HL Deb 28 November 1989 vol 513 cc305-7

2.43 p.m.

Baroness Platt of Writtle asked Her Majesty's Government:

How far links have developed in the last three years between industry and primary schools.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, links between industry and primary schools have developed very well over the past three years. Many more primary schools than ever before have such links.

Baroness Platt of Writtle

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging reply. I believe that foundations laid at primary school level lead to attitudes which can be lifelong. Are the Government aware of the immense contributions made by voluntary organisations such as the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce through Industry Year, leading on to Industry Matters, which have led to this very satisfactory increase in links? Will the Government continue to support such links, particularly the Foundation for Education and Business Partnerships, in the future so that boys and girls will see careers in industry as attractive and will therefore help fill the areas in which there are skill shortages and improve our country's prosperity?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the Government are well aware of the valuable contributions made by the organisations to which she referred. We provide active support for their work and many such organisations receive funding from government departments. I am also well aware that my noble friend has been closely involved with Industry Matters. I understand that the excellent work in encouraging local partnerships between industry and education will be carried on by the new Foundation for Education and Business Partnerships which itself will receive government support.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the most effective ways of developing links between primary schools, or indeed any schools, and industry is to have teachers spending either a long or a short time in industry itself? How can this be done when there is such a desperate shortage of teachers in primary schools?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, but the proposals for the technology curriculum aim to ensure that primary school children learn about the buying and selling of goods and services. Government departments, in addition to the DES, also contribute to work in this area. The DTI, for example, supports 130 teacher placement officers across the country to help arrange for teachers to spend some time in industry.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the Compact scheme which operates between industry and certain schools in Cleveland? Is that scheme proving a success and is it spreading to other areas?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am aware of that scheme, and it is proving to be a success. I shall look into it and write to my noble friend as regards whether it is spreading to other areas.

Baroness David

My Lords, is industry contributing to primary schools by giving them computers and other items of equipment which would help with information technology? Firms very often have spare items of equipment which are perhaps not quite modern enough for them but which would certainly be useful for primary schools.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am not certain about that, but I shall make inquiries and write to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, will industry assist those crumbling schools which governors are now having to maintain although they find that they do not have the money to do so?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, it is certainly in the interests of industry to assist as much as it can. It is probably the schools which have been more prominent in coming forward with proposals than industry. It is in the interests of industry that we should have a properly educated population which is aware of the industrial and economic dimensions of life in the modern world.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, it is all very well for the noble Viscount to say that it is in the interests of industry to have a good education system—that is of course true—but is he really saying that this is the financial responsibility of industry? Surely it is the financial responsibility of government and local authorities and not of industry.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I did not say it was the responsibility of industry to find the money. It is the responsibility of the Government. I have already said that we are funding the money for this purpose.

Lord Boardman

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that these links are not confined to industry but extend to commerce and particularly to organisations such as banks, which have made considerable provision by way of equipment and other items to try to educate the young in economics and the business world?

Viscount Davidson

Yes, my Lords. I agree entirely with my noble friend.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I believe that it was my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff who emphasised some years ago the importance of links between industry and all schools. I believe he had it in mind that the links should be two-way. Does the Minister have any information on industry, notably management in industry, taking an interest particularly in our primary schools? The biggest interest firms could take in our state schools would be for senior management to send their own children to them.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I cannot comment on the last point. The noble Lord has obviously read the report entitled Evaluation of Primary School/Industry Links, 1986 to 1989 in which the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, was mentioned. The recent evaluation of primary schools' links with industry indicated that the number of schools with links had doubled in the past three years. The Government are continuing to encourage links between education and business at every level because we believe that industrial and economic awareness is a vital cross-curriculum theme in the national curriculum.