HL Deb 13 February 1991 vol 526 cc183-208

7.40 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to safeguard the teaching of musical instruments and theatre in education programmes in schools, and whether at least one cultural subject will be made mandatory in the national curriculum after the age of 14.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, while the Chamber is emptying I should just like to express my pleasure at the fact that I am starting the debate at least 20 minutes before anyone expected would be the case. Having been a Member of your Lordships' House for a long time, this is the first time that I have ever opened a debate in such circumstances. I hope, therefore, that the debate will end as satisfactorily as it began.

From time to time it is wise in very bad circumstances to turn and look at other things. In the presence of a major war, a ferocious cold snap and an infinitely dispiriting depression, I shall concentrate upon the very detailed edges of the education system which are capable of having a profound effect on the future of the nation. I propose to inquire into one or two aspects of our education policy. If, as I suspect, I can convince the Government that they are being dangerously neglected, I hope that we shall receive some kind of indication from them that they will do something about the matter. I was urged to do so by the National Campaign for the Arts. Its director, Simon Mundy, has given me and other speakers in the debate some very useful briefing.

As I said, I do not propose to enter into a general discussion on education. I have always been sceptical about educational thinking. It seems to me that it usually contains too many vague theories which are supported by too few hard facts. In my opinion, there are only two hard facts in education: the first is that good education depends upon good teachers and the second is that good teachers are born and no one knows how to make them. I shall not, therefore, pursue that rather negative beginning but turn instead to the more fruitful question not of how to teach but of what to teach. Even here I shall avoid the main problems and concentrate upon one small point of what should be taught. I refer to the necessary function of the nation to present some aspect of the arts to all children as a regular part of their curriculum.

One of the objects of education—not, I admit, the only one—is to teach children to enjoy life. One of the most direct roads to enjoyment is through the arts. However, not all the arts can reach everyone. But I believe that there are very few children, given the chance at an early age, who would not find something to please them for the rest of their lives in the sounds and rhythms of music, in the beauties or difficulties of drawing and painting and in the magic of words in poetry, literature and drama. I shall pick out just two details from that list; namely, the teaching and understanding of musical instruments and what is known as the "theatre" in education. Both of them have grown up through pressure being put on local authorities to provide such facilities. Over a period of about 30 years, both have worked extremely well. Of course standards have varied from authority to authority, but in general all children leaving school have regularly seen good theatrical performances in real theatres and have also had the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument. Moreover, if they have shown talent in the latter, they have been able to have individual lessons, instruments have been lent to them and their parents have been given advice about buying instruments if they wanted to take the matter further.

However, both those widespread and, on the whole, very successful undertakings seem to be in serious decline. If anyone doubts that fact, there is an article in The Times today which deals with it. It says, the provision of peripatetic instrumental teaching in the state sector has sunk to a level that threatens, in many areas, to undo the advances made by borough and county orchestras in the 1980s". It goes on to suggest that there is some endorsement of the idea that state education is opting out of all responsibility for training the musicians of tomorrow. That is the kind of thing we want to avoid.

Perhaps I may first look for a moment at "Theatre in Education". That is a general term for a movement which has been building up for about 25 years. It was initiated by a combination of local and touring theatre companies in collaboration with the local education authorities and helped by discretionary grants from the Government. Plays are performed free, or at greatly reduced prices, at matinees for children drawn from schools in the local authority's area. It has been extremely successful. The actors enjoy the performances and feel that they are building up an audience for the future. Moreover, the children love the afternoon out, enjoy the plays and ask for more.

The finances for the movement have always been provided by the local education authorities, helped very much by the local theatres who provide the performances without profit, and sometimes with actual loss. That applies all along the line from the puppet theatre in Birmingham to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. However, I have evidence of serious reductions in performances, and attendances in about 16 local authority areas and other areas will be equally affected. I shall quote one or two of the most evident examples. At Greenwich the Young People's Theatre faces cuts of £120,000; in Hackney, the Half Moon Theatre has been closed; in Newcastle, the Skin & Bone Theatre has lost its entire £32,000 grant "to avoid poll capping"; and in York, the Young People's Theatre has collapsed after 23 years. I shall not continue because other speakers know more about the theatre than I do. I shall, therefore, leave it to them to enlarge upon the signs of real decline in the theatre.

I shall now concentrate upon a subject about which I know a little more. I refer to the teaching of musical instruments. Perhaps I may begin by saying that it is the best and most direct way of creating future audiences. All, or nearly all, children when presented with a trumpet, a violin or a clarinet will at once want to try to play it and will be anxious to be shown how. Of course, only one in a hundred will emerge after school days as a worthwhile performer; but many of the high percentage who drop by the wayside will retain a permanent interest in music and in its performance. I speak from experience in that respect. When I was five years old I was given a drum. I spent many happy hours trying to do a roll. When I was seven I was given a violin and I continued to have lessons until I finally gave up at the age of 22. That was because a professional string quartet stayed at my house and, on hearing them practise, it became clear to me that it was a case of Wimbledon as opposed to country-house tennis. Therefore, I gave up playing —but not listening. That has remained the greatest source of innocent pleasure in my long life.

The arrangements which were working so well and which now seem to be in decline were known as the peripatetic instrument service. That has been built up over the past 30 years by local authorities which have employed visiting instrument teachers (peripatetic teachers) who go around the local authority schools working alongside classroom teachers teaching smaller groups and providing specific individual support for the specially gifted.

Noble Lords will be surprised to hear that up till now Britain has led Europe both in the number of children learning instruments and in the high standards achieved. Local music centres have evolved to provide a superb resource for children from different schools to play and sing together. Many local authorities provide not only instrumental teaching but also a vast range of musical experience within orchestras, bands and chamber groups as well as specialist teaching services. Once again, I can speak from experience. I have two grandchildren who took musical scholarships to Pimlico. Both achieved decent amateur status on the violin and cello. A third, without the special advantages of Pimlico, managed to play second desk viola in the excellent London Schools Symphony Orchestra. They were the product of the brilliant teaching of Sheila Nelson, and all of that came free.

There are three dividends to be gained from that system of instrumental teaching. First, there is the discovery and fostering of the really talented. A recent straw poll of 400 players from British orchestras indicated that 285 (71 per cent.) had had the benefit of free instrumental tuition during their school years. In the case of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, 19 out of 30 said that they would not now be professionals had it not been for the free start they had received. Secondly, those who fail to reach such standards form that large group of happy amateurs who love to nuke music for themselves and to whom it can sometimes be a pleasure to listen. Thirdly, most of the majority who drop out early keep enough interest to listen to some music at concerts, on the radio and so on and enjoy it.

It cannot be right to let such a fruitful series of combined efforts run down and slowly wither away. It looks very much as if that is what is being allowed to happen. I find it impossible to believe that the Government meant or wanted it to happen. However, I fear that it is happening.

We have now been told that there will be no provision of time for the arts in the 14–16 curriculum. Secondly, the local management of schools, combined with the enforced devolution of funding from the LEAs, added to the pains of the poll tax and charge capping, have already produced severe cuts in that broadly based instrumental service and more are expected. At present, I have evidence of drastic cuts in no fewer than 34 local authorities. I shall give one or two examples of the worst. Barnsley has axed 23 posts in the peripatetic service; Bedford and Coventry have sacked their musical adviser; Hillingdon has 12 peripatetic jobs at risk; Manchester has 22 teacher redundancies; St. Helens has sacked 17 peripatetic teachers and closed its music centre, and so on and so on.

However, to be fair, some local authorities are struggling on manfully. My county council (East Sussex) is doing well. Three years ago it provided instrument teaching for just over half its schools. To bring in the other half it has persuaded the parents of existing pupils to put up £20 each so that the teaching can be extended to the other schools It has thus doubled the number of children receiving instrumental teaching, but of course that is not a poor area.

There may be a ray of hope in the fact that in the Prime Minister's constituency of Huntingdon his daughter is learning the clarinet. At least they will not be able to conceal the facts from him. As I have said, my noble friends will paint a no less depressing picture of the state of the theatre in education. We are contemplating, not by any means for the first time under this Government, a major change in organisation and finance, based upon strictly ideological grounds, which has been carried out without serious attention being paid to its secondary and less immediate effects. I do not for a moment believe that the planners responsible for local government reorganisation said to the Minister, "At least you will get rid of all that nonsense about Theatre in Education and peripatetic teaching". I do not believe that they have even heard of them. Those two admirable, inexpensive and socially valuable developments will be left by the wayside unless something positive is done.

I can now ask my Unstarred Question of the Minister. Does she agree that those successful and detailed approaches to arts in education are declining and are at risk of disappearing? Does she agree that they are obviously and urgently worth saving? If so, can she give us any idea of how that can be accomplished? Can she at least persuade her right honourable friend to agree to restore one cultural subject as mandatory for the 14–16 curriculum?

7.55 p.m.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, we are all extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge for asking this Unstarred Question tonight. It is sad that a prime subject which should have been in prime time attracts such a small audience. As the debate will be reported in Hansard and as the Minister is here to reply, we hope that it will go further and receive wider attention. About five hours was rightly spent discussing the health service this afternoon, but a balance must be reached. We were talking about the physical and mental health of a community but its cultural health is equally important and that is what we are discussing.

The new national curriculum which was set out in the Education Reform Act embodied the important principle that all children are entitled to a broad and balanced education. I believe that that meant it should further their cultural as well as their academic and vocational development. The notion of entitlement received wide cross-party support during the lengthy debates we had on the Education Reform Bill in 1988. For the first time, the arts were to form an essential part of every child's education from five to 16. Since the inception of the Act, forward-looking schools have been preparing new courses in arts, design and the performing arts to meet new requirements. Those initiatives were taken in good faith. They are suddenly under threat. The whole future of arts in education is in jeopardy.

It is usually pleasing to find that one is right and can say, "There you are, I was right about that". This is an occasion when I feel sad to say, "Yes, I was right", because during the passage of the Bill in Committee in May and on Report in June, I moved an amendment. It had all-party support. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, put her name to the admendment as did the noble Lords, Lord Gibson, Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Young. My name was first, and I moved the amendment. The amendment proposed to leave out the words "music, art" and insert "the arts".

Everyone believed that that was a simple amendment and one that should have been accepted. Not one voice in the Chamber argued against it except the Minister's predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper. I do not blame her because she was doubtless following instructions and Government policy. On the first occasion we did not vote. It was about two o'clock in the morning. It was grouped with a great many other amendments covering many different subjects.

On Report I moved the amendment again, this time on its own. Considering it was so late at night, we had an intensive debate. Everyone except the Minister, accepted that sensible, innocent amendment. When we pressed it to a vote at a quarter to one in the morning, unfortunately it was lost by two votes. Such was the feeling at the time. We felt that it was important to widen the field and include not just art and music but the arts. There should have been a forewarning that many problems lay ahead which went even further and deeper.

During the past summer when Mr. MacGregor was Secretary of State, he indicated that there would have to be some form of adjustment in the foundation subjects. Recently the present Secretary of State, Kenneth Clarke, announced a change. It was apparently off-the-cuff, but everything he says sounds as if it is off-the-cuff even though it is not, since he has that air. Certainly his remarks were made without consultation with the arts working parties or any of the working parties on the national curriculum. He threw up the idea that in order to relieve congestion in the curriculum at what is known as "keystage 4"—that means after the age of 14—music and art would no longer be included as part of the entitlement curriculum for 14 to 16 year-olds. My noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge pointed out the tremendously grave disadvantages of this move.

It is well known that the status of school subjects after the age of 14 radically influences how they are valued and even how they are taught lower down the school. To make art and music optional at the age of 14 will immediately have the effect of reducing their significance in the eyes of parents and children, as well as in the opinion of the Government who are doing this. It is no use the Government saying, "Yes, of course we take art seriously". All governments say that, but when it comes to it, priorities do not work out that way, there are always more serious subjects to be considered before art. That is the way the funding goes.

Dance and drama are already struggling against the handicap of being subsumed into physical education for dance, and into English, for drama. Yet these are quite different subjects. There may be a link in that PE and dance are both physical. Drama and English are both the art of speaking the English language and it is better if one knows something about drama. Nevertheless, the subjects are entirely different. Dance and drama are performing arts, quite different from English and PE.

The arts have always been undervalued in this country and this will be a further body blow. Up till now—and this will probably continue and there will be no satisfaction—many parents have deliberately tried to choose schools where they know that the arts subjects are taught well. They will be in a great quandary if, after children reach the age of 14, in many schools the subjects are no longer demanded and are no longer mandatory. That will completely devalue them.

Further, the move will undermine precisely those principles of breadth and balance that have such importance in the education of adolescents. Their education will become predominantly technocratic and utilitarian at the very time when they look to test their new-found sense of identity against models embodied in the arts, in the great works of fiction as well as in imagination. Such models play an essential part in providing alternative bases for young people in their personal taste and values and by that I mean alternatives to some of the trash values of the commercially generated youth culture. Young people need a cultural and multi-cultural education more than ever in adolescence. I do not say that it should not be open to them to read, see or watch any of the trash they wish because I do not believe in such restrictions. But possibilities of greater value should be available to them so that they have the opportunity to judge and make up their minds. Much of this arose in a different context during the debate on broadcasting.

The arts in schools are further threatened by the LMS, local management in schools, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, mentioned. Local education authorities no longer have the funds to continue to support many of the arts activities for which they were responsible in the past. The poll tax and capping play their part. When schools have to weigh their priorities and whether to spend money on the arts or a new roof or some physical improvement in the school, it is extremely difficult for them.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, gave examples where the theatre and education were failing or were being underfunded and they had to give up. Unfortunately, we all have immense lists of such examples both in music and the theatre. I need only mention two since I do not wish to keep the House with a list of these wretched failures. In Birmingham, the arts and music centres, the youth orchestras, youth theatres, the peripatetic instrumental teachers are all in difficulties or at risk. The audiences at Cannon Hill Puppet Theatre were down 25 per cent. last year; and audiences at the Studio Theatre were down 39 per cent. The Birmingham Hippodrome expressed concern that there have been tremendous falls in school party visits.

In central London, the Bubble Theatre and the Unicorn Theatre for Children have seen school performances cancelled and attendances fall during the past year. These are only a couple of examples which could be multiplied all over the country.

The problem is further compounded by the Education Reform Act's charging policies because the cost of events that take place more than 50 per cent. out of school time can be passed on to parents. Children nonetheless cannot be prevented from going because their parents cannot or will not pay. Therefore if one child's parents do not pay, nobody goes. It is then up to the school. If the school can afford the cost, the children can go, but mostly it cannot do so, in which case the whole outing is cancelled.

During school time, events must be free, but we come up against another snag. If that is so, the schools must be able to afford the events. There is no central activity and there is so much devolution away from the LEAs that it is difficult for schools to cope financially.

I fear that we are moving inexorably towards a situation where the arts which are meant to be our common heritage—I agree that that is a hackneyed phrase but it explains exactly what we mean—could become the exclusive province of those who can afford them. That means that fewer people will have the opportunity to develop a lifelong commitment to and participation in the arts. Fewer people will seek employment in the arts because they have not been trained in them. People will not have the chance to develop their innate talents. That will affect the whole position of future patrons of the arts. Often those patrons give to the arts when they acquire some wealth as a result of some art instruction, or an introduction to the arts that they received when they were young. In many cases they wish to give something back to the arts in return for what the arts have given to them.

There will also in future be less generation of wealth through the arts. As a country we have a high reputation for theatre, opera and for our orchestras. That affects the financial wealth of the country and also our cultural heritage. We need to recognise the central role that the arts play in a civilised and civilising education for young people. Education is where a love for the arts starts. If that love is not aroused at a young age, our young people will be like the baby dwarf who did not speak. The other dwarfs said that was because he had never tried to speak. That will be the position our young people will be in because the door to the arts has not been opened for them. The effects of that situation could be more far-reaching than the Government realise. I would not like to think that the Government have acted in this matter with any sense of malice. They have introduced this provision as a cost-saving and time-saving exercise. I believe Ministers, too, have been brought up to believe that arts come at the bottom of the priority table in education.

I join forces with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, in asking that the Secretary of State should reconsider his decision to make music and art optional at the age of 14. The Secretary of State should ensure that dance and drama are available too. The latter two subjects are part of the performing arts. The Secretary of State should take note of the views of the working party on the visual arts—I believe that working party has already reported—and of the working party on music. I believe that latter working party is meant to report either today or tomorrow. I hope the Minister will be able to comment on that matter.

The arts must be restored to a secure place within a genuinely broad and balanced curriculum. I do not believe that is asking too much of a Government who always say they place great importance on young people's development. If they really mean that, they can try to achieve that objective in a small way. Nevertheless in doing so they will achieve great results.

8.13 p.m.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, I join other speakers in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, on introducing this matter into your Lordships' House. The noble Lord said he wished to discuss three small details in the relationship between the arts and education. Although those are only three pebbles on an immense beach, they are fairly symbolic because between them they emphasise the importance of the arts at every stage of one's life. Obviously when one talks about education, one is talking about the earliest stages of one's life.

The following point has already been made many times, but it bears repeating. I suspect that the arts are the single most civilising influence in our national life. If they are to play the part that they should in our life, a taste for the arts and the vocabulary of the arts should be introduced at the earliest stage.

I can appreciate that there are essential objectives in education which everyone must attain. Everyone must be able to read, write and add up. After those essentials, I cannot think of anything more important in the educational life of a child than a study of our cultural heritage. The nice thing about the phrase "our cultural heritage" is that in the arts it is not just a matter of Britain's cultural heritage. It is not the same thing as the history or the geography of these islands. In the arts the cultural heritage is the world's cultural heritage. The arts are free to range across the entire globe. Music is the most international of all the arts. Certainly the work in the theatre, in music, dance and in all the visual and literary arts is a common heritage for every nation. That should be available to our children too.

Happily I have just become the president of a school which will cope with this matter. It is a new school for the performing arts and technology based at Selhurst in Croydon. The school represents an entirely new endeavour. It is a free school, thanks to the generosity of the British phonographic industry and the funding of the Department of Education and Science. It will be a free state school and it will take children from the ages of 14 to 18. Children in the school will be taught—as they must—the national curriculum, but they will be taught that curriculum via the performing arts. Wherever possible the curriculum will be delivered—I use the fashionable phrase—via the performing arts.

The school will also deal not merely with the arts as performance, and the arts as a taste to be inculcated in children, but also with the background of the arts and the business and technology sides of the arts. The union and legal sides of the arts will also be taught. I speak of my hopes in this venture because the school does not open until the autumn. I hope that the people who follow that education in the arts will acquire the real vocabulary of the world of the arts. The world of the arts has always been highly competitive. The existence of the arts bodies has always been unreliable. They are forever threatened in various ways.

If the arts world is both unreliable and competitive and appears to be something of a jungle, I hope that the schooling we intend to give the children at the school will at least give them a map of that jungle so that they understand the world that they are going into. Their education will not be based exclusively on the performance of the arts or a taste for the arts. The school will therefore produce children who do not feel that if they do not become a famous and international performer, they must leave the business altogether. That feeling has been prevalent in the past. People have often felt in the past that either they must become a star such as Yehudi Menuhin, or they must give up the whole thing and become a bus driver.

One can take part in the arts world in many ways, not just as a performer. The arts world requires gifted and sensible administrators, financiers, lawyers and technicians of all kinds. I must not weary your Lordships by constantly referring to the wonders of the school that will open in the autumn, but I believe that that kind of education in the arts will be of real value to those intending to make a career in the arts. Even for those who do not intend to make such a career, the arts must feature as part of the basic curriculum. It is up to educationists who are far more skilled than I to determine how they feature in the basic curriculum and by what legal process that is undertaken. I believe the arts are an essential feature of the entitlement of children to education.

The new school that I have mentioned will concentrate on the technology of the arts. The arts are nowadays as complex technologically as any other business or industry of which I know. It would not surprise me if the technology of the arts were not made one of the technologies which are accepted at all levels of education as a technology in which one can specialise and obtain degrees and qualifications. At the moment that technology is regarded as a rather far out, one-off subject. I believe it should be far more central than it is. It is not only an intriguing subject in its own right, but it also leads one to the arts just as much as a conventional education in literature or music. In future, technology should be more closely linked to the arts than it has been in the past.

During the debates that concerned the abolition of ILEA, I remember very clearly the almost universal concern that was expressed in your Lordships' House that that abolition might lead to the collapse of instrumental teaching in London—that is, the very subject that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has raised tonight—and to the disbandment, or to the creation of problems for, the London Schools' Symphony Orchestra and the other orchestras connected with it.

Members of this House were very helpful and the reply of the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, was particularly helpful. It was a matter of saving those organisations. The Government and Members of this House were agreed. It would be tragic if in spite of all those good intentions and that endeavour—which focused upon London because that was the city that we were dealing with, but was symptomatic of the position in the rest of the country—the teaching of instruments and the very fabric of music in children's lives were to disappear so few years after those debates.

I am chairman of the Theatres' Advisory Council in succession to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, who is to speak later in the debate. That is an umbrella organisation which caters for all elements of the theatre—the managers, the actors, the technicians, the unions. Over the past year or two it has been concerned about what is happening to theatre in schools. It is not simply a matter of Theatre in Education, which has hitherto been highly successful. It is a question of schools regarding the theatre as something that all children can experience through visits to the theatre and visits from actors and technicians. There is overwhelming evidence that school visits to the theatre are becoming fewer and the element of theatre in school life is diminishing.

There are dozens of different causes. There is the famous problem of charge capping. There is also the question of individual responsibility which is now laid upon schools. Although it is for the schools to make their own decisions, somehow it is always the arts subjects which are cut. Those are the subjects which are easiest to cut out. They appear to be peripheral, the icing on the cake, the jam on the top. In fact they are the fabric of our nation. The arts should no longer be the subjects which are dropped in a difficult financial situation.

Is there no way of ensuring that despite charge capping and whatever may happen as a result of recession, our children's entitlement to that vision of the world which the arts can give them is not impaired? Can we not ensure that the arts are not always the scapegoat of finance?

8.23 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I am somewhat humbled by those who have spoken before me in this debate. My noble friend Lord Donaldson spoke with great authority and knowledge about the teaching of musical instruments. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, spoke with a great deal of sense about theatre and its place within the arts. We are considering the place of the arts, and in particular the performing arts, in our school system. I shall address most of my remarks to the subject of theatre, principally because unfortunately I am one of the most unmusical of people and come from an unmusical family.

The noble Lord spoke about people being trained in the basics of music. From that pool of people with basic knowledge of a musical instrument come the professionals and the talented amateurs. We must also consider the less competent or even incompetent amateurs who simply enjoy playing a musical instrument, regardless of how annoying that may be to others. When I was at university somebody who lived two doors away had an electric guitar which he attacked with great vigour until the small hours of the morning. He enjoyed himself greatly, at least until the instrument was forcibly taken from him on some occasions. He had acquired the basic skill when he was at school when he had been taught how to play the guitar. Thousands of young people in this country acquire a taste for playing a musical instrument. They may not become great exponents of the instrument but at least they gain pleasure from it. They are given enough basic technical knowledge at school to allow them to enjoy it.

It is impossible to enjoy such activities if one is totally incompetent at the instrument. It is rather like playing tennis when one does not know how to play the game; one spends one's time picking up the balls and does not enjoy the game. With a musical instrument one has to be taught the basics before one can do anything with it.

Turning to theatre, there is a danger that in the educational process the drama element is dropped just when young people reach the age at which they can begin to appreciate it. Until the age of 14 young people do not experiment very much. It is a fallacy that young people are adventurous. They tend to conform with their own group and only occasionally shock their elders. I speak as someone who has until fairly recently been guilty of that himself. At the age of 14 young people begin to experiment with certain cultural ideas. From that age they begin to develop more individual tastes in music and no longer slavishly follow the pulp music which is found even at the top of the charts. Cultural education in music means that they can appreciate different types of popular music and does not simply mean classical music. At that age young people need appropriate education.

In the case of drama that is particularly important because at that age people begin to express themselves on a more individual level. It is therefore important that their experience of drama is not restricted to reading plays during English lessons. I can remember that torturous experience. Copies of a play would be handed round the classroom. If by some miracle the teacher managed to get the right person to read the right part the play could become alive. More often there would be a staccato delivery by people with no interest in the part they were playing and who probably were of the wrong sex for the part. They would read, '"Move stage right'.—Oh sorry, Miss, do I read that out?" That does not provide an education in the arts. It is merely reading out something that is not designed to be read even to oneself. One must experience standing on a stage and interrelating with people in order to get an idea of a play. That type of exposure to drama is the classic way of ensuring that young people do not like it. To force someone to do something and to do it badly is the best way of putting them off it. To do that when young people are at an impressionable age will guarantee that they do not look at drama again for years.

The question of the exclusion of cultural subjects from the core subjects of the national curriculum is vital, as the noble Baroness said. If they are not to be taught until the final years they will be regarded as peripheral subjects. There is also a danger that people will insist that children are examined in the subjects. We should merely offer young people the opportunity to experience the arts at that stage, with the possibility of an examination if they so desire. However, as academic pressure grows we should make sure that teachers, schools and parents do not put pressure on young people to take exams in inappropriate subjects. Education is not only about exams. We should not make children do too much so that everything suffers. There is a very fine line which has to be drawn and it will vary from school to school and from pupil to pupil.

We should encourage education about education in the arts. We should encourage people to believe that the theatre is for everyone, and not just for other people. The "them and us" syndrome, although a rather dated expression, is probably appropriate here, and is something we should try to avoid instilling in pupils.

Much of what I was going to say has become superfluous in view of earlier speeches. We must try to create a situation where sufficient funds and time are made available for these subjects to be taught alongside the more technical subjects which have been given greater weight in the national curriculum. I do not know whether it is true, as noble Lords have said before me, that the arts are a great civilising influence, but it is certainly a great part of our cultural inheritance that we understand them. We may not like them but we should all understand them. I suggest we make sure that everyone who goes through the school system at least understands them. Let us ensure that when the young people of today and tomorrow say, "I do not like the theatre", at least they know what the theatre is.

8.32 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for introducing the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said I was his successor as chairman of the Theatres Advisory Council. That is true. However, I have another successor—the noble Lord who opened the debate. When Jim Callaghan succeeded Harold Wilson as Prime Minister and decided to change the arts Minister, his glance fell upon the noble Lord, so I had to make way for an older man. I do not suppose that at that time either of us felt that one day we would be on slightly different Benches, but speaking in harmony on the same subject.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, in opening the debate, was right when he said that the Government did not intend the consequences of their own actions, but this is par for the course. I do not suppose for an instant that they wanted to have a couple of million unemployed or a record number of bankruptcies after about 12 years of Conservative government. But the consequences of the policies they follow lead not only to major disasters but also to minor ones. Is it relatively unimportant that schools will no longer have the opportunity of entertaining large numbers of children? That is what is happening. For example, in theatre education many fewer children are now having the experience of going to the theatre than was the case in the past. The cause of the trouble is the heavy hand of the Government on local authorities.

Another effect of government policy—I do know that it is the cause—is their determination to keep control over all sections of expenditure. The heavy hand of central government deprives local authorities of the ability to do the things they want to do, with the consequence that the political blame sometimes falls upon them rather than upon central government. What I have just described is a typical example of what is happening.

I mention in passing that when Lord Donaldson and I were arts Ministers we had an autonomous area within the empire of education. That is no longer the case. The noble Baroness, in replying to this debate, will be replying for education rather than the arts. However, we have been talking about the arts rather than the relationship between education and the arts. Without putting it forward as a fact, I am wondering whether there has been a less happy relationship between education and the arts under the present Government than was the case at one time. I do not suppose the noble Baroness will tell us if that is the case, but I put forward as a possibility that perhaps this would not have happened if the relationship between education and the arts had been a little bit closer than it is today.

The briefing I have received on this subject has not been confined to the excellent one to which the noble Lord referred in opening the debate: there was also information from a rather unusual organisation called The Performers Alliance, consisting of British Equity, The Musicians' Union and the Writers' Guild. It is probably the employers' most popular trade union, because it exists to promote the organisations within which it exists. Of course, there are occasional quarrels, but on the whole a harmonious relationship exists between these groups of people who work in the arts and those who employ them.

In the opening sentence of their brief, which I am sure would be agreed by all, they state: There are few areas in education where the United Kingdom leads the world, but the development of the peripatetic instrumental teaching services run by many Local Education Authorities is one of these". That accounts for a great deal, because it means that the growth of the theatre and the arts generally over the past few years has not been solely a case of government putting more in. The Government may not have gone as far as many of us would have wished, but we should not deny them credit for having taken on the responsibility of funding the arts. They have not tried to destroy the arts or privatise the National Theatre, and they have recognised there are areas in which government must accept responsibility. Why are they acting as they are? I believe they do not know what they are doing. If the debate serves the purpose intended and the right message is conveyed by the noble Baroness—possibly it will be read in Hansard or picked up from the papers—it may be that some of this can yet be put right. It may be a small thing, but the consequences are grave, not only for the theatre but for music as well.

The arts generally deserve greater recognition for the part they play in education as a whole. I believe they are essential to a broad, balanced, civilised education. Just as Lord Addington was speaking from an earlier stage I speak from the other end but come to the same conclusion.

The arts activities and trips to theatres and museums are essential to the development of the perception, awareness and sensibility that, whatever our political views, we want to see in a civilised person. We want to see the development of creative, intellectual and social skills, and the arts can help in that. We want people to be able to grasp the enormous possibilities opened to them by a capacity to appreciate the arts. So many people go through life completely unaware of the great things which are open to them. For example, surprisingly, Pavarotti singing "Nessun dorma" on television during the World Cup has introduced a large number of people to the possibilities of opera. Education is necessary. We are trying to introduce this kind of thing at an earlier age and to open people's minds to the possibilities that exist. If that happens, their minds will not be engaged in more trivial and possibly less desirable occupations.

Arts education makes a major contribution to the nation's economic and cultural development, producing artists, entertainers, craftspeople and designers. If at this stage the Government take steps to force local authorities to withdraw the support that is needed, no one else will introduce it. It is not something for which one car obtain a great deal of advertising, sponsorship and so on. It must come from the local authorities. We ask the Government to reconsider this matter and see whether in some way or another the restrictions placed on local authorities and the difficulties put in their way can be removed.

8.40 p.m.

Baroness David

My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, asked this Question tonight. It is very important and pertinent at this moment. If I may say so, I greatly enjoyed his speech. I endorse almost every speech that has been made in this debate with the possible exception of that of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett. I enjoyed a great deal of what he said. His eloquence and enthusiasm for the arts are tremendous. But his advertisement for the City Technology College I cannot entirely accept from these Benches, although I thought that it was a very good advertisement. However, one has to remember that the money that goes from individual sponsors and the Government into these specialised areas is taken from state schools for the most part, just as the grant maintained schools received so much more money for capital expenditure than others. So I have that reservation to make. We shall watch with great interest how this situation develops and how other schools in the area of that college also develop. It is an important area to watch. I want to say that we shall be looking out.

I return to the topic that has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. A great many people in the arts world, and in the music world in particular, feel that a crisis is very near. I hope that this short debate will alert the Government—and Mr. Clarke in particular—to the anxieties and fears that exist. I believe that we are in danger of jettisoning an activity which we are extremely good at. As the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said, and I do not apologise for repeating it, Britain leads Europe both in the numbers of children learning to play musical instruments and the high standards achieved. In percentage of population Britain has more young people's orchestras, ensembles, bands, groups and choirs than any other European country and certainly rivals the United States. We do not always keep that far ahead of our European partners, so it is something of which we can be proud at the moment. Let its hope that it continues.

The music centres that have evolved through children within one region joining together and benefiting from rehearsing, playing and singing are in danger as the costs are funded by discretionary grant from the LEAs. Not only are LEAs strapped for cash and some are suffering from poll tax capping, having to cut out a great many activities which are not seen as essential, but local management of schools will make a huge difference. When decisions on where to spend and what to spend are made by governing bodies, it is the governing body which will decide what music teaching to buy in.

The overall view that the local authority had will be lost. Only centralised services can manage the provision of expensive and untransportable instruments, selection of highly specialised teachers, the maintenance of instrumental stock and centralised library provision. At the end of last month in Manchester there was a conference chaired by Professor Swanwick of the University of London's Institute of Education. It was called Music in Crisis. There was unanimous agreement among the 200 or more teachers taking part that important elements of British musical provision were being lost.

Attached to the briefings that we have been sent from the National Campaign for the Arts is a fearsome list of LEAs which have reduced their provision and cut their peripatetic teachers. At least 111 posts have already gone and 53 more are under consideration for redundancy. The Manchester forum agreed on two resolutions. The first expressed urgent concern at the threats to LEA music services. It comments on the haphazard way in which instrumental teaching has developed since the 1940s and says that that is mainly due to the lack of any coherent national policy. It says that it is essential to have a structured policy for the future. The second resolution states: This Forum urges the DES to ensure that action is taken to plan coherently for the future of regional structures of instrumental teaching and other forms of music-making, with benefit to both schools and the community". Is the DES paying any attention to those resolutions that have been passed over to it? I hope that the Minister may be able to give some response, although I realise that the forum only took place at the end of last month. Perhaps she can say how soon there might be a response.

Instrumental teachers are prepared to meet the challenges and want parents and governors to understand the important role that they play. They are ready to work within the national curriculum and to demonstrate that they are not just skilled instrumentalists and musicians but also educators involved in the mainstream education of all children. Music is a national curriculum subject. At the North of England conference early in January Mr. Clarke said—I think my noble friend also quoted him— Art and music should be options at key stage 4. I do not believe that it is right for the Government to use the law to compel every single pupil to continue to do these subjects after the age of 14". I do not know what on earth he thought that his Government were doing during the whole of the passage of the Education Reform Bill when the national curriculum was made legal. In any case, let us contrast that with what his predecessor, Mr. McGregor, said exactly one year previously in January 1990: I expect the full range of foundation subjects to be studied by pupils at key stage 4". We get used to encountering retreats on the curriculum. I suppose that there is a certain pleasure, as my noble friend said, in saying, "We told you so". All the way through the long hours of debate on the Education Reform Bill we begged for greater flexibility. We said that the Government's plans were too prescriptive. The noble Lord, Lord Joseph, supported us. Now predictably the Secretary of State has realised that the number of subjects and the amount of testing and assessment involved are quite impossible to fit into the timetable and are too much to put on teachers. So we constantly hear of changing plans. It was the seven year-olds a week or so ago; now it is the 14 year-olds.

On this side of the House we certainly hope that at least one cultural subject will be mandatory after 14. Otherwise, the broadly based curriculum that is asked for in Section 1(2) of the Education Reform Act will not be met. I want to remind noble Lords of what is said there: The curriculum for a maintained school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which— (a) promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society". I hope that the Government will remember that.

So far as concerns the GCSE in music, instrumental tuition and group coaching are essential. For such pupils performance is mandatory. I ask whether there will still be the opportunity to take the GCSE in music. I understand that the recommendations of the music working group are now published and come under fairly severe stricture in an article in The Times today which I believe has already been mentioned. One feels a little despondent about the future when one reads that 19 per cent. of schools have no qualified music teacher teaching music and that 68 per cent. have only one or two specialists, whereas 19.8 per cent. of independent schools have three or more.

I have spoken chiefly of music teaching. However, Theatre in Education is as much at risk with the resultant narrowing of experience and loss of fun and enjoyment. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, referred to that. When considering providing audiences for the future, that is very important. One gets into the habit of going to the theatre. I well remember being extremely moved by a schools' performance at Covent Garden. The enthusiasm of the audience was terrific. It was a wonderful experience.

Many theatres have now seen school attendances diminish by as much as 25 per cent. over the past year. Three Theatre in Education companies have already closed. Others are surviving on loans. How long can one expect that to last? Local authorities are cutting their grants. Will the Government stand by and allow those closures to continue?

There is the question of charges. The charging sector of the ERA has resulted in bookings and attendances falling. Charging for teaching instrumentalists inevitably means that it will be the better off children, the middle class children, who receive the lessons. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, gave us the interesting fact that over 80 per cent. of the players in UK orchestras had had free instrumental tuition at school. No wonder Simon Rattle stated in a recent radio interview, "We shall see a great difference in our orchestras in 10 years' time".

I end on a personal note. My sister-in-law is my chief informer on matters musical. She taught at the Saturday courses at Pimlico for the Centre for Young Musicians. She worked for ILEA for a considerable time. She has repeatedly talked to me and written to me of her total dismay about the way matters are changing and the reduction in the service. I am aware that Westminster has taken on the funding for CYM—in case the Minister thinks that I do not know that. I do not know whether the Minister will refer to the Foundation for Young Musicians. However, my sister-in-law states that it is a much cut version from that which was run by ILEA for years. Several big boroughs have opted out. Many children unable to attend CYM Pimlico used to have financial help towards lessons. That has been abolished.

My sister-in-law wrote that London should be proud not only of the standard achieved, but the fact that a vast fraternity—it now numbers in thousands—of inner city children was established. Those children went on at least two holiday courses a year, often abroad. They spent many hours a week outside school hours working and practising rather than in what she called "inner city sin". It was a unique educational project. She concludes, "It's a crime". I agree. ILEA's music was unique.

However, we now have to deal with the situation as it exists. We want to hear from the Minister that the Government are determined that there will not be a similar devastation with reduced service in both music and theatre all over the country. I hope that the DES is aware of the need for action and of the strength of feeling which has been expressed tonight. It is remarkable that we have not had a single speaker from the Conservative Benches.

The Government are constantly talking about standards and quality. What about the standards and quality of music and theatre?

8.53 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords. I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, for the opportunity to reaffirm this Government's proven commitment to safeguarding the place of the arts in our schools. I say "proven". As I listened to the debate I felt almost as though I had landed from another planet. It is this Government which after all included music and art as foundation subjects of the national curriculum and which have ensured that all pupils must study them in a coherent and progressive way between the ages of five and 14; and that those who continue with them after that age will do so on the basis of a far more secure foundation than has been available in most schools in the past.

The Government also fully share the admiration which has been expressed here today for the work of local authority instrumental teaching services. We are aware of the crucial part that they have played in enabling hundreds of thousands of children to start to learn instruments; and in bringing those with commitment and talent to the high standards which are demonstrated in so many local orchestras, bands, choirs and other ensembles. It can indeed be said without exaggeration that those standards are the envy of the world.

We have heard today of the fear that these services are now under threat from two major causes: local management of schools and community charge capping. On the evidence we have so far, I do not believe that fear to be justified. The fact is that the effects of local management of schools on these services is not yet clear. Many local authorities still retain central control of the music services, and a variety of schemes for delegated funding are being tested or developed by others.

Where a local authority decides to delegate the funds allocated to its instrumental teaching service to schools, it is by no means self evident that the service will suffer in consequence. Nor need the peripatetic workforce necessarily be disbanded. It is open to the local authority to offer these services to schools and charge the costs to the budgets of those schools who use it. Heads, parents and school governors are just as capable as the remainder of us of recognising a good thing when they see it. Indeed, there is evidence from some authorities which have reorganised their services and introduced charging for instrumental teaching, where previously it was free, that there is now increased take-up and expansion of those services.

I can see no reason why the community charge, and charge capping, should cause long term harm to these services. It is a matter for local authorities to be innovative and enterprising in the ways in which those services can be delivered. I was struck by the example that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, gave us of his young relative who did extremely well, learning music for free in our schools. I believe that he would admit that that free service was offered to all too few children. Because it was free, inevitably, no Government—this or any other—could make that service available as a right to all children. Therefore because provision was made for small numbers of children, there was concern that something needed to be done. In the 1988 Act the clarification for charging for music was made. Again in some authorities that meant an expansion of the service.

As I have said, I can see no reason why the community charge and charge capping should cause long term harm to these services. The instrumental teaching services have been developed and funded by local authorities, and their continuance is a matter for decision by those authorities, in the light of local spending priorities. But those priorities are determined by the views of local people; and we have already seen some evidence that, where the value of music services is perceived and defended by schools, governors and parents, local authorities will think very carefully about how they may be maintained even within a reduced overall budget.

We are not washing our hands of the potential problems, however. As I have said, the Government value the instrumental teaching services very highly, and wish to see them continue. We shall be watching the situation very closely, and in particular where we see examples of effective provision which both meets the needs of schools and ensures efficient central co-ordination of the music services. We shall in informal ways seek to disseminate the good practice involved. It is too soon to reach firm conclusions, since the picture we have at this stage is a confused one with adverse reports from some areas admittedly but also some good ones of business as usual or even expanding from others. My expectation is that after a period of uncertainty while new arrangements are worked out, we shall see a better organised and better publicised service emerge in many areas than has existed in the past.

The noble Lord has also suggested that Theatre in Education programmes in schools are under threat from the same causes. And of course the arguments here are very similar. Once again, we have services which we all admire, and which have gained an international reputation for their high quality. Once again, the picture we have of the effects of local management of schools on Theatre in Education programmes is confused.

What is clear is that if a local education authority gives schools the freedom and the funds to pay for the use of the Theatre in Education service, that need not pose any threat to its future. Schools will decide whether or not to support it, depending on whether they believe it offers good educational value for money. The evidence we have so far suggests that where Theatre in Education companies have made their work relevant to the national curriculum demand for their services has remained high. Where they have not done so bookings have fallen away. That supports our view that where the service is valued by schools and parents it should be able to look forward with confidence to the opportunities which local management of schools brings.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, do I understand the Minister to be saying that where theatres in education have decreased in use it is because they have performed badly? The Minister appeared to say that and, if so, it is an important point which will need a great deal of proving.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the situation is not so clear cut and I am not saying that. The service has been highly valued. We are dealing with the way in which LMS is working out in local authorities; it is a question of who has the money and who determines whether or not theatre companies will attend schools. Where the service was provided centrally and where there was no cost to the school no consideration was given to whether what was being performed was of particular relevance to the school at the time. Where the school is the purchaser, the customer, of the theatre we believe that there will be better linkage between what is provided by the theatre companies and what the school requires. In many authorities prescription was determined by the local authority centrally or by the theatre company which came along with an offer, as opposed to the school itself having a view about what the local theatre should provide. I am now referring to the customer-provider relationship, but I do not wish to downgrade what the theatre companies were doing. If Theatre in Education was able to float free of the local authorities' control and market its services direct to schools, the linkage would be more fruitful.

We are also being asked whether at least one cultural subject—by which I take the noble Lord to mean music, art, drama or dance—will be made mandatory in the national curriculum after the age of 14. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has, as the noble Lord is aware, sought and received the views of the National Curriculum Council on how to introduce greater flexibility into the curriculum for 14 to 16 year-olds; that is, those in key stage 4 of the national curriculum. In addition, we have been listening very carefully to the views of teachers who have the task of implementing the new curriculum. It was largely in response to their concerns that the decision was made to reduce the requirements of the national curriculum at this key stage and in particular to make the study of art and music optional for this age group.

I must point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, that a great deal of thinking, listening and consulting took place before the decision was taken. It is not true to say that it came out of the blue. I well remember the discussions on the 1988 Act and the two powerful arguments that were then deployed. One argument was that there should be no prescription; in other words, that there should be total flexibility for the professionals to determine what should be taught in the schools. It was widely argued that prescription was not good in terms of telling teachers what to teach children. The noble Baroness spoke of the plea to have the arts included in the national curriculum rather than music and art. That is a debatable point about which one could continue to argue because a relevant issue still exists.

Whether arts or art and music are included as compulsory subjects we should still have the problem that some children will have gone through school without learning music, drawing, drama or theatre. The basic issue remains of whether the arts as a subject should be taught. I believe that we have the best of all worlds. We have art and music as foundation subjects in the national curriculum and we have drama as a compulsory core element of English, which is a mandatory subject to the age of 16. Therefore, three elements of the arts are being taught in the national curriculum—

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. My information is that the working parties which are most closely involved in these subjects were not consulted before it was decided that the subjects should be optional. I asked the Minister why that was so. Secondly, she said that these are early days and that we should see how the Act works out. I agree with her but I wish to know why a decision to stop any arts subject being mandatory after the age of 14 has suddenly been made. I believe that it would be best to leave the situation alone and see what happens but to make sure that arts subjects are taught.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, we asked the National Curriculum Council for advice: the working parties are a constituent part of that council. The art working group has made comments to the Government. We understand that its comment on the optional aspect of music in the national curriculum beyond the age of 14 will form part of the report that will be published tomorrow. The art working group would have liked art to be continued beyond the age of 14.

The noble Baroness asked why we took that action. We did so because of the request for flexibility from the age of 14. There is wide support for flexibility. Part of the debate in 1988 was that it should be considered at the age of 14. I make no apologies for opting for a complete change at the start. There were schools in which children were not taught art, music, science and many other subjects and therefore left school with no knowledge of them. We believe that something radical had to happen. The national curriculum was put in place and we have quickly responded to the call for flexibility and the introduction of some vocational education post 14 years.

We did so because we consider that by the age of 14 pupils are beginning to look beyond compulsory schooling to work, training or further study. Therefore, the rigidity of the 10-subject curriculum at key stage 4 would have restricted the time available for other worthwhile options which lie outside the national curriculum. Our overriding concern was to ensure enough breadth and balance in the 14 to 16 curriculum without sacrificing the variety which is so important as young people begin to mature. We believe that we have achieved this.

There will also be continuing opportunities for pupils to pursue some aesthetic study at this key stage, and we expect that many will do so. Schools will be expected to continue to offer GCSE courses in music and in art, but such study could also include drama and dance and could be provided either through short single subject or combined subject courses.

Drama will form part of the national curriculum at key stage 4 through its inclusion in the attainment targets and programmes of study for English; but pupils wishing to undertake more specialised study of the subject could do so through a separate GCSE or a combined subjects course which included drama. In our view and in that of many teachers, it is important that pupils of this age should be studying arts subjects, and above all because they want to.

I think the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, was important. Compulsion at any age is not good, but compulsion between the ages of 14 and 16 is particularly difficult, and particularly with these subjects, because compulsion is a problem post 14. I would predict that more young people, having studied arts subjects from the age of five through to 14, are much more likely in key stage 4 to choose them as subjects, because I believe the grounding will be very important. The national curriculum music working group, whose interim report is to be published tomorrow, will be having regard in its further work to the possibility of combining music with other subjects at key stage 4, as of course will the art working group in relation to art.

On the specific points raised by noble Lords and noble Baronesses in the course of the debate, the noble Baroness, Lady David, asked me specifically about the resolution from the Music in Crisis conference, and indeed from any body. We have not received the resolution as yet, neither Ministers nor in the department, but when we do we shall respond to it. I think I have dealt with the point about the Government in retreat.

First, may I welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and his rare compliment to the Government on their contribution to the arts generally. We have a major department of arts and libraries in government. However, the noble Lord hinted that perhaps there was a problem in the relation ship between the arts department and the education department. There is absolutely no evidence for this suspicion, and I am pleased to tell him that there is a healthy, robust and enthusiastic relationship between the arts department and the education department. We certainly have raised the profile of the arts with this major department. I am entirely confident about the education department, which is the first department of any government to have made the arts a central part of the national curriculum.

The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, was worried about the loss of status of music and arts. Again I have to say that these arts subjects will be compulsory from the age of five to 14. They will be taught in a more regular and coherent way than ever before. Given that they are foundation subjects, we expect that there will be more positive choice of continuing with these subjects past the age of 14, given the variety of ways in which young people can either take them to examination, take them as shorter courses or indeed take them as combination courses with other subjects.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, mentioned the decline in school visits. On the evidence we have so far, we do not have evidence of a general decline in visits since the law on charging anyway was clarified in the 1988 Act. The evidence we have is that the level of visits seems to depend very much on the attitude of head teachers and the value they place on such visits. We know that in some areas visits have increased in number as a result of the changes. In others they have diminished. Again, our evidence so far suggests that the fluctuation has a great deal to do with the attitude of the schools to such Visits and their value to education.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, queried the future of art and music as they impacted on local authority spending. Again I have to say—and it is very repetitive—that whatever happens to local authority spending, art and music will remain a foundation subject for all children from the ages of five to 14. That will continue. Therefore, it pre-empts and prescribes priorities for educational spending. They will, beyond 14, remain an option, and drama will remain a core part up to level 6 in English, which will remain a mandatory subject up to the age of 16.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, also argued for flexibility. I have told him, and I hope assured him, that we are with him on this issue of flexibility post 14. Just one word on drama in the national curriculum, where I said it is a core element of the teaching of English. It will of course include performance skills, which have been referred to in the debate. It will mean also that all pupils will be required to participate in drama, and role playing is very much an activity that many teachers use as a method of teaching other subjects too.

All pupils will be required to experience live performance —another important point made during the course of the debate. We also say that pupils should have an adequate introduction to drama through its inclusion in the study of foundation subjects, and the opportunity to study it in non-foundation time so as to be able to make an informed choice when considering drama as a subject to be studied either for pleasure or as an option for examination.

The noble Baroness, Lady David, mentioned the foundation for young musicians. As I am sure she is aware, they are being provided with money from the Government for three years only. That is the arrangement. It is a one-off measure taken to secure the continuance of provision previously funded by the Inner London Education Authority. The Government contribution is more than matched by those of the inner London boroughs and by business sponsors.

This has been an important debate. I hope that what I have said will convince noble Lords that the Government believe this subject to be an important part of the national curriculum. It is now central and will be an experience for all children to enjoy. The information and advice we are receiving from both the music working group and the art working group will be taken seriously. I am sure that it will produce valuable ideas for attractive and often vocationally-orientated courses. I have every confidence that in the circumstances outlined we shall, over the next few years and contrary to what was said in the course of the debate see the arts flourishing in our schools for all age groups as never before.