HL Deb 04 April 1990 vol 517 cc1472-96

7.27 p.m.

Lord Renwick rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what measures they plan to take during International Literacy Year in order to reduce the number of children who leave school without adequate skills in reading, writing or spelling.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government to answer my Unstarred Question on the Order Paper, I am glad of the opportunity to introduce the first debate in your Lordships' House on literacy in this International Literacy Year of 1990. I am also grateful to other noble Lords who have put their names down to speak. I look forward to hearing their contributions on what I believe to be a very important subject. I shall of course listen with great interest to what my noble friend the Minister has to say. I realise that it would perhaps be unrealistic to expect too much too quickly, but at least I hope that we can lay the foundations of a continuing dialogue between us.

The British Dyslexia Association, of which I am a former chairman and of which I have the honour to be a vice-president, has recently completed a dyslexia awareness campaign. The association, which is not an enormous voluntary organisation, has attracted sponsorship in cash and in kind for this campaign amounting in total to about £ 250, 000. That is likely to be the largest event of International Literacy Year. An Early Day Motion in another place congratulating the British Dyslexia Association on its campaign attracted over 160 signatures from Members of Parliament. At the same time we have been preparing a government brief putting the economic case, among others, for intervention at an early age, as I shall mention later in my speech.

I hope that some noble Lords will have seen or heard evidence of our campaign on television, on the radio or in newspaper reports. In the course of three weeks the British Dyslexia Association received about 8, 000 inquiries. It is estimated that its local associations have received another 8, Q00 inquiries. Yet were the association to mount a second campaign tomorrow it would, I am sure, receive another 16, 000 inquiries. Moreover, I think that a further campaign would bring forth yet another 16, 000. There is an enormous unsatisfied demand from parents of children with literacy problems, and also from adults, for information, advice and help addressed to their needs.

The evidence of successive demographic studies shows that 15 per cent. of children leave our schools without adequate skills in reading, writing and spelling. That is an appalling waste of talent. The tragedy for some is well illustrated by a letter received by the BDA during its campaign. Writing about her son, who after years of struggle was recognised as a dyslexic late in his school career, a mother said that he had eventually achieved an engineering degree. "Sadly", she wrote, "the damage to his self-esteem was such that at the age of 22 he committed suicide". To have literacy problems can mean years of frustration, struggle and unrecognised potential. It is a bar to the recognition of ability, to the fulfilment of ambition and to satisfactory careers.

According to the Department of Employment, 25 per cent. of unemployed people have literacy problems. Our prisons and mental hospitals contain high proportions of such people. Research in the United States has shown that among the delinquent population a significantly increased proportion of young people are dyslexic and have not had adequate education.

Important advances in this area have been made during the past decade. For that we should give full credit to Her Majesty's Government. The Education Act 1981 imposed important duties both on school governors and on local education authorities. Governors of schools must use their best endeavours to ensure that children with special educational needs receive the education that they require. Local education authorities must keep their provision for special educational needs under review. They must have systems for identifying children with special needs. They must assess children for whom they should determine the provision and must provide what those children require. The Education Reform Act introduced further safeguards. Attainment targets are to be introduced for all children. Children are to be assessed and reported upon at the ages of seven, 11, 14 and 16, and of course the national curriculum includes provision for literacy.

Noble Lords will see that the legislative foundation is in place. All parties to the educational partnership— parents, schools, local education authorities and the Government— have the opportunity to build a system which will ensure literacy for all. However, it must be recognised that we have only the foundation. It will not be enough for Ministers to say that we have a national curriculum if, as I shall show, that curriculum is inadequate. It will not be enough for Ministers to say that there will be regular reports to parents if what is to be reported is continued failure. It is no answer to say that resources are inadequate if a change in priorities could produce substantial long-term savings.

We are not asking for a complex series of measures. Rather we ask for some simple steps. First, we ask for a simple declaration that it shall be the Government's policy to reduce the proportion of children leaving school without adequate skills in reading, writing or spelling to under 1 per cent. That step is purely declaratory and would cost nothing.

Secondly, we ask for the encouragement of a programme of assessment of literacy at the age of six, supplemented by the assessment at the age of seven within the national curriculum. Research suggests that children who have not acquired literacy by the age of eight are likely to have grave difficulties in doing so thereafter. One education authority— Mid-Glamorgan— has a programme for assessing all those children at the age of six, with beneficial results.

Thirdly, we are calling for a programme of additional teaching for those children who, at the age of six, can be shown to be falling behind in the acquisition of literacy. We have a topsy-turvey system in which we have the smallest classes, we spend the most money on the oldest and most able children, sixth-formers, who are most able to take responsibility for their own learning. We spend the least money on the infant age groups where learning has its foundations. To gauge the possibilities we need only to look at New Zealand. Their reading recovery programme involves the careful training of reading recovery teachers who are placed in each of their infant schools. Children who fall behind in reading receive daily periods of one-to-one teaching in a programme which lasts for no more than one term. The numbers of children leaving primary schools unable to read have been reduced to under 1 per cent.

One can look at Project Read in the United States where specialist support teachers have been trained in multi-sensory teaching methods and spend time in each of the elementary schools— for example in the Bloomington school district of Minnesota. All children who need additional help with literacy receive it. The result is again a reduction in the number of children leaving their schools with literacy problems to under 1 per cent.

Fourthly, we ask that some of the Government's resources for special projects be allocated to literacy. Educational support grant money should be used to support projects such as those I have described. The training of teachers skilled in the teaching of literacy should be a priority in the local education authorities training grant scheme. This is an area in which the Dyslexia Educational Trust— of which I am chairman— has been extremely active. It applies a good proportion of its resources each year to bursary funds for teachers to take the British Dyslexia Association diploma courses and other courses to help teachers identify and then give remedial help to dyslexics.

Fifthly, I ask my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to look again at that part of the national curriculum dealing with literacy. I understand that the national curriculum is more concerned with what children should learn than with how they should learn it. However, if the stations on the track are in the wrong place, the track is likely to follow the wrong route. There is a new fashion in the teaching of reading which holds that children learn to read by reading; there is no need to teach them how to interpret the marks on paper represented by written words in terms of the sounds words make. There is not a single respectable piece of research to support this view. Yet that seems to be the chosen approach by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.

I am not appealing for a blind return to traditional phonics. I suggest that there is massive evidence that an integrated approach to reading, writing and spelling, incorporating the careful teaching of what are know as decoding skills, using multi-sensory methods, will work for all children. The methods implied by the national curriculum will only work for those children who in any case will find it easy to learn to read. A survey in Croydon has shown that the schools which have adopted these new methods are producing worse results than schools which have adopted a broader approach including more traditional techniques.

It is not a question of whether we can afford to do this. We cannot afford not to do it. While there will be some short-run costs, there will be significant direct savings and massive indirect economic gains. The direct savings will arise from reduced costs to our school system of special education for those who need not have failed in the first place. They will arise also from the reduced costs of dealing with vandalism and delinquency.

I ask noble Lords to consider the massive cost of the loss of productive potential of those who leave school with inadequate literacy. Six million adults in the United Kingdom have inadequate literacy. The loss in productive potential arises both from unemployment and from the under-employment of people with literacy problems, able people who are unable to use their talents to the full. If inadequate literacy reduces the earning potential of each of these men and women by no more than £ 1, 000 a year on average, the annual loss to the economy as a whole will be £ 6 billion. If we knew the true cost, it would surely be more than that.

Add to these sums the cost of specialist literacy teaching in our training schemes, the cost of adult literacy provision and the cost of institutional care for those who would not have required such care had they had an effective education, we can see that the sums are very large indeed. Lack of literacy is both a cost to the nation and a personal tragedy. It is a tragedy of frustration, of knowing that you cannot do what your fellows find easy. It is a tragedy for the child to be called thick, stupid or lazy; to be held in contempt by other children and, I regret to have to say, sometimes by teachers. Yesterday I spoke to people responsible for six specialist boarding schools for children with emotional disturbances and behavioural problems. The annual cost of educating each child in such a boarding school is between £ 15, 000 and £ 20, 000 a year. The number of children in these schools is increasing and up to half of them could be dyslexic. Few of them would be there if they had been given effective education from the earliest years. These children are not inherently bad; they are frustrated. In many cases their frustration is caused by the failure of the educational system to teach them to read, write and spell. Even in this television and computer age, the written word is of increasing importance. People write more, not fewer, letters and more books are published each year. Books remain the most effective way of conveying information.

International Literacy Year is not only a matter for the third world. Our first and fundamental duty is to produce a literate population in this country. Literacy is the first responsibility of our primary schools. I ask my noble friend the Minister to grasp the opportunity presented by International Literacy Year and give priority to measures which will increase the happiness and the economic health of our people.

7.40 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I rise to offer strong support for the case that was so powerfully made out by the noble Lord who has just spoken and who has done so much for the cause under discussion. I wish to concentrate on dyslexia, which is one large aspect, although not the whole of the subject that was raised by the noble Lord. Others will no doubt deal with other aspects.

I cannot claim many credentials for speaking tonight. It is true that the firm of publishers of which I am chairman had the distinction of publishing Susan Hampshire's first remarkable book on this matter, but its success owes nothing to me. Thirty-five years ago, before the word dyslexia was known to most people, I used to visit a young man who was in prison. That came into my mind when I heard the noble Lord talk about frustration. The young man I visited had shot and killed a policeman. He was unable to read or write at that time. However, as he was just under the age of 16 he was not hanged, as he would have been had he been older. He learnt to read and write in prison, where special remedial efforts were made to teach him. All the psychologists and everyone else agreed that it was the terrible frustration that the young man felt which had boiled up in him and had led him to commit that appalling outrage. However, he has made good since leaving prison.

I was brought into closer touch with the subject of dyslexia three years ago through contact with a gallant family. That family had a son, Tim Bakewell, about whom I wish to say a few words. I should say at this point that the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who has done so much to help Tim Bakewell is unfortunately unable to be present as he has broken an ankle. I remember that I broke an ankle when I slipped on some ice about nine years ago. However, I do not think there is much ice about at the moment so I do not know how the noble Earl broke his ankle. However this accident occurred, it is regrettable from our point of view that the noble Earl, who is dyslexic, as he has told the House more than once, cannot be with us this evening. Later on I shall refer to somsthing that the noble Earl wanted me to say.

When Tim Bakewell was six years old he was diagnosed by some idiot as thick. I believe that term is quite often applied to people who turn out to be dyslexic. He was considered to be bone idle because he did not appear to be able to read. People believed that that must be his fault in some way. Now, at the age of 11, he receives treatment in a special unit within an ordinary school. I still do not quite have the picture of what is happening, but I believe he is in what is called a special unit. He is the only child who is recognised as dyslexic in the unit, although other children are taught with him. The whole thing sounds rather primitive to me, but at any rate that situation is better than nothing. He is taught by a teacher who is trained to teach dyslexics. However, when he reaches the age of 12, no such facilities will be available to him because in the area of the Midlands where he lives there is no secondary school that has a teacher who can provide such specialised teaching. That is the situation of just one boy, but it is a situation which is of course multiplied many times over, as the noble Lord and other experts know.

The first thing that strikes one about this subject if one comes to it fairly fresh, is that there are far more dyslexic people than most of us realise. We are told that about 4 per cent. of the school population is said to be dyslexic; that is about 350, 000 children. However, those are only the ones who have been diagnosed as dyslexic. Therefore, we can take it that there are far more dyslexics than that. There are, of course, many people who are only slightly dyslexic. There are many variations and degrees of dyslexia. One could take the example of Mr. Heseltine. It is difficult to mention him now, certainly in the presence of the Minister, without seeming to offer some comment on his claims to be the next Prime Minister. I am not saying that his dyslexia would make him a better or a worse Prime Minister. He must be accepted, as I am sure he will be accepted by the great party opposite, on his merits, persistence, and other qualities. At any rate, he is an admitted dyslexic. To do him justice, he has made no secret of that. I do not know whether it is part of his bandwagon at the moment, but he has contributed to Susan Hampshire's book in which dyslexics have recounted their stories. His is a fine and moving contribution. He says that he feels a fraud when confronted with dyslexics because he is only very slightly dyslexic. He has never had any special training. Whether he would have been better or worse with such training is a matter which I leave to the party opposite to decide. However, he has not had special training and he has, to put it mildly, gone quite a long way.

That is a slightly dangerous example because on the one hand it is encouraging to dyslexics to be told that, even if one is dyslexic one can get to the top, but on the other hand we do not want people to come along and say— there are people such as local authorities and even governments who would say such a thing— "If Mr. Heseltine can do that without any special training, why do we need to bother?" We need to watch this situation very carefully. Nevertheless, there is a brave man who has spoken out in a popular book about his difficulties as a dyslexic and how he has tried to overcome them. However, I repeat that Mr. Heseltine is only slightly dyslexic as opposed to the more severely affected dyslexics we are mostly concerned with this evening.

I shall now consider what bodies are tackling dyslexia. There is the association with which the noble Lord opposite has been so much connected. I pay tribute to that body. There is also the Dyslexia Institute. I have been told that I must not suggest that those bodies are rivals. They complement each other. However, the Dyslexia Institute has helped me in the preparation of my remarks. It is doing wonderful work. I shall give one or two examples of the kind of work it carries out. A study at Sheffield University has shown that of 19 dyslexic children studied, seven were taught at the Dyslexia Institute for two one-hour lessons per week. Of the 19 children who were found to be dyslexic those who had been taught at the Dyslexia Institute were found to be far more successful than those who had not been taught there. Those who were taught at the Dyslexia Institute were said to be remediated. I dislike that word, but apparently its use is unavoidable in this connection. Those who were not taught at the Dyslexia Institute fell further behind. Therefore, I think it is clear that training makes a lot of difference to dyslexic pupils.

However, in the long run, what is almost more important is teacher training programmes. In the end everything depends on getting enough teachers into ordinary schools throughout the country who are trained to teach boys and girls like my young friend whom I mentioned earlier. I am sure noble Lords would agree with that.

The Dyslexia Institute has done a great deal to provide teacher training. The readiness of local authorities to provide special training courses varies a great deal. Wigan is sometimes regarded as a joke. However, there is no joke about its extremely serious achievement. In 1988 Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council invited the Dyslexia Institute to train 11 of its special needs teachers. That was of very great benefit. Kent is training 15 special needs teachers at Christ Church College, Canterbury, on a course which has been developed by the Dyslexia Institute. I could give other examples. However, it must not be thought that all local authorities are so enlightened.

The noble Earl, Lord Atlee, told a rather painful tale to Members of the House of Lords. He might have become more angry about it than I shall. I have no prejudice in favour of or against Dudley Metropolitan Borough education authority but that is the borough which was concerned with the young man I mentioned. The secretary of the West Midlands Dyslexia Association wrote to the chairman of the local education authority expressing regret at the proposed substantial reduction in education funding for Dudley during the coming financial year, which was bound to hit those needing special training particularly hard. The chairman of that body wrote a very sharp letter in reply. He said: I have received your letter of 18 March, which you sent recorded delivery. You ought to be aware that this method of posting put both my wife and myself to a great deal of inconvenience as we had to collect it from the sorting office". That apparently annoyed them very much. He went on to say: Perhaps in future you would bear in mind that the tactics you have used in lobbying me have been counter-productive and you have now lost a sympathiser. I do not propose to respond to any further correspondence". That is one attitude. There are good responses and bad ones, but that is a shocking story.

I blame the present Government for almost everything that happens in this country but I do not blame them for that. It is just a case of a very stupid local authority. I hope that the Government of the day, with this enlightened Minister— at least I assume that she is enlightened until I learn anything to the contrary— will say that they are considering providing funding for the Dyslexia Institute. That is perhaps something to be considered later.

I shall ask the noble Baroness two questions, of which I have given notice. Do the Government agree that there is a national duty to see that in every local authority scheme there are teachers specially trained to deal with and to teach dyslexic pupils? If so, what steps do they propose to take to encourage local authorities to bring about that result?

We must all be grateful to the noble Lord for raising the subject. Now I shall give way to a noble Lord, who knows much more about the subject from first-hand experience than I do.

7.54 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, for introducing the subject of literacy for debate in your Lordships' House and also for drawing attention to the problems of dyslexia. As the noble Earl has pointed out, I suffer from dyslexia. I should like to point out from the start that I was one of the lucky ones. It was spotted that I was dyslexic.

Being able to spot those who are dyslexic and identifying their problem straight away is probably the most important single step that can be taken towards solving the problem. As the noble Earl pointed out, one small boy that he mentioned was told that he was stupid, slow, lazy and he must try harder. Once you tell children of any age that that is what they are they will live up to it very rapidly. My problem was very easy to spot because I was very dyslexic and my writing was very bad. Any teacher who is handed an entire page of hieroglyphics written from right to left knows that something is amiss. I also had articulate parents and therefore was not going to be overlooked. However, the child who is moderately dyslexic and under-achieving who is told to try harder, that his verbal skills have proved that he can do better and therefore he is either lazy or stupid will become a problem.

Therefore every time a dyslexic child is not recognised as such he will have a personal problem. He will also create problems for every other child in the same class. A child will often decide to cover up his problem and his inadequacy in the classroom by becoming a nuisance in the class. He will make sure that no teaching is done so that he will not be shown up.

If 6 million or more people in this country have problems with literacy, as the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, pointed out, we have a huge economic and social tragedy on our hands. Those people will be under-achieving in terms of economic resources. In virtually all forms of paid employment literacy skills are an advantage. The technical revolution which is taking place places greater requirements on literacy skills now than ever before. Society is becoming more complex and we have to deal with more forms than ever before. Most dyslexics when presented with a form have to go away and sit down quietly to go through it. I certainly have to. If that occurs at work where one has to deal with dozens of forms one is a very unsatisfactory employee indeed in most situations.

There is also the problem of the social consequences. If someone has low self-esteem, as in the classroom, so it will be in later life; they will live up to that low self-esteem. I do not know the number of people in prison who have literacy problems but I am led to believe that it is extremely high. I suggest that if those people had found that they were of value in society they would not have turned to criminal ways of making ends meet.

At present the main form of help available to most dyslexics is provided through the process of statementing. The child has to be spotted and to undergo an educational psychologist's statementing process. The process states that they need help and help has to be given. That is a result of the Education Act 1981. There are many pieces of legislation over the past 10 years for which I would damn this Government but that is one for which I praise them. It was the light at the end of the tunnel and provided that help had to be given.

However, the Act may be negated to some extent by the national curriculum. The national curriculum states that pupils must take a certain number of subjects. Most dyslexics find that if they cannot write Engligh, being told to write French is a total disaster. I appreciate that there are attempts to change the method of teaching modern languages, but in most instances the teaching of languages in the classroom is based on written skills. Therefore anyone with literacy problems of any kind— and I believe that there is a danger of concentrating too much on dyslexia, even though 10 per cent. of the population suffer from it to some extent and 4 per cent. seriously enough to benefit from a statement— who has to take on a subject with which they cannot cope will find that it has a detrimental effect on all their other work. Valuable teacher time will be wasted. At present so few teachers are available that every single moment of their time should be regarded as gold-dust.

We also encounter other problems about the way in which local authorities will fund work to help children with special educational needs. Under the local management of schools, schools will now assess their own financing and budgets to a far greater extent. The LEAs have kept back 10 per cent. of the budgets to deal with special educational needs. How will that sum be appropriated? I suggest that that money be directed to helping finance psychologists for pupils and to ensuring that the statementing is carried out.

There is also the problem of those whose problems are not sufficiently bad to require statementing but who will still require special help. Once schools are locally funded, how will they tackle the problem of trying to meet their funding? How will the outside funding come together? How will that work into one whole? A new education system is being created. We are in a state of flux. At this point, the Government should think of establishing a watchdog body to ensure that appropriate help is given to those with special needs.

As parents now have far greater freedom of choice as to where their children go to school, we must ensure that schools do not discourage or try to palm off those with special educational needs because they might bring down their exam average which is usually, and probably unfairly, regarded as the academic level of attainment of a school. That matter needs consideration. I do not have a magic formula as to how that can be done; but, if those changes go through, some consideration should be given to the problem of ensuring sufficient allocation of resources for those with special needs in the mainstream schools.

I should like to support the Government in their attempt to bring people with special educational needs into the mainstream. If there are as many people with special educational needs as we think, it is ludicrous to try to put them in special units, as tends to happen. The recent report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate on the standards of education for 1988–39 states that there is no uniformity of standards in provision for special educational needs, and there is a trend towards people being pushed away into side units. If they are to acquire the academic qualifications that they need, they must be in the maintstream. If they are in the mainstream, teachers must be trained to spot their difficulties and give them the help that they need in the classroom. That might only be a case of recognising that a pupil has a problem with writing and therefore of not expecting him or her to take down notes all the time.

When I was at school, one or two teachers found that that came as a fundamental shock to their system as they dictated for large periods of the lesson. If you cannot take notes, any attempt to do so is a waste of time. In my case, I was making notes which were of a useless standard when it came to reading them. You reach the point when you have hieroglyphics in front of you which you cannot read, and no one else can read them. You concentrate so hard on getting the words down that you do not listen to what is being said. You have no record therefore of what has been said, so, effectively, you might as well not have been in the classroom in the first place. If a teacher does not place such an expectation on a pupil and allows him or her to listen without getting upset about things, the child will be able to achieve far more than if he or she were expected to go along with the rest of the children in the class learning by other methods.

The noble Lord, Lord Renwick, referred to the teaching of phonics in the classroom as opposed to the look-say method. He is right, certainly with regard to those with dyslexia and probably with regard to those with educational problems. One must be taught the structure of words. For some it may well be a waste of time; but for those with that problem or related problems, the structure of the words is essential because they cannot pick up the language the way that most people do. They have to construct words as they spell them. Thus, having a higher percentage of teachers trained in phonics and being able to help would certainly obviate a great problem.

Once again, that must not be restricted merely to remedial or special unit teachers because that will lead to school ghettos. Integration must be put in full swing in order to get the best out of pupils. Here we return to a more political point: if greater resources are required, the Government will have to provide them in order to meet the educational needs of those people. As the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, said, they are an economic and social asset and should be used. With a demographic downswing, it verges on the insane not to allow that proportion of the population to achieve its full potential.

It is not only a matter of the education of the teachers but of the parents. I doubt whether many parents know that their children are by law entitled to education up to the age of 19. Those who have a disability are entitled to education up to the age of 21. That includes education for an extra two years, plus two years' YTS. People should be entitled to know those things and to be aware of the help available to their children.

I have spoken for rather longer than I had intended. The real nub of the problem is information and knowledge on all levels— knowledge of the problems of the child so that its self-esteem is not destroyed, and knowledge for the parents so that they can support the child. The parent is far more important in this matter than the teacher. With the best will in the world, the teacher cannot replace the parent. The parents must know what is going on. The teacher then comes in to support them in the child's educational progress. There is therefore knowledge on all fronts.

Once we have a knowledge and understanding of the problem, we shall be halfway to tackling it. As a third step, the Government should ensure that every teacher, particularly in the primary sector, should be able to recognise at least a classic case of dyslexia. I was very easy to spot; many others will not be. Someone who is mildly dyslexic and merely under-achieving will be far harder to spot. Teachers must know what signs to look for because, once they have identified the problem, we can start to solve it.

7.47 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, we thank my noble friend Lord Renwick for having raised the subject of dyslexia and the subject of children leaving school without adequate skills in reading, writing or spelling. I should like to pay tribute to the Dyslexia Association, both nationally and locally. We have a wonderful branch of the Dyslexia Association in Oxford.

I wish to take up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I apologise for not having given the Minister notice of my question. The noble Lord and my noble friend Lord Renwick said that children's problems should be recognised at an early stage. I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister— I can hardly expect a reply as I have not given notice of my question— what exactly is taught at teacher training colleges? That is where it all begins. Do the teachers take courses for assessing and learning how to recognise the various difficulties of children who cannot read and write? Do they have lectures on the problems of dyslexia? Do they take courses on how to recognise children with those problems?

I have had to deal with a number of dyslexic children during my career. I have found that it is an extraordinarily sad situation when a sympathetic and kind teacher recognises that a child has a problem. However, there is a kind of tariff system. Those responsible say, "Well let us try this". But that does not work. They then say, "Let us try that". But that does not work. Then they say, "Let us refer it to the hospital". So the child is referred to a hospital. If he goes to a hospital such as our Park Hospital in Oxford, he is immediately recognised as dyslexic. Unfortunately children are not always referred to such good hospitals. Therefore my plea to my noble friend who will reply to this Question is, does she believe that we should do much more about teacher training colleges so that all teachers, not just some, will know how to recognise dyslexia?

Secondly, does my noble friend agree that there should be some person in the Education Department who is specialised in these matters and to whom cases will be referred so that there does not have to be the tariff system? In one child's case that system has meant three wasted years and in another four wasted years until it was decided that the child was dyslexic.

I take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that children should not be moved out of mainstream schooling. That was acknowledged in the 1981 Act. Children with dyslexia should be helped at school. Many of them are also helped in their own homes by volunteers who have taken courses in teaching dyslexic children. It has helped the child enormously to have individual attention in his own home. I pay tribute to the volunteers of this country who have learnt how to teach a dyslexic child and are willing to go to his or her home once, twice or perhaps three times a week. The child is thus not singled out at school but receives the extra attention that is required.

I also wish to mention the parents. Teachers or schools often do not sufficiently recognise the agony undergone by parents with a child who has something wrong with it but they do not know the cause. I pay tribute to the British Dyslexia Association for the help that it gives to parents.

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, will forgive me for turning to quite a different area. A number of children leave school without having achieved adequate skills in reading, writing and spelling because they have not attended school regularly. Some are dyslexic children who cannot tolerate being at school. However a number of children have social problems or problems at home, or it may be that they just do not like school.

The noble Lord, Lord Peston, who is to reply from the opposite Benches, will remember that when the last education Bill was passing through this House I moved an amendment about school non-attendance. I regret to have to say from my own party's point of view that it was rejected by the Government. A number of children simply do not attend school regularly. There is nothing wrong with them. Perhaps I may make a plea to the Secretary of State for Education to take up the matter of school non-attendance, which is very serious and quite widespread.

A short time ago I spoke to a teacher who said, "I simply cannot cope with that child in my class. Therefore I do not report the child as not attending school". The child attends the school and registers. He then leaves the class, puts on his T-shirt and goes out. He comes back at lunchtime and eats his school dinner, sandwiches or whatever. In the afternoon, when he finds that he does not like the lesson that is scheduled, he again goes out. He then goes back home from school. The parents know nothing of that. At the moment we do not give enough attention to our school non-attenders, some of whom are dyslexic, some of whom have social problems and some of whom just do not enjoy school.

I have deep sympathy with teachers who have a very disruptive child in class. I should like to mention that Barnado's in Birmingham has opened a house to take school non-attenders where they give individual attention to each child. The children attend every day and do not miss a lesson. I must confess that the last time I went there I was nearly deafened by the playing of the steel band. But at least the children came to school even if they did play in a perfectly ghastly steel band. It just so happens that I do not like steel bands. However playing in the band allowed the child to form the habit of going to school. That led on to the child doing ordinary lessons in maths, English and so on and finally to his returning to his ordinary school.

I ask my noble friend the Minister, first, to ensure that at the teacher training colleges there are medical lectures on the difficulties that children experience so that teachers can recognise them at once; secondly, to ensure that, having recognised those difficulties, there is immediately made available the assistance that is required. Thirdly, I ask her to make sure that truancy in this country is looked into in a big way.

8.16 p.m.

Lord Borthwick

My Lords, I apologise to the House for not having put down my name to speak in this debate. I did not think that I had anything to contribute to it. However, when I came into the Chamber the noble Lord was speaking about a matter that interested me. It was about training people.

In my Army period, at one time I took over a new area and wanted to find a house. I telephoned the sergeant-major, who arranged for me to go and see a scruffy looking place that would do for a short time. I went down about lunchtime, looked around and thought, "By Gad! I have never seen so much happening all at one time in a house". There were people inside. There were people outside. There were gardeners working there. There were armed guards round about and it seemed that the whole prison staff had turned out. Those chaps all worked with a will. They were all under guard. They were all quite experienced chaps in each of their own ways. There was furniture coming in and going out.

What interested me most was the gardener. He was a jolly good gardener. The wilderness that was there became a beautiful garden at the end of three days. The gardener was released from the prison in the morning. He did my garden and reported back to the prison at night. He learnt a lot and found out how to handle men from that. I should like to make one small comment. There is nothing like work to keep people away from trouble. Keep people busy and they are all right.

Again, I should like to say this. A short time ago there was a visit from the German Navy. One of my jobs was to receive the Navy when it came into port. There were a lot of young chaps among them. At one point I was having a chat about education. I asked how they had fared and how they worked in the different periods. It turned out that when these chaps joined the Navy if they signed up for a three-year contract they got a three-year university course. Classes were held on board ship and they were trained there. The Navy paid for the three years for which they had signed the contract. If they had not done that they would not have had three years which saw them through university.

8.19 p.m.

Lord Peston

My Lords, the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, refers generally to children who leave school without adequate skills in reading, writing and spelling. Noble Lords who have spoken have tended to concentrate on dyslexia, leaving nothing for me to add on that subject other than to say how sympathetic I am, as indeed we all are, to what we have been told. I should also like to say that the British Dyslexia Association, apart from the good work that it does in its own field, is to be congratulated on promoting International Literacy Year.

The only slightly discordant note that I shall introduce is this. I believe that it is a great pity that the Government have not found themselves able to provide any financial support for the activity under that heading this year. I am perfectly well aware of the difficulties that the country is in at the present time. However, I can hardly believe that they are of such an enormous scale that the Government could not have responded rather more sympathetically.

I should like to talk more generally about the problems of literacy and semi-literacy, a subject that has interested me for a great many years. On adult literacy, or lack of it, the major initiative was carried out by the last Labour Government. I was very much associated with that in 1975. Indeed, when I consider my achievements, or in my case lack of them, the only thing of which I am 100 per cent. proud was being involved in that adult literacy initiative. I am glad to say that it has carried on independent of politics for the past 15 years.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, that literacy is not only desirable in its own right but is also economically beneficial. What concerns me is that we put in the effort and yet the problem seems to remain. My particular puzzle is this. Unfortunately, we do not have good enough statistics but so far as we know the percentage of illiterates or semi-illiterates in the adult population— which corresponds to a long period of education because they are adults— hardly seems to differ from what we are led to believe is the percentage of illiterates or semi-illiterates leaving school at the present time. If we are making the educational progress that we believe we are, it seems rather paradoxical. The fraction ought to decline.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, on setting an even more stringent target. I should love to believe that he and I will live to see a target of only 1 per cent. of children leaving school with such problems. I do not have an explanation. However, I worry that what little we know on the statistical side seems to provide us with grounds for pessimism rather than optimism.

What puzzles me is this. If we look at Her Majesty's inspectorate's report, which has been published recently on the teaching and learning of language and literacy in primary schools in our country, the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, will be interested to know that the word dyslexia does not appear in it. That may worry him a little. However, the document is overwhelmingly optimistic. It states that, The basic skills of reading and writing"— referring to our primary schools in the 1980s— continue to receive a great deal of time and attention. The standards achieved are generally good and continue to improve, more so in reading for girls than boys. In writing the children are reasonably proficient spellers and constructors of sentences". It continues: Overall, there is evidence from the APU of an improvement in writing that is more marked for boys than for girls", That is a very optimistic description of what is going on in our schools. It contrasts somewhat with what has been said this evening.

I shall refer to an aspect which noble Lords have not raised. It is the ethnic minority problem with regard to literacy. However, to emphasise the puzzle that confronts us, the report states: The majority of primary schools teach the basic skills of reading and writing thoroughly and successfully". It continues that they could achieve even more.

However, it states that they do the job thoroughly and successfully. Again that seems to contrast with all that one heard earlier.

My last point relates to some extent to what the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said. It is stated that the 1987 Department of Education and Science Primary Staffing Survey showed that English ranked highest among the subjects of the national curriculum in the levels of qualifications held by full-time teachers. Again they seemed to be arguing that in this area we have the very best teachers relative to other teachers. One wonders about other subjects.

I raise these matters to ask this question: how can Her Majesty's inspectorate provide what one would regard as an encouraging picture of our primary schools on literacy and so on which contrasts not merely with the idiosyncratic evidence of individual cases but with what we know more generally? There is some conflict of evidence and experience. I put it to the noble Baroness that it is a matter on which we ought to reflect even if we cannot immediately give an answer.

I do not wish to delay your Lordships too long. However, I believe it is my duty to mention one or two other topics. First, within the general area of literacy skills it is clear that children from what are called the ethnic minorities are obviously facing difficulties. For noble Lords who have mentioned illiteracy as a problem area for society generally, a fortiori for this part of our society the problem is that much more difficult. In so far as they have trouble integrating and merging into our community, it cannot be regarded as independent of their difficulties in speaking and understanding English. I am told—again by the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills unit—that its studies have shown that some 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. of adults in the ethnic minorities cannot read or write our language. That is a larger figure than I had understood. It would not surprise us therefore that within that community the children also had learning difficulties in school.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I do not wish to interrupt the noble Lord. His speech is extremely interesting. However, how does he square that factor with the recent report that we have had about high school achievements of Asian children? Are they included in these figures?

Lord Peston

My Lords, I am giving the number of adults. I am not quoting the figures with regard to children. We know that, although these children of Asian origin themselves have considerable achievements, many of their families have major language problems. Indeed, to refer to a problem that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, raised about school attendance—a subject on which I am extremely sympathetic, as she knows—we have evidence, again more ad hoc than systematic, that children in those families are often kept at home in order to act as translators for their parents on occasions. There are therefore problems there.

I hope that there is no misunderstanding. I am not saying that it is the fault—to use a word that was used earlier—of the ethnic minorities. I point out that there is a problem. For those of us who are interested in literacy, it is among the class of problems to which we wish to address ourselves.

My final remarks relate to what we can do. To reassure the noble Baroness, I am not adopting the position that somehow I know what to do and no one else does. I fully appreciate that it is an enormously difficult area. However, I assert—and I am very old fashioned in saying this—that literacy is the most fundamental skill that we must give our young people. I do not see the point of anything else in the school if our schools cannot achieve literacy for all. That is why I was so sympathetic to the target of 1 per cent. to which the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, referred. I would say that we should aim for 100 per cent. achievement.

To be told that the children appreciate this or that but that they cannot read is not good enough. I am not an opponent of the national curriculum but I regard the achievement of literacy as a prerequisite which must take precedence over any other part of the national curriculum. We must give the issue first priority. Those comments relate to young people but I hold similar views about adults.

The real question, to which I do not know the answer, is: is it a matter of resources? I am not now on one of my other hobby horses of attacking the Government on education expenditure. In this case it is not obviously a matter of resources. If I am right that we have not advanced as far as we should have but that resources have increased, other factors must be involved.

The reason may be connected with two areas. The first, priorities, I have already raised in asking whether we are giving the right priority to this matter. Perhaps we are not. I do not wish to enter into the second area because it is controversial, although the noble Lord, Lord Addington, has not hesitated to do so. It is the area of techniques. My experience of talking to anybody in that field is that one's ability to offend people is limitless. To suggest that one technique is better than another appears to make people turn on you and say that you are unsympathetic, idiotic and so forth. It may well be that many kinds of techniques have their parts to play— that is my weasel way of getting out of the difficulty!

The noble Lord, Lord Renwick, appeared to be guiding us toward the thought that the techniques that work for some or even for the majority of children may not work for others. Many of us have children who somehow begin to read. I suddenly discovered that my children could read and, therefore, in a sense, they did not need to be taught to read. However, that cannot be true of all children, particularly of dyslexic children. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to the important question of research in this area.

The subject is interesting and I have spoken for longer than I had intended. It is overwhelmingly important. This may be our first discussion about literacy but I hope that it will not be the last. I also hope that on the next occasion when we discuss the matter the Minister will be able to record some progress.

8.32 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the small number of participants in the debate has more than been made up by the quality of the contributions that we have heard. It has been one of the most interesting debates we have had in this House for some time. I agree that this basic and fundamental subject is overwhelmingly important.

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. My gratitude goes to my noble friend Lord Renwick for raising the issue, as it does to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who not only valiantly coped with his own speech but raised the points which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, would have wished to put forward. I am sure that all noble Lords will join with me in sending best wishes to the noble Earl and wishing him a speedy recovery. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, would have liked to speak in the debate but illness has prevented him too from being present.

We respect the courage of and admire the skilful and effective contributions made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I know that sometimes such compliments sound patronising but his ability to speak in this House without notes is much admired because he depends a great deal on the written word. It is useful to have his example. It sets a good example to many people who may struggle perhaps not so successfully with his particular difficulty.

I also thank my noble friend Lady Faithfull for the enormous expertise that she brings to bear in such debates and for the work that she has done in helping young people. She has fought a corner for them in many debates. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for his contribution, to which I shall refer later in my speech. I was grateful too for the unannounced contribution of my noble friend Lord Borthwick.

I can assure noble Lords that the eradication of illiteracy is among the Government's major objectives for schools and adult education. It is greatly encouraging to know that in 1990, which the United Nations have designated International Literacy Year, more is being done throughout the world to increase public awareness of the scope, nature and implications of illiteracy as well as of the means and conditions of combating it. This initiative will of course, be especially important in third world countries where problems of illiteracy are particularly acute. But there are no grounds for complacency among the developed nations. Reading and writing skills provide the key to learning in all other subjects of the school curriculum and play a crucial part in all walks of adult life. The Government do not underestimate the importance for all pupils of acquiring and developing these skills before leaving school.

However, we also need to take account of the fact that the adequacy of knowledge and skills changes over time. The standard of literacy that we accept today may be inadequate to meet the needs of the future. That is why the Government's prime objective must be to improve the reading and writing skills of all pupils at all levels of ability and to ensure that each individual achieves his or her full potential. I understand the comment made about 1 per cent.

of children. But we also accept that for one reason or another some pupils have particular difficulty acquiring even the most basic literacy skills. They deserve particular help and attention to get them over this hurdle.

Noble Lords have criticised the absence of new measures specifically for International Literacy Year. The Government have done and are doing a great deal to improve levels of literacy. The Government are providing over £ 3 million to the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit this year. An additional £ 30, 000 has been provided specifically this year for activities which the unit has planned for International Literacy Year and which are relevant for adults and children. The three main themes are: literacy in the workplace, literacy in the lives of young people and literacy for parents and children, which will include joint reading activities. Through education support grants the Government are also providing funding for open learning centres for adults with difficulties in literacy and numeracy; and the training of tutors in adult literacy and basic skills has also been designated a national priority area under the local education authority training grant scheme.

For schools, the Government are providing substantial funding through education support grants for a three-year training programme designed to improve the language expertise of all teachers of English, a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, including primary teachers. With government funding the United Kingdom Reading Association is conducting research into the development of family reading groups. We believe that the most effective way to combat illiteracy is through the fundamental reform of the school curriculum.

My noble friend Lord Renwick has already acknowledged the advances in education that the Government are making through the Education Reform Act and especially through the national curriculum. However, he merely glanced over the improvements and safeguards which the national curriculum will bring. They have been rehearsed many times over in this House but since they are of particular relevance to this debate it is appropriate for me to run through them again.

First, the national curriculum will establish clear objectives for pupils and teachers. Targets are being set at progressively higher levels of attainment so that pupils of all ages and abilities have something to aim for. The new system will encourage them to achieve their full potential.

Secondly, it will ensure that all pupils have access to the same range of learning experiences as is already being provided in the most successful schools by the most able teachers.

Thirdly, pupils will be assessed at regular intervals to show how well they are progressing. With regular monitoring of performance teachers can determine whether able pupils are being sufficiently stretched and whether under-achieving pupils need more help or help of a different kind.

That diagnostic continuous assessment complements the more summative testing which I know concerned many noble Lords. That leads me to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Renwick about the need to assess literacy skills at the age of six. I am pleased to inform him that the arrangements we are adopting to assess English will combine continuous teacher assessment with assessments based on the use of nationally prescribed standard assessment tasks. Together they will provide a very full picture of pupils' attainments throughout the compulsory school age range: not just at the key ages of seven, 11, 14 and 16. The systematic recording of assessments will demonstrate what a pupil can and cannot do and will highlight strengths and weaknesses. This will allow teachers to make well informed plans for future work in the classroom, ensuring that the literacy needs of all pupils, and particularly the less able, are met.

The significant point made by my noble friend Lord Renwick is that the problem should be identified and acted upon early in the school life of a child. That was a point made also by my noble friend Lady Faithfull.

Fourthly, schools will be more accountable for the education they provide. Parents will be able to judge their children's progress against the national targets. For the first time, schools will be required by law to produce a report on each child which will include assessment information. In spite of the cycnicism displayed by my noble friend Lord Renwick, I hope that he will at least allow these reforms to settle in, because if they are not worth the paper they are written on then we have failed signally. It is important that we must all play our part in these reforms. That means that all of us interested in this subject must make sure that those who are accountable for delivering the service deliver it to an adequate level to serve children.

As parents will have a statutory right of access to that information, they will know exactly what progress their child is making and will be able to discuss developments with the school. In addition, schools and local education authorities will be better placed to assess strengths and weaknesses, and the training needs of their teachers. And employers will have a better idea of what a school-leaver will have studied and learnt at school.

During the course of this debate a variety of data has been cited for the number of pupils leaving school with literacy problems. But the fact is that at present no one can say for certain how many school-leavers fall into this category. I was extremely relieved at the words of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, although he was cynical as regards this area. I do not believe that speculation on statistics is helping us to make progress. With the new assessment and reporting arrangements against nationally agreed attainment targets there will be no question about the standards attained or where they are unsatisfactory and further measures are required.

The attainment targets and programmes of study for English for five to seven year-olds came into effect last September. They have been warmly welcomed and are working well. The order specifying attainment targets and programmes of study for English for eight to 16 year-olds was laid before Parliament on 6th March. The new arrangements are being phased in from September this year. Implementation will be a gradual process so that teachers can cope with the new requirements.

There are five attainment targets for English. These cover knowledge, skills and understanding in speaking and listening, reading, writing, spelling and handwriting. They are supported by programmes of study which set out in detail what pupils should be taught in order to make satisfactory progress through the 10 levels of the attainment targets.

The national curriculum for English will give pupils a very thorough grounding in basic literacy skills before leading them on to more advanced studies. The requirements guide pupils through the very early stages of their development in reading and writing— from the point where they begin to recognise individual letters and words and use pictures, letters and words to convey meaning through to advanced levels of understanding and interpretation in reading and the use of sophisticated and effective techniques in writing. Again, I was relieved by the comments on technique. I was very nervous about that part of the debate. I know that the question of method of teaching is very vexed. Most pupils will acquire the basic skills of literacy at an early age and the great majority will be able to use them confidently and competently by the time they leave school. However, in this area vigilance on the part of us all is very important.

We have not forgotten those with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Here I must pay tribute to the contribution to and the support for the British Dyslexia Association made by my noble friend Lord Renwick and of course to the work of that association.

The national curriculum will ensure that as far as possible all children, whatever their difficulties, will have access to the same broad range of educational opportunities. This does not mean of course that they must slavishly follow the same methods of learning. As my noble friend has rightly pointed out, the national curriculum is essentially about the content of the learning process, not teaching methods. It allows teachers freedom to choose how best to introduce and develop new skills and topics.

In the case of reading, the strength of the national curriculum is that it combines a range of techniques for helping pupils to decipher new words. This was not determined by fashionable theory, as has been suggested, but came about through an extensive and painstaking process of consultation, involving, among others, all local education authorities, teacher training institutions, teacher associations and special needs organisations. The eclectic approach which they endorsed is the best way of ensuring that teachers identify the combination of reading techniques most suitable for their pupils.

Inevitably different pupils respond to some techniques better than others. I know that my noble friend Lord Renwick and some others believe that pupils who are dyslexic respond better to more structured methods involving what is called phonics. I should stress that this is still permissible within the national curriculum. Indeed the use of phonic cues is positively encouraged. The point is that teaching styles and methods should be adapted to individual needs and follow neither fashion nor dogma. It is only by leaving the choice of teaching style and methodology in the hands of teachers that we can ensure that classroom practice is suitably geared towards the needs of individual pupils. However, the process of testing, assessment and evaluation will more easily expose the effectiveness of teaching method. Again, if we are vigilant and see that methods are not effective, it is up to all of us to put on pressure for change.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, the noble Baroness paid well justified tribute to the British Dyslexia Association, but I hope that she will not forget to pay tribute to the Dyslexia Institute.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I apologise. Of course I include that organisation in my remarks.

I now come to the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. He mentioned the training of specialised dyslexia teachers. I agree with him that specially trained teachers can be a great help to pupils with learning difficulties like dyslexia. Every local education authority has a duty to make proper provision for pupils with specific learning difficulties like dyslexia, just as they must make provision for all pupils in their area. It is for each LEA to decide what provision should be made in an individual pupil's cases and whether that should involve specialist teaching. The Government both encourage and support LEA expenditure on in-service training through the LEA training grants scheme which I mentioned previously.

Although dyslexia is not presently recognised as a national priority in its own right— and I am sure that that may disappoint some noble Lords— priority has been given to the training of designated teachers whose role is to advise on special educational needs and learning difficulties in ordinary schools which will include the area of reading and writing. I should add that following a recent efficiency scrutiny of education support grant and the training grant scheme, the Government are currently considering the possibility of broadening the scope for present national priorities for special educational needs training.

The case of Timothy Bakewell was also mentioned by the noble Earl. Dudley Education Authority responded very positively to Timothy's special educational needs and set up a primary special unit. I know that the noble Earl does not know very much about it, but I happen to know that it is a very effective unit which has done well by Timothy Bakewsll. Since September 1989 he has attended the unit for children with special learning difficulties. His statement of special educational needs has been amended to accommodate that and it is intended that he should attend the unit for two years before transferring to a secondary school.

I cannot comment particularly on the correspondence between the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the chairman of education at Dudley.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, that was not between the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the authority.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I apologise. I cannot comment on the correspondence between the secretary of the association and the chairman of education. I can say that Dudley Education Authority has a responsibility and an obligation, in consultation with Timothy's parents, to ensure that appropriate provision is made for his future.

The Government recognise that in-service training will play a vital part in achieving the Government's objective of raising educational standards, including literacy for all. In 1990–91 we will provide support by way of £ 69–5 million expenditure to local education authorities for training for the national curriculum and the associated assessment procedures. There will also be substantial support through education support grants for books and resources.

We are confident that with this assistance, teachers will be able to get the best out of the new arrangements for their pupils. Progress will be carefully monitored by Her Majesty's inspectorate and local educational authorities will also play a major role in monitoring the situation. Local education authorities are being given specific grants under a five-year programme for the development of a coherent inspection policy to monitor the implementation of the national curriculum and also for the recruitment of additional inspectors to monitor the effects of the new arrangements on the quality of education provided.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, raised the question of what is happening in teacher training colleges. I am pleased to be able to tell my noble friend that the Government's criteria for the approval of initial teacher training courses includes a requirement that all intending teachers should receive instruction in identifying and, where appropriate, teaching pupils with special educational needs. I should expect that instruction to include the difficulties of reading and writing. If I have not given a full enough answer I shall write to my noble friend. She was also concerned about outer school teaching. While I cannot comment on all the examples that she gave of children who do not find themselves in school, I can say that there is a very effective portage scheme where the need for education at home is proven. I know that that system works very well.

In regard to disruptive children and children who, for one reasons or another, are misfits in mainstream schools, I can say from personal knowledge, because I am a governor of a special unit which supports secondary schools, that some very exciting work is going on in the field of helping schoolphobics and children who find it impossible to join mainstream schools. I am particularly pleased to be able to say that their policy is one of trying to reintegrate those children back into the system. It is a policy of reintegration which is very much to be supported.

I am sure that I have missed some points that have been raised by noble Lords and I hope that they will forgive me. I should like to mention one of the outstanding matters that was raised, which was that of the difficulty of ethnic minorities. It is important to note that Section 11 moneys are specifically made available to schools where there is a high incidence of ethnic minority children. Those funds are used almost predominantly for teaching English as a second language to those young children. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, talked about some progress in that area and about the Asian children who are making huge progress. I am always delighted when I go to prize giving events at schools to see growing numbers of young people appearing in the list of recipients of prizes for outstanding achievements in our schools, in particular among the Asian community.

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to describe the measures which the Government have introduced for raising levels of literacy among school-leavers and to have had the opportunity to persuade your Lordships that the Government are taking International Literacy Year very seriously.