I not move Amendment No. 100?

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Renton)

If this amendment is agreed to, Amendments Nos. 98 to 100 will have been preempted.

Baroness Young

I wonder whether I may ask my noble friend for clarification on a further point. Personally I am glad that she has agreed to consider the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady David. I do not necessarily require an answer this evening, but perhaps, when she comes back to the Chamber, she will explain the final phrase of subsection (2) which reads, and members so appointed shall include persons having relevant knowledge or experience in education". Clearly this is a crucial matter in the whole debate. I think it is the point at which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is driving; namely, that people, before being appointed to these councils, will be fully experienced and have knowledge of education. That is what I would have expected.

I think we all agree that the councils are crucial to this whole section of the Bill. The point I made at Second Reading—a view shared, I think, throughout the Committee—is that in order to maintain high standards and to raise lower ones, the content of the curriculum and other processes are key.

I believe that what is written in the Bill probably goes a long way to meet the points in the amendments that have been tabled but I believe also that public reassurance about the composition is very important. I know the difficulties only too well. I know the difficulties of being a Minister when one is confronted with all these matters. I certainly do not wish to make difficulties. I am trying to be constructive. However, a further explanation at a later stage of how the Secretary of State sees this working out would be very helpful to us all.

Baroness Hooper

I should like to confirm that in speaking to Amendment No. 97 we are speaking also to Amendment No. 99.

I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that the Secretary of State will have in mind the considerations referred to in her amendment. However, since I have agreed to take back the previous amendment for consideration I think it is appropriate that I do the same in this case, and without commitment.

Baroness Seear

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 98 and 99 not moved.]

Lady Kinloss moved Amendment No. 100: Page 5, line 9, at end insert ("and one shall have special knowledge of and concern for provision for children with special educational needs and regard shall be had to the desirability of that member being a disabled person.").

The noble Lady said: It will be for the convenience of the Committee if in moving this amendment I speak also to Amendments Nos. 253, 260 and 268. If necessary, I shall move these later when they are called.

As I said in the Second Reading debate, I am eager to see a duty to include representation of special education needs on all councils and governing bodies; that is to say, the National Curriculum Council, the Curriculum Council for Wales, and the School Examinations and Assessment Council. The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation fully supports this view. It feels that there is a need for a member who can represent the view of disabled children and young people on all those councils and governing bodies and on all the councils and governing bodies for further education.

People are not always aware of, or knowledgeable about, the needs and aspirations of disabled persons. It is surely essential to have on all these bodies at least one person who has made a study of the special needs of disabled persons. We are not asking for the numbers on the councils to be increased, but that one member should have special knowledge of those with special education needs.

I have no doubt about the Government's good intentions as they have responded sensitively already on the issues of grant maintained schools. They have developed a mechanism to modify the national curriculum. But there is a need for some special sensitivity to be incorporated into the planning of curricula at all levels. It is for this reason that expert input is required.

This is an amendment which asks only that children with special education needs are treated in the same way as other children and are represented on all councils and governing bodies. This would apply also to the councils and governing bodies for further education. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I should like to say a few words in support of my noble friend Lady Kinloss. When this was debated at Report stage in another place on 22nd March the Secretary of State said at col. 210 of Hansard that he did not want to be too prescriptive about how the National Curriculum Council in particular would operate. He suggested that it might want to set up a sub-committee to deal with special education needs. That is fine in itself, but I feel that there should be a member on the council with knowledge of special education needs, preferably a disabled person if he or she were the right person for the job, and such a provision should be written into the Bill.

The wording is similar to that used in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 in relation to representation of disabled people and their interests on various advisory committees. I hope that the Minister will find it acceptable.

I should also like to support the suggestion of my noble friend that other councils have similar representation. I feel that the provision should be written into the Bill because it is important to ensure that the interests of people with special education needs should also be safeguarded in higher and further education.

Lord Carter

I was glad to put my name to the amendment. I shall be extremely brief in speaking to it. We all agree that the councils mentioned in the clause will have an important role. We feel that it is extremely important that these councils have a full understanding of special educational needs. The point has been made many times that 20 per cent. of the school population at any one time fits into that definition. It is not a fixed population. There are children moving in and out of the definition all the time. It includes not just the physically and mentally handicapped, but children with learning difficulties; those who require special education for a short time, such as after a spell in hospital; children who require home tuition for any reason and so on. We feel that special skills are required in special education.

We also feel that society needs a great deal of conditioning generally towards disablement. I take the example of the programme on BBC Radio, which has the title "Does He Take Sugar?" That is the most apposite title of all the programmes on radio and television. We have all experienced a group of people with a disabled person present. One is often asked by a third party "Would he like a drink?" I say, "Well ask him". The point is that it is all part of the conditioning of society. We feel that the education process is crucially important in helping to overcome this conditioning. That is why we feel that the councils should have special regard to special education. There is a strong argument that there should be proper representation on those councils and the appointment of a member with the special knowledge and the expert input that is required. I urge the Government to accept the amendment.

Lord Hylton

As a parent of a dyslexic child I support my noble friend's amendment. Among noble Lords there is an amazing pool of expertise, concerned particularly with dyslexia. But, alas, outside Parliament there is still far too much ignorance on the subject. It is unfortunately true that too many children are diagnosed too late.

The Earl of Swinton

I, from these Back Benches, also support the amendment. I am not altogether 100 per cent. in support of what the noble Baroness said because I do not believe that it is necessary to have a disabled person participate. On the whole it would be very good to have someone on this body who is aware of the special problems and needs of the disabled.

Lord Young of Dartington

As the father of a schizophrenic son, I also support the amendment. In the education world generally, among people who have great concern for special needs, there has been a great deal of unease about the Bill. Although that unease will not be removed if the amendment is accepted, it would be somewhat appeased. The people who have felt so disturbed would be somewhat reassured if the Government were able to make a small concession at this stage in the discussion of the Bill. It would not lose any of its guts, but it would be reassuring to perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who are deeply worried about what might happen to their children and grand-children who have such needs unless something like this is accepted and followed up in other ways that have more content even than this.

Baroness Hooper

I understand that there is considerable concern in this respect. As my noble friend Lady Young pointed out earlier, the provision that councils should include persons with relevant knowledge or experience of education means that there is a sufficient basis on which to build councils which are in all respects aware of the problems they face and are competent to deal with them. I include in that the practical problems and opportunities of the classroom and the considerations which must apply to children with special needs. Nevertheless, because of the concern which has been expressed—and in taking back the previous amendments which relate to the composition of these councils I must include this one—I shall take the amendment back again without commitment at this stage.

Lady Kinloss

I thank the noble Baroness for that reply, which I should like to read. As she has agreed to reconsider the matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 101: Page 5, line 13, at beginning insert ("to promote the development of a balanced and broadly based curriculum for maintained schools in accordance with the provisions of section 1(2) of this Act and").

The noble Lord said: The amendment relates to the role and functions of the council and touches on many of the matters that have already been discussed. Page 5 of the Bill provides that the first function of the curriculum councils is to keep under review all aspects of the curriculum for maintained schools. We have been concerned about the sweeping powers given to the Secretary of State in Clause 4. He can establish the curriculum, revise it, specify the attainment targets and programmes of study and all assessment arrangements without reference to anyone. No doubt he will consult, but it is not written into the Bill.

We believe that the councils exist for the purpose of offering advice and that they should be given a higher profile. We urge the Government to give them the primary role of promoting the development of the broadly-based curriculum referred to in Clause 1. There seems to be no reason why they should not be given that role and it gives them a higher profile.

If the councils are not used for their legitimate purpose they will become puppets and be useless. One wonders who will be consulted by the Secretary of State if they are not consulted. Will the Minister say whether, for example, Her Majesty's Inspectorate will be consulted? If not, who will be? Will the reports of the task groups on the various subjects be closely studied and incorporated in the national curriculum? We presume that they will, but we should like a little more assurance in that respect.

If Parliament is to accord the Secretary of State such wide-sweeping powers he should, in return, undertake to consult to an extent that satisfies Parliament. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, for drawing our attention through his amendment to an important aspect of the framework established by the Bill. Clause 1 makes it encumbent on the Secretary of State, on local education authorities and on the heads and governors of maintained schools to exercise their respective functions so as to secure that the curriculum provided for pupils is balanced and broadly based. This is a fundamental principle of the Bill. The functions of the curriculum councils, as set out in Clause 7, are to keep all aspects of the curriculum under review, to advise and assist the Secretary of State and to make information available to all who are concerned with the provision of education and with the curriculum.

In discharging these functions, the councils will be helping the Secretary of State and his partners to carry out their own duties and responsibilities. We had therefore considered it unnecessary to reproduce the fundamental duty set out in Clause 1 in setting out the functions of the councils. However, this is an important point which we shall look at again in the light of the noble Lord's amendment, in order to satisfy ourselves that our intentions are adequately stated in the Bill as it is drafted. Should we conclude that a specific reference to Clause 1 is required, as the noble Lord suggests, we shall introduce a Government amendment at Report stage. In the light of that assurance—which I assure the Committee will not become a habit—I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I assure the Committee that we are not going to fall into that habit. I am grateful to the Minister for her assurance and I hope that she will be able to bring a favourable reply at the next stage of the Bill, bearing in mind especially the lack of connection that we feel exists between the lofty aims of Clause 1 and much of the rest of the Bill. I believe that every time a reference is made to Clause 1 and the basic aims of the Bill that is a gain. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 102: Page 5, line 14, at end insert ("with special regard to those aspects of the curriculum not otherwise included in sections 3(1) and 3(2) such as personal and social education including health education.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment at about 3.30 on Wednesday morning and I do not want to take another large bite at the cherry. However, at that time we had a small debate on health education, and AIDS education in particular. In her reply the noble Baroness gave me assurances which were of some comfort. She said that the Government appreciate the importance of personal and social education and life skills. Of course, that is the framework within which much of this health education is carried out.

However, in the course of that debate—and I do not criticise the noble Baroness because this was at an extremely advanced hour—I asked the noble Baroness a question which she was not able to answer at that time. I should like to put it to her again. I am not expecting an answer immediately, but perhaps she may think about the matter and write to me. I do not want to encourage her in had habits and it may be that she does not want to make any more concessions.

In its submission to the Government, the Health Education Authority suggested that it should have some representation on the cross-curriculum working group to examine the place of health education within personal, social and health education and other relevant subjects. It also went on to suggest the appointment of a member of the National Curriculum Council with some expertise in health education, which is again a point that has been made earlier. I do not suggest that there should be an additional number of people on the National Curriculum Council, but simply that there should be someone with expertise in health education.

In view of the undertaking by the noble Baroness on behalf of the Government that they accord importance to this particular area, that suggestion would seem to be logical. Therefore I should be very grateful if she would let me know, possibly by letter, what are the Government's intentions in that respect.

Baroness Hooper

At this stage I regret that I am not able to add anything to what I said on the previous occasion.

Lord Kilmarnock

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I realise that she is not able to add anything now, but perhaps she will look at what I have said and come back to me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 103: Page 5, line 18, leave out ("if so requested by him to assist him to").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 105. We have turned from the composition of and appointments to the council to its functions. The point of these amendments is to give some discretion to the National Curriculum Council to allow it to act on its own initiative instead of being entirely under the thumb of the Secretary of State. The council should be allowed to carry out its own research and development work without requiring the Secretary of State's permission, and also to carry out whatever ancillary activities it believes necessary. If the Secretary of State appoints suitable people—and we have to remember that he will make the appointments—it is hard to see why he should not trust them to carry out research and development work on their own initiative.

Most of the other amendments have drawn attention to the powers and control which the Government are giving to the Secretary of State. If the Government are not to ignore these concerns entirely, they should at least give reasonable freedom to the council which this amendment seeks. I have not put them down, but I suggest that a similar discretion should be given to the members of the School Examinations and Assessment Council. I beg to move.

Lord Hylton

It seems that these two amendments link in a very close way with Clause 9 which is concerned with experiments, among other things. It might be helpful if the noble Baroness can tell us what kind of experiments are envisaged in the text of the Bill as it now stands. I believe that there are many of us who are concerned that experiments shall not be made on living children in ways which their parents possibly cannot anticipate as they might end up as being somewhat disadvantaged in a highly competitive society.

Earl Russell

I support the amendment of the noble Baroness. She seems to have raised a principle of great importance which goes right to the centre of this Bill; that is, whether the Secretary of State may confine himself to receiving advice when and as he so wishes. That is something that executives have wished to achieve for themselves for very many centuries and which parliaments have tried to ensure that they do not achieve for almost as many centuries. I believe that Parliament should continue to do its job.

Baroness Hooper

The amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady David, to the functions of the curriculum councils seek to give the councils a significantly greater degree of formal freedom than we intend. The responsibility for promoting and developing the national curriculum properly rests with the Secretary of State, the LEAs and the schools. The work of the councils is to provide support and advice in this important endeavour.

In practice, we believe that the Secretaries of State and the councils will work in close partnership in evolving and conducting programmes of research and development and in carrying out any ancillary activities; but my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will provide the resources used by the councils and will be accountable for their use. It is right, therefore, that the formal position should be as set out in the Bill. The councils will be able to put their recommendations for research and development to my right honourable friend. Where these are well found and can be carried out within the councils' budgets, I would not expect any difficulties.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may say a brief word on the nature of these councils which follows on from what my noble friend Lady David and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, have said. The noble Baroness emphasised to us her view of the councils as being independent. We certainly would like them to be so. They do advise and many of us have been in the business of advising for many years. I have advised Ministers. There are two kinds of advice that one can give: advice that they want to hear and advice that they do not want to hear. My own view is that the only advisers who are worthwhile are those who give advice that Ministers do not wish to hear. My concept of independence is the concept of saying things which, to say the least, can be something of a nuisance. I believe that is what the noble Earl had in mind.

I should like to hear from the noble Baroness whether she appreciates that that is what we want these councils to be. To be perfectly honest, I believe that their only use to the Secretary of State is if occasionally they say to him things like, "You do not understand; you have got it wrong and we are independent enough to say so". What still worries me a little about the response of the noble Baroness is that I am not quite sure that she and her noble friends really want that kind of advice. My own view is that, in giving her advice, they should want that kind of advice.

Baroness Hooper

I thank the noble Lord for his advice. I emphasise that curriculum development is the primary focus of and reason for the kind of research and development that the councils can undertake. To return to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and the link with Clause 9, the work of the curriculum development councils requires the fitting together of specific national curriculum requirements in particular schools so that it can be carried out more fully.

Baroness David

I do not think that that is a very satisfactory answer. It is an important function of the council to be able to give advice and to initiate a number of matters. Therefore, I should like to press this amendment.

10.30 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 103) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided; Contents, 32; Not-Contents, 52.

Baldwin of Bewdley, E. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Blackstone, B. McNair, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Monson, L.
Carter, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Peston, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
David, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Dormand of Easington, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Rea, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Russell, E.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Seear, B.
Hylton, L. Seebohm, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Serota, B.
Kinloss, Ly. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Lockwood, B. White, B.
London, Bp. Young of Darlington, L.
Arran, E. Joseph, L.
Bathurst, E. Kimball, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Long, V. [Teller.]
Belstead, L. Lyell, L.
Blatch, B. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mersey, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Munster, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Nelson, E.
Carnock, L. Nome, L.
Coleraine, L. Oxfuird, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Pender, L.
Cowley, E. Rankeillour, L.
Cox, B. Reay, L.
Craigmyle, L. Renton, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Dundee, E. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Swinfen, L.
Ferrers, E. Swinton, E.
Glenarthur, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Hanson, L. Trafford, L.
Hesketh, L. Trumpington, B.
Hives, L. Ullswater, V.
Hooper, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

10.38 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington moved Amendment No. 104: Page 5, line 24, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 106. I am immediately tempted to say, whether or not regional considerations are included in the national curriculum, that many schools will continue to include them in the curriculum anyway. Schools have always been encouraged to include a regional dimension in their work.

We can all draw on our experiences of our own regions. I come from the North-East of England. It is unthinkable that our children should not be taught about coalmining, steelmaking and shipbuilding. Perhaps I should say that the present Government have done their best to close all those industries down. That refers only to industry but in fact there are few subjects that are not related to or cannot be related to a pupil's environment. Not to know about the history of one's area and its relationship to national events would be an immense gap in a child's education.

If I may call on my experience again, imagine children in the North-East not having special knowledge of St. Bede and his part in the establishment of Christianity in the North-East. There is no part of our country which does not have something special about its language and its dialect. For example, in our area we have words which are exactly the same as those used in Iceland, Denmark and other Scandinavian countries. Children should be aware of this type of link.

Does the Minister imagine for one moment that the curriculum of a rural school will, or should, be the same as that of an inner-city school? I need not give further examples except to say that some subjects lend themselves especially to the regional perspective; such as, geography and music with its folk songs and, indeed, with its musical instruments. Should Members of the Committee ever wish to hear a blast from me on the Northumbrian pipes, I should be very glad to oblige—although I should not recommend it. There are in addition of course ethnic studies and so on.

There was a worry some years ago among educationists and sociologists that the BBC would standardise our speech and culture and, to some extent, that has happened. However, I find it interesting to note that the pendulum has in fact now swung the other way. I find it pleasant that we now hear many broadcasters who have regional accents. I feel that that is the way it ought to be. It has even gone further than that. I must tell the Committee that I am not much of a television watcher but there are so-called "soaps" which are specifically regional. Indeed, I am told on the best possible authority—my wife, who watches it—that "Brookside" is Liverpudlian. I can say that "When the Boat Comes In"—I nearly said it with a Geordie accent—was a genuine Geordie saga. Similarly, "East Enders" is a London programme and of course there are others.

The Committee will recall that when independent television was set up it was developed on the basis of regional television and that makes a special contribution to our social affairs. I mention those matters because they are yet further evidence of the importance of the regional characteristics of our country. It is obvious that by omitting specific reference to them in the Bill the Government either do not understand, or they have completely underrated the richness, variety and importance of our regional life.

It may be that the Government are taking it for granted that regional considerations will be taken into account in determining the form and content of the national curriculum. However, it would be a little dangerous—especially in view of what has happened in the Bill thus far—to assume that. Once the Government decide, as they have in this measure, that there should be such a national curriculum there is no choice but to give the proposition detailed scrutiny, hence the many amendments which have been tabled to the proposals.

As the Bill stands, a centralising government could easily argue that regional considerations are not a matter for a national curriculum; that is, that it is a contradiction in terms. I have just mentioned a centralising government. There is much evidence in this Bill, and indeed in other spheres, to show that the present Government are a centralising administration. For example, look at what has happened, and is happening, to local government.

However, I choose in conclusion to be more generous on this issue and say that the Government have simply overlooked what to many of us is an important matter. I do not see that they can have any fundamental objection to the amendment and I therefore commend it to the Committee.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I should like to say a word in support of the amendment. I think that one of the defects from which the proposed national curriculum suffers is a word which came into my mind and which I subsequently looked up in the dictionary: namely, jejune. I thought that the word meant scanty or meagre and according to The Oxford Dictionary it does. In my view it fits the description of the Bill in that it describes the proposals for the curriculum rather well. According to my colleague's dictionary, it also means naive or unsophisticated. That description also fits the curriculum, which has a certain meagreness, lack of interest and lack of vision about it. It is somewhat naive to propose a list of subjects which, as my noble friend Lady Seear said on Second Reading, was the way we were taught 50 or 60 years ago. The curriculum needs enrichment and the amendment is one way in which it could be enriched.

We on these Benches believe that the regions are important and that London and the centre are not England. The amendment's aim is worthy and we support it.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Peston

I am most annoyed with the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, because I have "naive" in my notes and I am at a loss to think of another adjective now that he has also used "jejune" and "unsophisticated".

One of the benefits of the Bill, whatever others there may be, is that it has caused some of us to think a great deal about education. I must admit that I have not done so enough recently. Noble Lords opposite may have been right when they accused some of us of being complacent. By limiting the national curriculum and what we must now learn to call the other foundation subjects, the Government have caused me to think about education. I therefore associated myself with the amendment because there is—I am sorry to use the word again—something naive about "other foundation subjects".

I cannot believe that the Government want to carry out their proposals in that way. The more I think about the issue, and the points made by my noble friend Lady David on Second Reading, and later, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, the more I feel that we should not have subjects such as history, geography and so on; we should have—I am increasingly convinced this is what the Government want, but because they do not want to yield to anything we say they refuse to accept them—broad subject headings, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said.

If one had broad subject headings it would be easy, as my noble friend Lord Dormand pointed out, to introduce a local, regional element. I should have thought that it would be reasonable for a local education authority in the North-West to have a course in economic awareness instead of geography within the other foundation subjects. I am sorry to be back to my "instead of geography" point, but it seems reasonable for economic awareness to be within other foundation subjects. It is at least as compelling as geography. I cannot believe that the Government disagree with me that that should be one of the other foundation subjects. It would make much more sense if there were a different heading under which one could do geography or economic awareness, or, to take an even more peculiar subject, regional matters.

One can think of so many other topics that could be included. Given what is happening with the Channel Tunnel, I do not see why French language and society could not be another foundation subject in the county of Kent. Why could not the local education authority decide that that subject was of local interest and importance? As times changed it might cease to be one of the other foundation subjects. The list is endless.

To go back to my geography example again, I now live in Sussex and I do not see why the school children there should not be taught about the environment in general instead of geography. It is an issue that is becoming of some importance in the area.

In pressing this point upon the Government I should like to believe that just as some of us are thinking again—

Lord Trafford

So far as I know, nobody in this Committee has ever tried to defend geography. Perhaps I may suggest to the noble Lord (and not as a great defender of geography) simply that it covers many of the things he is talking about—the North-West, awareness, the environment, meteorology, and a host of other things. Geography is itself a broad subject.

Lord Peston

I am sorry that the noble Lord rose to that bait. I actually do not have quite the antipathy to geography that I sound as though I have. If I use the word "foundation" and I say to myself, "is putting in geography somehow foundation?" intuitively, it does not ring true to me. My point is precisely what the noble Lord, Lord Trafford, said. What one wants is an explicit recognition of groups. That is what one wants. I should like the Bill to say that. If the Bill said that, then I feel that it would be enormously improved.

Baroness Hooper

These amendments seek to add to the functions of the National Curriculum Council and the Curriculum Council for Wales so that they take account of regional considerations. I ought to point out first of all that the curriculum councils do not actually have the job of determining the content or the format of the national curriculum. They are essentially advisory councils, though they also have important responsibilities for conducting consultations on the Secretary of State's proposals for attainment targets, programmes of study and other matters. They may of course make recommendations on the content of the curriculum—indeed we very much hope they will offer early advice both on specific subjects such as maths and science and on the curriculum as a whole.

Later, they may wish to offer advice not only about the other subjects in the national curriculum, but also on particular aspects of the whole curriculum. But the decisions on form and content will be for the Secretary of State working within the framework laid down in the Bill; this includes the requirement to submit key orders to the scrutiny of Parliament. I say all this because we do not want there to be any confusion about where responsibility for determining the form and content properly lies.

The essence of a national curriculum is of course that it should be national. It is based on the idea that all pupils, wherever they live, should be entitled to a broad and balanced basic education and assessed according to generally recognised criteria. In exercising his responsibilities under the Bill, the Secretary of State will certainly not want to derogate from that important fundamental principle which is enshrined in the Bill itself.

Of course we recognise that there are important differences between the culture and traditions of different parts of England and indeed Wales. Thus Welsh is a foundation subject in Wales. We do not expect or intend that the programmes of study in the core and other foundation subjects—whether in England or in Wales—will be so restrictive that teachers and schools will not be able to draw on the distinctive culture, traditions, history, industry and geography of their areas in teaching those subjects. The same is true for the teaching of other subjects which may be on offer. Subjects such as careers education, for example, must reflect the nature of the opportunities offered by the area, as the noble Lord himself said, and the availability of training programmes, and so forth. Indeed, the tendency to do projects for assessment in schools, particularly in geography, must lead to better knowledge of the surrounding area of the school. We certainly have no intention to ignore the richness and variety of our country's culture.

I hope this serves to reassure the noble Lord that there is nothing in our national curriculum proposals which is inimical to the maintenance of the best of our distinctive regional traditions, and that what is taught and how it is taught will continue to depend very much on the approach of individual teachers and schools within the context of the overall national curriculum. On this basis, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Seear

We really are in a great state of confusion about the difference between core and foundation. The noble Baroness has just this minute said that Welsh is a foundation subject, but Clause 3(1) says that it is a core subject. Is it just possibly true that there is no difference between core and foundation? If that is so, we had better say so and get it put into the Bill.

Baroness Hooper

I do not wish to embark upon another semantic discussion, but in terms of Wales, the point is that Welsh is a foundation subject there and is a core subject in Welsh medium schools. Clause 2(1) refers to the core and other foundation subjects. It may be helpful to the noble Baroness to say that the distinction is that the core subjects are part of the foundation subjects; but they have a slightly different emphasis in that they are the subjects which we believe to be at the heart of the whole curriculum. They are therefore the first subjects to be introduced and they are subjects which will be compulsory throughout primary and secondary schooling. So there is some distinction, but they are part of the foundation curriculum as well as of the national curriculum.

Baroness Seear

But the noble Baroness told me not so long ago that all the foundation subjects had to be continued until pupils were 16. That is another distinction between the two which has apparently gone.

Baroness Hooper

I do not want to get into a long and involved discussion at this point. Foundation subjects are to be continued until 16, but, for example, we are not expecting a foreign language to be started at the beginning of primary school.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

If I heard the noble Baroness aright, she told us that the orders that are made, such as those establishing the council and the national curriculum, are subject to the authority of Parliament. Can she tell me where that is said in the Bill? It is a large Bill and I may quite easily have overlooked this; it may be tucked away somewhere. I think there are in Clauses 13 and 14 descriptions of certain procedures which the Secretary of State has to go through before he makes orders. But nothing is said about when the orders are to be presented to Parliament or whether they are to be subject to the affirmative or negative procedure in Parliament. I think we ought to know this. It may be my own fault and that I have failed to spot something in the Bill, but I have looked for it and have not found it.

Baroness Hooper

Clause 4 deals with the duty to establish the national curriculum by order. That refers to the way in which the Secretary of State should make the orders. But for further clarification I believe I can refer the noble Lord to Clause 192(1).

Lord Stewart of Fulham

I was afraid it might be something like that. Clause 192(1) is right at the end, on page 169, where it says: Any power of the Secretary of State to make orders or regulations under this Act … shall be exercised by statutory instrument. That gets us that far. What has happened to the statutory instrument? No order shall be made … unless a draft of the instrument containing the order has been laid before …". I see. It appears to be a matter for affirmative procedure. I am glad to establish this because I think we are going to have fun when the programmes or guidelines or whatever for history and geography and so on all come before this House to be debated. It is an example of the way nature lags behind art. Some time ago, the humourist Stephen Leacock wrote what purported to be an account of a debate in this House on education. Noble Lords were discussing a clause which said that the angles at the base of an isosceles triangle are equal. They were considering amendments that could be made to it, such as, for example, that it should not apply in schools where two-thirds of the parents had conscientious objections to the use of the isosceles triangle.

I am delighted that the noble Baroness has been able to reassure me that Parliament is supreme on this matter. But I wonder whether the Government have really considered how much they have bitten off. We shall have most interesting debates when we come to look at what the Secretary of State produces.

Lord Peston

I wonder whether we may have misunderstood this. My reading of Clause 192 is that there are excepted provisions. Only some under subsection (3) seem to be made by positive resolution. Large numbers seem to be subject to annulment, which I think means negative resolution. Never having been in the other place, I have no idea what the difference is, but the procedures are certainly not the same.

I wonder also whether it is true, to follow what the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, that we shall have a chance to debate these matters. Can the Minister tell us whether, if we are of that mind, we shall be able to debate all the orders or virtually none of them?

Baroness Hooper

I confirm that the orders under Clause 4(2)(a) and (b), which are not listed in Clause 192(3), will be subject to the negative procedure. I regret that I am not able to go further at this point. If the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, intends to participate in the orders as they fall under parliamentary scrutiny, I can assure him that they will not all come through at once and the "fun" will extend over a period of years.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I found the Minister's reply to the amendment somewhat peculiar. The first part seemed to indicate that a regional dimension is not being explicitly named here. The Minister called in aid something I said in moving the amendment, that if it is a national curriculum there cannot be a regional consideration. The latter part of the reply seemed to suggest that there can be such a dimension, but that it is not necessary to spell it out. I note that the Minister is nodding, which presumably means that my interpretation of her reply is correct. Whether the Government say it or not, therefore, as I said in moving the amendment there will be a regional dimension to teaching in schools, and long may it be so. It is such things that make teaching come alive. It is related to the immediate experience of children. At some stage I hope that we can have a clear statement by the Minister that this is a desirable and effective part of education.

In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 105 and 106 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The Curriculum and Assessment Councils]:

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 107: Page 176, leave out line 10.

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 107, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 108, which goes with it, and to Amendments Nos. 244 and 245 under Schedule 5, which apply to membership of a higher education corporation. Amendments Nos. 107 and 108 apply to membership of the curriculum and assessment councils.

As paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 now stands, the Secretary of State may remove a member from office if he is satisfied that he, (b) is incapacitated by physical or mental illness". I hope that that is an oversight. As the Association of Disabled Professionals has pointed out to me, it is possible, as the paragraph now reads, that a physical illness leading to incapacity such as arthritis, polyneuritis, polio or multiple sclerosis could be deemed to be a reason for removing a member from office. It does not define what "incapacitated" means or what a member may be incapable of doing.

The paragraph could lead to slightly dotty situations. If one imagines—heaven help the council if it came about!—that I and my noble colleagues, Lady Masham and Lord Ingleby, were all on a council, the noble Baroness and I would be quite safe, having become disabled through accident. However, the noble Viscount might risk being removed from the council, as he has had polio.

I should have thought that there were ample safeguards in head (c) under which a member can be removed if he is unable or unfit to discharge the functions of a member. I hope that the Minister will accept this small but quite important amendment, or at least undertake to bring an amendment forward at Repot stage which meets the point. I cannot believe that it is the intention of the Government to allow removal of a member on the grounds of physical incapacity. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

I hate to stab my noble friend in the back from this side of the Committee. Having sat so often where she now is and generally getting stabbed in the back from this side on education Bills, I sympathise with her. On the other hand, I strongly support the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, in her amendment. Obviously I feel very involved because of the position of my noble kinswoman.

I think that paragraph 8(1)(b) is most insulting. I should have thought that the wording, unable or unfit to discharge the functions of a member", could not be objected to. I hope that my noble friend will accept the amendment.

Lord Carter

I am pleased to support the amendment. The definition of "physical or mental illness" is unclear. On what basis will the Secretary of State decide that a member is incapacitated? That phraseology is all part of the conditioning of society towards disablement, to which I referred earlier.

The Secretary of State is already given sweeping powers under paragraph 7(1)(c) as regards a member who is unable or unfit to discharge the functions of a member. Suppose that the member to be removed feels that his condition does not preclude him from carrying out the duties of a council member? Is he able to make out a case for his retention? If the reason for the decision of the Secretary of Stare is mental illness, presumably he is not in a fit state to make out such a case. That would appear to be a Catch-22 situation.

That sort of thinking is all a part of the conditioning of society in its attitude towards disablement. There are many disabled people who find such terminology to be what I can only describe as carelessly offensive. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.

Baroness Hooper

I am sorry that the heading has given offence. I reassure my noble friend Lord Swinton that I do not feel that my back is bleeding. I understand very well the reason for the noble Baroness's suspicion of the power in Schedules 1 and 5. That power is not intended to be used to discriminate against people who may become disabled in some way while holding office. Only if the disability were so severe that they were plainly unable to continue would the Secretary of State seek to remove them, and the schedules provide for that. I agree that the power is unnecessary and we accept the amendment. We shall also be prepared to accept an amendment removing the identical provision in Schedule 6.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I need only say that I am delighted with that reply and I thank the noble Baroness.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 108: Page 176, line 11, leave out ("otherwise").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 109: After Schedule 1 insert the following new schedule—


The following subjects may be taught in combination with the core and foundation subjects specified in section 3(1) and 3(2), or with any subject specified in an Order made by the Secretary of State under section 3(4)

The noble Baroness said: I referred to this schedule on Tuesday when speaking to the first amendment. This is not meant entirely to be a joke, it does have a serious side to it. For one thing I think that it illustrates the old-fashioned and unsophisticated nature of the Bill's list of foundation subjects. As my noble friend Lord Peston said the other day, if we have to have foundation subjects, could they not be grouped as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, suggested in her speech at Second Reading? I should have thought that many of these subjects could well be grouped to form one block of foundation subjects. I put that forward as a suggestion.

I think that the list shows the wealth of possibilities for children being taught in schools, children of all abilities whether academic or non-academic. I think it is a list to be proud of and which the education service should be proud of. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

May I ask the noble Baroness why she has left out taxonomy?

Baroness David

I cannot imagine! I am sure that my husband would be very cross indeed if he knew that I had.

Lord Hylton

The list does seem to be slightly eclectic. If modern Greek is to be included why not Portuguese or Dutch-cum-Flemish, which, after all, are EC languages? If Russian is to be included, why not Chinese?

Baroness David

I would accept all those additions.

Baroness Hooper

I have nothing to add to the comments which I made in the previous debate.

Baroness David

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

11.15 p.m.

Clause 9 [Development work and experiments]:

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 110: Page 7, line 18, after ("out") insert ("or the continuance of an established curriculum speciality").

The noble Lord said: In a previous debate introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, the question of the international baccalaureate was referred to. The amendment is directed particularly to that system. It would introduce into the second line of Clause 9 after the words: enabling development work or experiments to be carried out", the additional words: or the continuance of an established curriculum speciality".

That may seem to be slightly esoteric, but I have discovered that there are not only nine independent schools in the country which offer the international baccalaureate but also eight schools in the maintained sector. One of the effects of their method is that they proceed a long way down the line which I think that the Government themselves intended to take in introducing AS-levels, which have not I think had the success that the Government had hoped for. They take the concept of AS and A-levels a good deal further than is current in most schools at the moment.

I think that it will be very clear to the Committee that schools teaching a broad range of subjects under the international baccalaureate system, including a very strong emphasis on languages, are operating very much within the spirit of all the recent exhortations from the Government to prepare ourselves for the full integration of the European market in 1992. So on those grounds one would have thought that this small but not inconsiderable sector is of some interest and worthy of support. I hope that the noble Baroness, whom I know to be a linguist, will be sympathetic to that aspect of it.

As I said, there are eight schools in the maintained sector which are affected. I shall refer in particular to one at Ingatestone. The school fears that neither under Clause 9 nor Clause 10 would its current curriculum be possible. In that school in particular there is a very strong European influence. In fact the noble Baroness said earlier that there was nothing to prevent alternative examinations being adopted by any school, which of course is true; but does not in fact address the main problem.

In the case of the school to which I am referring, which is the Ingatestone Anglo-European School, the average GCSE pupil will be taking 1.5 modern language subjects, which seems to be very much in accordance with the direction that the Government want to take under the Bill. Personally, I have very considerable reservations about the wisdom of allowing the Secretary of State to prescribe a foreign language for all pupils up to the age of 16. As I said in the Second Reading debate, I think that that may well be counterproductive for those who do not show any such aptitude, and at least at 14 in many cases it may be advisable to switch to something else. But I think the general thrust in the direction of languages is important.

The headmaster of the school to which I have referred writes: It would be difficult to sustain this rate [of participation in modern languages] under the National Curriculum proposals, as the Second Language would have to compete with a very large number of other optional subjects". He also brings to my attention the fact that the school offers a special GCSE subject in European studies in which all the 180 pupils in that particular school are included. The letter continues: Unless this subject can be substituted for the History/Geography "Foundation" slot, it too would be condemned to fight for existence in the much constrained time allowed for options".

The point made by the noble Baroness about there being nothing technically against the use of this examination system does not take into account the constraints that would be imposed on those schools by the national curriculum when it comes into effect. I have only referred to one school but there are seven others, and under this Bill some if not all of them would be forced to abandon this approach. They are not proctected under Clause 9 nor, so far as we can see, under Clause 10.

The amendment that I put to the Committee is entirely a probing amendment at this stage. I hope to hear the Minister explain the attitude of the Government to these schools, how they think that they will survive under the new regime and, if they envisage that survival may be difficult, whether they will offer them a helping hand. I think that is all I need say at the moment. I shall be grateful to the noble Baroness if she will tell me the Government's view on this matter. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

Clause 9 of this Bill has perhaps been one of the most controversial clauses because I believe that this has been one of the least understood elements of our national curriculum provisions. Clause 9 does not regulate the scope for all curriculum development and experimentation in future. The great majority of this work will continue, as now, in schools and local education authorities, in colleges and university departments of education, to look at alternative ways of meeting commonly agreed, broad curriculum objectives. The only difference will be that increasingly in future these commonly agreed broad objectives will take the shape of national curriculum attainment targets.

The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, wishes to add the notion of using Clause 9 to allow for the continuation of an established curriculum speciality. We believe that any acceptable curriculum speciality will be able to coexist quite happily with the national curriculum provisions using the very great freedom we have already discussed within and outside the national curriculum.

The example of the school which follows the international baccalaureate course—to which reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock—is known to us, and we and HMI believe that that school will have no problem in meeting national curriculum requirements while maintaining its distinctive ethos.

Schools should be able to develop new specialisms at any time. The reference to established specialisms seems to suppose that we stop the clock on the passage of the Bill. What we have in mind is much less restrictive than that. That is why we believe that this amendment is simply not needed. I therefore trust that the noble Lord, as he has indicated, will withdraw this amendment.

Lord Kilmarnock

I undertake to withdraw the amendment. I have listened to the noble Baroness with interest. She talked about the very great freedoms allowed within the national curricular framework. However, many believe that these freedoms will not exist. Alternatively, we believe that they might exist if some of the amendments that we have been proposing at an earlier stage—such as allowing a menu of foundation subjects, or matters of that nature—had been accepted. These would have allowed a great deal more room for this type of individual development.

This is only one instance, but this is one of the main disadvantages of the Bill. It does not provide either for any new or original types of school.

My noble friend Lord Young of Dartington will later be putting forward some proposals to the Committee which will endeavour to take us in that direction. I must therefore tell the noble Baroness that I am not entirely satisfied with what she has said. I do not think that people who are operating those schools will be satisfied either.

However, as I said, I simply wished to have her opinion at this stage. I am grateful to her for having given it to me. For the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 111: Page 7, line 18, after ("out") insert ("or in exceptional circumstances relating to a rapid change in the intake of a school or other unforeseen situations").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has the support of the Association of County Councils and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities.

Clause 9 deals specifically not only with what can be done but provides certain circumstances when the restrictions of the national curriculum shall not apply; and when modifications may be made.

I wish the Minister and her colleagues to consider other circumstances in which the obligation to follow the national curriculum may be lifted. I wish to cite circumstances which make it impossible to deliver the full national curriculum. One can envisage changes in the local community. For instance, there may be the building of a new housing estate; or the arrival of a large number of refugees; or a disaster in a local school resulting in closure of that school: some changes in which there is a dramatic alteration in the school population.

I give the Minister a specific example which would apply in current circumstances. This relates to a church primary school in Paddington. Several inner London boroughs, notably Tower Hamlets, in order to comply with the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, have provided bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families outside their boroughs. A large number of those families have been boarded in Paddington. The understanding of English of most of those children of many of those families of Bangladeshi origin (whose mother tongue is not English) is poor. The roll of that primary school was increased from about 100 to 200 in the space of a few months. Because nearly all of the children have poor understanding of English, it was necessary for the school to make a radical alteration in the curriculum for these children.

I am asking the Minister to understand that we are trying to help her and her colleagues, once the Bill becomes an Act. We are hoping that the Bill will take account of circumstances of the kind that I have outlined. They are real problems, based on current practice. It will not change. The circumstances I have outlined are genuine. If the Minister understands that this is likely to happen, the amendment will enable her and her colleagues to act within the spirit of the Act, rather than to find that unfortunately the Act is prescriptive and will leave many problems on the shoulders of the teaching profession. I beg to move.

Baroness Hooper

Like the previous amendment, the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Graham, would also extend the scope of the Secretary of State's powers to cover disapplication of the national curriculum in exceptional circumstances. The national curriculum provisions of the Bill would not be legally enforceable upon a school which was unable, because of unforeseen circumstances, to meet its obligations, and for this reason the amendment is also an unnecessary addition to the clause.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I appreciate that the Minister's case is that the Bill already provides for the kind of circumstance that I have outlined. The Minister's words will be on the record, and I very much hope that they will not need to be quoted against her in the future. In the light of her explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 112: Page 7, line 36, at end insert— ("( ) When an application is made to the Secretary of State under this section, he shall not unreasonably refuse such an application.").

The noble Lord said: This relates to the franchise, as one might call it, given by the Secretary of State to schools which want to experiment with new curricula and to be exempted from the demands of the national curriculum fo a certain length of time. It is extremely important that pioneering should continue to take place in education. It is the lifeblood of the profession, of the business of education. A great deal is happening in the country at the moment: there are bad things too, no doubt, but there are also good facets. I have visited schools where very remarkable things are occurring and I am sure some Members of the Committee have too. These are happening within the maintained sector. I gave the impression on Tuesday that I thought that was true only of the independent sector, but by no means. I am thinking particularly of what is happening in Sheffield at the moment. I have not, unfortunately, been there, but I have visited a new school in Swindon which was very impressive indeed.

To give the Committee an idea of the feeling of the school, I had half an hour or so with the headmaster at the beginning of my visit and then I did not see him again. I was handed over to the children. I went to classes with them and I was taken to meals with them. They took me to meet the rest of the staff and I never saw the head teacher again. I call that very impressive. It is likely to be the good schools that want the special exemption referred to in the clause. It is likely to be good teachers who are at those schools. Good teachers are encouraged by the opportunity to experiment and pioneer. Unfortunately, much of the Bill gives the impression that it will stultify, ossify and freeze for ever a certain situation at a certain moment.

We have had and shall have more assurances from the Minister that that is not so, but unfortunately it is the overall impression given by the Bill. Even this clause appears to be rather grudging. A school which wishes to experiment may be let off for a time but it must return. That is the impression which is gained, and I cannot say how the Bill can be reworded to remove that impression. On the grounds I have explained, I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

Amendment No. 121 requires the Secretary of State to act reasonably, but that is already a general principle underlying all the provisions of the Bill and of all legislation. If any Secretary of State were to exercise his powers unreasonably, he would be open to legal challenge. If we were to write in the requirement to be reasonable in all legislation where the Secretary of State is allowed to exercise some degree of discretion, all our Acts would be littered with such provisions. But happily this is not necessary in general, nor in the specific circumstances of the Bill.

Amendment No. 113 would require the Secretary of State to have regard to the need to develop and improve the national curriculum. But the Secretary of State already has the duty under Clause 4 to maintain as well as establish the national curriculum, and he must have regard to that duty and his Clause 1 duties in carrying out any of his further powers under Chapter I, including the power to allow major curriculum development work.

As I have said, the National Curriculum Council will also be advising the Secretary of State on his role in this respect, and the council is under a separate duty under Clause 7 to keep all aspects of the curriculum under review and advise as it sees fit. So we are forced to conclude that Amendment No. 113 would be another declaratory addition to the Bill, and that its intentions are already well met by existing provisions. I ask Members of the Committee to reject these amendments.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I understood the Minister to imply that all the actions of a Secretary of State would always be reasonable. I find that statement questionable. The actions of this particular Secretary of State may be reasonable, but what may we have in the future? If there is a refusal, how can one appeal on what are considered to be unreasonable grounds?

Baroness Hooper

I said that the general principle underlying all legislation, as well as the provisions of the Bill, is that the Secretary of State in the circumstances should act reasonably.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

I do not find that answer very reassuring or satisfying. However, at the moment I can make no further suggestions. I should like to reword the amendment and bring back the idea on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 113 not moved.]

Lord Peston had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 114: Page 7, line 43, at end insert— ("( ) In every local education authority there shall be set up a committee to be known as the Ethics Committee the role of which is to monitor all development work and experiments.").

The noble Lord said: I am strongly in favour of development work and experiments but I am concerned about the rights of parents and children in such schools. I was interested to hear what was said earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. However, having listened to much of the discussion I believe that I need to think about the matter a great deal more. I shall return to the subject and I shall not move the amendment tonight.

[Amendment No. 114 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness David

This clause has come in for a great deal of criticism from many sides. The noble Baroness has just said that it was the least understood clause. If things are to be put into a Bill that are so misunderstood by a great many people who are well acquainted with the world of education, I believe that is a great pity and that it has been very badly drafted. As the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, said, the impression is that it has a dampening effect. There is a feeling that things are not going to be allowed, that experiments will be frowned on.

The wording states: the Secretary of State may direct as respects a particular maintained school", and later: A direction shall not be given". I do not care very much for the word "direction".

The fact is that good practice in education is very often started in one authority or another and has then been taken up all over the place. I believe that that initiative would not be taken if every time the local authority or school had to ask permission to do something which was not done every day of the year. Therefore, that is a great shame.

This was the clause which Miss Sheila Browne, who until quite recently was the senior chief HMI, said shocked her most. I believe that it should be taken back and reworded. Perhaps I can ask the Minister whether Her Majesty's Inspectorate is presently in favour of it.

Lord Young of Dartington

Perhaps I can support the noble Baroness, Lady David. I was convinced by the welcome words of the Minister about freedom that the clause should be done away with completely. I am sure we should be better without it, at least as presently drafted. The great pioneers of British education would certainly not have asked for permission to experiment or develop, and their counterparts at this or any other time should not have to ask for permission to experiment or develop the work which they do either in or out of school. If people have to ask permission, then automatically their freedom is limited. One only needs to provide for permission to experiment if the permission might be withheld and it should not be withheld.

This has been an old debate in the Soviet Union. One has to ask for permission from the Soviet Academy of Sciences before one can undertake certain kinds of research. Therefore, research is limited. Surely all teachers should be undertaking development work and experiment almost continuously and always be ready to do so in all kinds of matters whether they be methods of reading, teaching mathematics, and so on. Unless that is so, their teaching will not come alive and stay alive. If they are only able to do that with the permission of the Secretary of State, we can say goodbye to any real growth in the development of education.

In my submission, it is much better for it to be implied that development work is always to be encouraged and not restricted to that for which one is given permission. I hope the Minister is prepared to consider either dropping the whole clause (which I believe would be the best solution) or coming back with a new presentation and formulation of what is intended.

Lord Hylton

We have earlier discussed in this clause whether or not the actions of the Secretary of State will always be reasonable. If one looks at the Department of Environment, some criticism has been made of the Secretary of State with regard to the people he has appointed to the Urban Development Corporation.

My main concern about this clause is this question of experiment. In an earlier amendment I tried to draw a clearer definition of the word "experiment" from the Minister. If I understood her rightly, she was implying that these experiments in this clause would concern fuller development of the curriculum. If I am wrong, I am sure she will correct me. It is by no means certain that all experiments will be successful. I want to guard against unsuccessful experiments actually prejudicing the personal and educational development of the children subjected to them. Can we be told what kind of safeguards there will be to minimise those risks?

Baroness Blackstone

One of the great strengths of the British education system has been the opportunities available for grass root experiment and innovation for local education authorities to develop various new kinds of approach, for heads to try out new ways of organising the school day and for classroom teachers to develop new teaching methods and new curricula. Are we to abandon all this in one fell swoop as a result of this Bill? If permission to experiment has to be sought from the Secretary of State, how is he going to cope with the many approaches that he is likely to receive? Clearly he will be unable to decide all of them for himself because he is a very busy man.

How will his civil servants know how to respond to the approaches that the DES is likely to receive? Few of the senior officials have direct experience of teaching in schools. In that sense they are not qualified to provide advice to the Secretary of State on many of the innovatory experiments that go on at present. Will it be done by Her Majesty's Inspectorate, and are they to do it on top of all the other new work that they have to cope with in relation to the national curriculum and national assessment? If so, presumably the DES will find it rather difficult to respond rapidly and quickly. Its already dented reputation in terms of a quick response to issues of this kind will become even more dented.

I give a recent example in relation to the GCSE. If the department takes as long to deal with the issues raised by this set of questions people who want to mount experiments will, in the end, simply give up. The Nuffield Foundation project on graded assessment in maths, which also involves a number of LEAs, is seeking a very minor exemption from the GCSE national criteria, yet the request has been with the DES for over six months.

There can be no other profession denied the right to innovate and try out new methods and approaches without seeking permission in the way that the teaching profession is being denied the right in this Bill. I support my noble friend Lady David on this Question.

Baroness Hooper

The Government have made clear that they do not wish the national curriculum to be a static one, set in stone. It must be capable of responding to changes of need and circumstance, and to the development of knowledge over time. That is why Clause 4 requires the Secretary of State to revise the national curriculum when he judges it expedient to do so and why Clause 7 requires the NCC to keep the school curriculum under review.

To enable all this to happen it is important to have the flexibility offered by Clause 9. It ensures that development work is not halted because of the national curriculum. We need to allow experiment and development so that the national curriculum can be revised as new needs arise.

Clause 9 therefore allows for some or all of the national curriculum requirements to be waived for a specified period to allow development work to take place. We expect much of this work will be carried out under the auspices of the NCC or CCW, but the clause specifically allows for individual LEAs and the governors of maintained schools, with the agreement of the LEA or the governors of voluntary-aided and grant-maintained schools, to apply on their own for an exemption, so that small local projects can continue to play a valuable part.

Within the framework of attainment targets and programmes of study there will be scope for schools to adopt new approaches and try out experimental approaches without the school needing permission from the Secretary of State. I think that answers the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. The clause would apply where the suggested experiment or project was so major it would involve exceptions being made to the national curriculum which would require the lifting of statutory requirements.

In response to the specific point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady David, I feel sure that HMI would have let us know if it objected, and I am not aware that it has so objected.

Lord Joseph

Not having heard this debate and therefore not having heard any previous intervention by my noble friend the Minister, I am reassured to learn that the Secretary of State will make exemptions for what I hope will be a considerable proportion of the experimental or development works proposed. If I have missed some previous explanation by the Minister of this matter, I apologise. If she has not told the Committee whether the exemptions contemplated would account for quite a proportion of the workload expected, I for one would be grateful if she could add a word to what she has said.

Baroness David

I think it would be nice if the noble Baroness would confirm what she has said.

Baroness Hooper

Within the framework of attainment targets and programmes of study there will be scope for experimentation without having to make specific application under this clause. Therefore, I do not anticipate that there will be an enormous increase in the workload in this respect.

Baroness David

It seems to me that there will still have to be a great many applications, and that will take a great deal of time. We well know, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, how long things sit at the DES before there are answers. I think there should be much more freedom and I therefore have to press the Committee to vote against the clause.

11.48 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 38; Not-Contents, 22.

Arran, E. Hesketh, L. [Teller.]
Beaverbrook, L. Hives, L.
Belstead, L. Hooper, B.
Blatch, B. Joseph, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Kimball, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Long, V.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Carnock, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Mountgarret, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Norrie, L.
Cowley, E. Oxfuird, V.
Cox, B. Reay, L.
Craigmyle, L. Selborne, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Skelmersdale, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Swinfen, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Swinton, E.
Faithfull, B. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Ferrers, E. Trafford, L.
Glenarthur, L. Trumpington, B.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Peston, L.
Blackstone, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L [Teller.]
Carter, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Rea, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
David, B. Russell, E.
Dormand of Easington, L. Serota, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Stewart of Fulham, L.
White, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
McNair, L. Young of Dartington, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 9 agreed to accordingly.

Clause 10 [Exceptions for categories of pupils]:

11.55 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

If Amendment No. 115 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 116.

Baroness Hooper moved Amendment No. 115: Page 7, line 46, leave out from ("apply") to end of line 47 and insert ("; or (b) shall apply with such modifications as may be so specified; in such cases or circumstances as may be so specified.").

The noble Baroness said: We spoke to this amendment and to Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 with Amendment No. 4. I beg to move.

Baroness Faithfull

I wonder whether I may ask for an explanation about this. As I remember it, we did not accept this amendment at the last stage. If I am right, we had a debate on all the amendments and my noble friend the Minister spoke on them but we did not, however, agree to each of them individually.

Baroness Hooper

I think that is what we are doing now. I have moved Amendment No. 115 and I hope that we shall agree to it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 not moved.]

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Denham

I think that all Members of the Committee will agree that we have probably gone as far as we usefully can tonight, and therefore I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.