HL Deb 04 June 1998 vol 590 cc474-93

3.44 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank the Minister and the Chief Whip most profusely for finding another day to discuss this important Bill. I know that is appreciated greatly by noble Lords on all sides of the House, particularly those with amendments to be dealt with, as we are aware that today we must finish by 11 o'clock.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 42 [Annual parents' meetings]:

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 156:

Page 34, line 24, at end insert (": and (c) the aims and values of the school, and the ways in which the school intends to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of its pupils.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 156 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 157, 236 and 239. I preface my remarks by saying how grateful I am that I can discuss these amendments at this stage of the afternoon and not at two o'clock in the morning.

These amendments are similar to those which I tabled to the 1996 Bill, which fell at the time of the general election. When I moved the amendments on that occasion they received considerable support from all parts of the Chamber. These are modest but important amendments. I have tabled them because I believe that this area of the school curriculum should not be neglected. I make two general points. First, I am the first to say that schools cannot do everything as regards moral and social education. We should recognise that and not pretend otherwise. Secondly, in legislation, we should support good parents where we can as they are struggling to bring up their children in a difficult world and at a difficult time. They face all kinds of problems that did not exist even 30 years ago. I refer to drugs, drink and sex. Thirty years ago those problems were certainly not prevalent on today's scale. We should do all we can to encourage co-operation between schools, homes and the wider community.

I regard these amendments as complementary to those which the Minister has tabled to Clause 59. I also regard those amendments as extremely important. They have been tabled in response to my successful amendment to the Human Rights Bill. I attach great importance to the amendments, as I believe does the Committee. I am grateful to the Minister for tabling the government amendments. When we discussed this issue earlier in the year it received the support of the Chamber. We are grateful that the Government have tabled amendments with regard to Church schools and employment matters which meet our concerns.

What do these amendments seek to achieve? Amendments Nos. 156 and 157 require governing bodies to include a statement about the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils in the annual report to parents and to provide an opportunity to discuss that at the annual parents' meeting. Amendment No. 156 would add a new paragraph to Clause 42 dealing specifically with annual parents' meetings to ensure that the aims and values of a school would be discussed at the meeting. Schools' compliance with the terms of Amendment No. 156 would be monitored by the parents themselves. Amendment No. 157 seeks to insert a new clause after Clause 42 to ensure that governors have to publish a statement on the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of school pupils setting out targets and means of assessment.

Amendments Nos. 236 and 239 to Clause 103 require the home-school agreement to include specific reference to spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils and require the consent of parents to the home-school agreement.

Amendment No. 239 seeks to add another paragraph to Clause 103. Parents will have to accept the content of the home-school agreement before it is adopted, and then give their consent annually at the annual parents' meeting. I realise that that may sound like a difficult procedure. However, I suggest that the consent of the parent body required by this amendment could be obtained at the annual parents' meeting through a show of hands. That currently happens in some schools as a means of gaining parental consent for the school's sex education policy. The future monitoring of parents' consent could be achieved by keeping a minute of the vote taken. I make that practical point because the question of monitoring has been raised.

Existing legislation requires that the curriculum for a school should promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils in a school.

However, there is no requirement in existing legislation for schools to report to parents on the way in which that is done and the way in which schools promote those principles or develop those policies in consultation with parents and the wider community. That is what these amendments set out to do.

There is widespread public and professional concern in regard to the spiritual and moral development of young people. One has only to open a newspaper to see columns about bullying in schools as an example of the kind of problems that are faced. I am sure that all of us who take an interest in these matters have read the reports of the speech by Professor Michael Barber to the Secondary Heads Association suggesting that moral education might be based on global citizenship. That is one of the serious issues to be addressed if the matter is being considered at all. It needs to be thought through very carefully before all this is put in front of young people.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has sought to address some of the difficulties that schools face by seeking a broad consensus on values in schools and by producing material to help schools develop the whole school policies for the promotion of moral and spiritual development. However, it is important that these issues should not be sidelined in a school. It is equally important within the context of academic development, which we all acknowledge to be of prime importance, that spiritual and moral development should continue as well.

In its draft guidance issued in November 1997, the QCA stated: The promotion of pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development provides the 'why' as opposed to the 'what' and the 'how' of education. It is an essential ingredient of schools' success". That emphasises the importance of including this issue in the home-school agreement and the need for a whole school policy. Personal and social education and citizenship form a part of the whole school policy, but treated on a basis of single themes, or even as subjects, cannot replace a whole school approach to the spiritual and moral development which should lie at the heart of a school.

I think that all of us recognise that one of the reasons why church schools are often so effective is that their aims and values are known, and parents make an active choice to opt for what they are saying. We need to make sure that parents who can choose a mainstream school should also have the opportunity of opting for something very positive in the school's curriculum. I return to the point that I made at the beginning of my remarks. It is very important that this Bill should help to support good parents in what they try to do at home, by linking what is done in the school with what is done in the home and the wider community. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I support the amendment. Spiritual development is the first aim set out in the Education Act 1944 and repeated in the 1988 education Act. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for bringing forward these amendments. Perhaps I may also make reference to Clause 59, since the noble Baroness has already referred to it. In case she is not present when we come to debate that clause, perhaps I may pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her commitment and tenacity in moving and carrying her amendment, which has resulted in changes to Clause 59. I agree that they are of great significance. I am enormously grateful to the noble Baroness for the part she has played in enabling these points to be considered.

As the noble Baroness said, spiritual development, along with moral, social and cultural development, is not confined to schools but is a part of family and community life. Equally, these are not separate aspects of education to be placed in compartments. They are a dimension of all education. I have argued many times in this Chamber that the spiritual dimension to education is vital to an understanding of education, and to the whole notion of learning. Without some recognition of the inner life associated with being a whole person, no genuine learning takes place.

Schools have had some difficulty in understanding just what is meant by spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. However, Ofsted inspects schools on these aspects of education. It is my impression that schools are increasingly developing a language and understanding—an articulation—of the meaning of those dimensions of education which I believe to be very important in school life. Therefore, anything that can be done to strengthen that aspect of education in schools is significant and important.

I support these amendments for the reasons already indicated by the noble Baroness; namely, that they draw parents into the ethos of the school. They require a school to report to parents; and one amendment requires the consent of parents in the home-school agreement to the school's understanding of spiritual development as well as other aspects of education.

It is generally accepted that Church schools are successful in both academic and other terms. It is arguable that part of their success is due to their ability to bring together governors, heads, staff, parents, youngsters and members of the community within a shared value scheme and a shared understanding of what is meant by education to support a particular school. Indeed, I had a conversation with the Secretary of State in which we debated this matter. That was certainly his view. I long for that sense of involvement which is significant in many church schools also to be the mark of all county schools, as indeed it is already in some. These amendments play an important part in reinforcing that understanding of shared values in relation to which the work done by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is important. The Values Forum has done significant work in that area.

The amendments are, as the noble Baroness said, modest. They do not make any difference to the emphasis of the Bill. However, they underline certain important dimensions in education. I therefore believe that we shall see a positive response to this important aspect of education at this time.

Lord Ashbourne

I support these amendments so cogently moved by the noble Baroness. I very much agree with the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon.

There is widespread public and professional concern about the spiritual and moral development of young people. Schools more than ever have a key role to play in raising standards. Professor Michael Barber's speech to the Secondary Heads Association highlighted the importance of the moral agenda in education.

Amendments Nos. 156 and 157 are practical amendments. There is not likely to be any particular difficulty in schools meeting those requirements. The point of the amendments is to bring greater clarity and explicitness to this key issue for parents and schools themselves at the time each party commits to its responsibilities. Moreover, the requirements set out in the amendment will be monitored by parents themselves. Greater openness will promote participation by parents. Where schools fail to discharge their responsibilities, that will be apparent to parents, who can be expected to take up specific matters with head teachers and governors. I commend the amendments to the Committee.

4 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I wonder if the noble Baroness, Lady Young, can explain what is meant by the word "spiritual". I believe that no one would disagree with the words, moral, social and cultural development of … pupils". That is something which I am sure we all very much support, and indeed would support the kind of push—if I may use that word—behind the two amendments before us. But, if the word "spiritual" is used in what I might call the religious sense, I would have to repeat, as I have said on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House and in another place, that a number of us do not have any religious belief at all. There are some 50 Members of this House and another place who declare themselves in that sense. There are other meanings of the word "spirit", in terms of a rugby or a cricket team, for example, and that is something I go along with. However, where there is this exception—if I may use that word—it should be clarified.

Some Members of the Committee may say that there is provision in the education Acts for a child not to attend classes where religious education is taught if the child or its parents so wish. Those of us who have been engaged in the day-to-day working of education all know that that usually means standing in a corridor outside a classroom, which is not a satisfactory situation in which to place a child. It is important that we have clarification on this matter, and I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to say a little more about it.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I share one common experience with the noble Lord, Lord Dormand: we were both educated in County Durham. I think I can begin to answer his question, although my noble friend may want to do so in greater detail.

If Members of the Committee will pardon anecdotal evidence, I spent six or seven years in the 1940s at school in a Durham mining village. Many of my teachers were, as the noble Lord described, not practising Christians. They had been Methodists; they were socialists. However, they combined a real sense of spiritual values. That was associated with religion; in some cases religion that they had left. There was no doubt about the moral depth of the school. It imparted a feeling that there was depth to life. It was in part attached to an agreed religious syllabus. The teachers drew out of the syllabus moral and ethical points.

I agree with my noble friend that this matter is of enormous importance. Schools form a morality. That is particularly important in our present society, which is very fragmented. We are the end generation of massive industrialisation. Communities such as those in which the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, and I were brought up have been broken up, are now dispersed and have vanished forever. This amendment is possibly one of the most important of the amendments to the Bill.

We could argue about what we mean, but I think that the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, knows as well as I do the situation which used to exist and which can still exist. Teachers are by nature bound to morality because that is the nature of their profession.

I should like this amendment to go on the face of the Bill. Pretty well everything else goes on the face of the Bill. The Government almost tell head teachers when to wash their faces. I shall be protesting about some of this later on. Most of us in this Committee, educated in various ways, having decided our destiny, be it religious or non-religious, know that in our schools we experienced something which has guided us in later life. I can only say in the vaguest way that it is depth of life and care for values. One might become a socialist. My schoolmasters tried very hard to make me one, but they failed in that. Many Members of the Committee would say that their schools did all this, and certainly the schools of County Durham did so. The amendments would provide that teachers should have regard to this as a most important facet of their profession. I therefore commend the amendments to the House.

Lord Northbourne

These amendments raise in my mind three questions, which I should like to ask the Minister. Is it the Government's policy to support and encourage schools to prepare statements on spiritual, cultural, moral and social values? Is it the Government's policy, in doing so, to make use of the agreed values, which have been prepared and are now being tested in schools, which were developed by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority? Do the Government believe that parents have an important role to play in developing a school's moral values? If the answer to those three questions is yes, I think the amendments probably should be accepted.

Lord Milverton

I rise to support the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lady Young. My noble friend made an important point about parents feeling that they have some support from schools in giving spiritual education to their children, which parents do by example. It was not the Church alone, of which I am a minister, that gave me my spiritual feeling; that was something which happened from birth, before I became fully involved in the Church. Some might say that I had a privileged upbringing. I am very grateful for what I sense about spiritual dimensions, sensing the dignity, worth and sacredness of the human being. To me, that is what spirituality is. Spirituality brings in morality and ethics and gives greater depth to them. We should not feel ashamed of emphasising the word "spiritual".

I said that some might say that I was privileged. I do not know whether that is true. For instance, most people started school at the normal school age. Because of my father's position in the Colonial Service, I did not attend any school until I was 10 or 11. That was in Jamaica, where my father was governor. Prior to that I had tutors. I therefore do not think it is true that I speak from a privileged position. I had to work very hard for my education, in Canada as well as in England. In Canada, although the education system is run in the same way as in England—I went to a school called Ridley in Ontario Province—the schools are called public schools rather than private schools, and they really are public. Many parents make a tremendous effort. Children from all kinds of homes go to those schools.

In that way I am not as privileged as some may think. But throughout my life, even as a choir boy in Jamaica, I got my sense of spirituality from more than just being a member of the C of E and feeling a call to the priesthood while at school. It is important therefore that we encourage those who find it difficult to comprehend spirituality at least to begin to have an understanding of it. It is important especially for those parents who are desperately trying to uphold something which they are often told is "silly billy". It is important to help those parents and get schools to do the same.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, put his finger on the problem that exists in most schools today. However, there was an encouraging response from the right reverend Prelate who told us that schools in the Church of England's experience are increasingly trying to discuss and articulate between themselves what they mean in these areas; what they are trying to do; and how they are approaching the whole matter.

Our past experiences may be interesting and significant, but for today it is important that staff, governors and parents agree and are clear about their school's intentions in these areas, what they are trying to do about them and how they want to progress. It is important that governors and staff, having agreed those matters, discuss with parents what the school is trying to do. They need feedback and the support of parents for what they are doing.

I do not believe that our experiences from the past necessarily help. We live in a different world today and the way young people see these things has changed. The approach must therefore be different—and different in every school. My noble friend Lady Young put the point extremely well and reminded us that one can learn from Church schools something about how they turn ethos into practice. A good Church school can teach any school a great deal in these matters, even if the definitions and the process are different.

The amendments are important. The Minister helped with other amendments to which we shall come later. That will carry the matter further. She is making sure that head teachers are people interested in these matters who will be capable of giving the right leadership in the school. But there must be something for schools to follow. If that could be on the face of the Bill, it would be extremely helpful. Schools need support; they are trying hard. There is a great hunger among young people and their parents for help in these matters. It is not easy. If an amendment of this kind can help, we should accept it.

Lord Desai

Like my noble friend Lord Dormand I am an atheist and therefore should not speak too much about religion, but I am glad that the C of E, having lost money in real estate, is now interested in sex and making money. That is always welcome.

As to Amendment No. 157, I do not understand how one can set targets for cultural, social or moral development. I spent my life measuring things and making indices. The other day in Committee we had great difficulty defining "value added", and that is near enough a numerical concept. Given the difficulty and given six months, I could do it. But how does anyone set targets in moral development? How does anyone assess and monitor targets of moral development? I should have thought that if one can measure moral attitude it is not moral. I shall not say anything about whether we should or should not have spirituality but we certainly should not have targets. They are a difficult notion to accomplish in this vague and mushy area.

Lord Dearing

As one who was once a member of the School Curriculum Assessment Authority and had some statutory responsibility for offering guidance to schools in these matters, perhaps I can offer a comment. I warmly support Amendment No. 156 and the purpose of Amendment No. 157. We struggled with a definition of "spiritual". I recall using phrases like "to go beyond", and making it much broader than spiritual values based on religion. We wanted to incorporate a sense of wonder; a sense of awe; beauty; respect for one's fellow human beings; and appreciation of courage, both physical and moral. I remember Margaret Thatcher once describing courage as the ultimate virtue.

Those are the kinds of thing we had in mind. However, when it comes to setting targets and making assessments of such delicate, fragile, magic things, it is extremely difficult. I have a feeling of great compassion for a body of school governors in a primary school with children aged between five and nine trying to define targets and assess them for such delicate but wonderful things. One can describe one's objective as a process of gaining knowledge, but in terms of the development of those things it is difficult. Nevertheless, I commend warmly the intention behind the amendments and hope that the Government will make a positive response.

Baroness Maddock

I am pleased to speak after the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who articulated extremely well much of what I feel. For many this is a difficult area. If one is convinced of one's religion, it is much easier. I appreciated the manner in which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, explained what they wanted to see. I did not feel uncomfortable. But many people outside this Chamber may feel that we are trying to indoctrinate people with a specific religion. I know that that is not the intention. As the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, explained, we should be helping young people in schools. I think of it in terms of helping people to be good citizens. If one is a good citizen, one is mindful of the community and of all the people who live in it. In my lifetime of being involved in schools, I have noticed going out of the curriculum not only the spiritual area, but also how our whole society operates, how we make laws and how they fit into the moral framework of our lives. Certainly in the latter days when I was involved in schools, politicians often thought that political indoctrination was involved. That is why it is such a difficult area. We have moved around it over a number of years. I am therefore grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing.

I want to make one further point regarding how we discuss these matters in schools and persuade parents to become interested in them. I was chairman of the governors in a first school and sat through annual meetings. Every year we tried to thinks of ways to persuade more people to attend the annual meeting. I am pleased to say that the figures went up each year, but it was not easy. Also, it is not always the most appropriate forum in which to raise big issues. I think particularly of the problem of drugs in schools. In some areas local authorities have a good drugs unit which can provide interesting speakers and information for parents.

It seems to me that sometimes, by choosing an issue that perhaps has had some relevance in the community, we are able to persuade parents to discuss these matters in a better way. I am not saying that we should not attempt to discuss these issues at an annual meeting, but by putting that in the Bill, we could fool ourselves into thinking that that shall make all the parents come along to discuss these issues.

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of Halsbury

It is not for the first time that I rise in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I supported her on her earlier attempts to pass this amendment through the House, and I continue to do so.

There is some confusion over the word "definition". There are two kinds of definition: one is a lexical definition in which you define words in terms of other words; and the other is an ostensive definition from the Latin word ostendere, in which you show a daffodil to a child and say, "That is a daffodil", and that is how the child learns the language.

If the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, requires a definition of "spirituality", I can give him an ostensive one. If you wish to be a better person than you are, or you feel ashamed of something which you have done, or admire beautiful music, or admire courage and courageous action in other people, or admire the way in which they attend to the sick and the invalid, and so on, that is a spiritual exercise. That is the only definition that one can give.

I remember that Xenophon or one of his contemporaries asked a Persian educationist, "What do you teach children?". The answer was, "We teach them to ride hard, shoot straight and speak the truth". One can add that that was the beginning of wedding the spiritual side to the material side of education. If we try to divorce them for the sake of some kind of intellectualist doctrine, I do not believe that we shall make a success of the society in which we hope to live and raise our children.

Therefore, I support the noble Baroness in what she has done and if she chooses to divide the Committee on the issue I shall walk into the Lobby behind her.

Baroness Blatch

I rise to support my noble friend, but may I also wish the noble Earl a very warm and happy birthday?

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness Blatch

Once again we have listened to the wise counsel of the noble Earl and it is something from which we always benefit. In my maiden speech in this House I used the phrase that an educational experience is nothing more than a clinical and arid experience if it does not involve a spiritual dimension. It seems to me that the spiritual dimension is very important.

For those who are afraid of doctrination or indoctrination, religious education in schools has never been, and should not be, about trying to make little Christians. It is concerned with raising spiritual awareness. At the end of the day, educationally, it is about understanding our spiritual heritage. I wish, most warmly, to support my noble friend.

Lord Walton of Detchant

I, too, should like to give my warm support to these amendments, if only briefly.

Like the noble Lords, Lord Dormand of Easington and Lord Pilkington, I was educated in a council school in Durham County and later attended a grammar school almost equi-distant between the two that they attended, and we regularly beat them at cricket and football.

Leaving that aside, perhaps I may say how much I support the principle underlying these particular points that have been so well articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who defined what he meant by spirituality in a way in which, I believe, I could not challenge.

I was brought up in a powerful Christian household, a Methodist household. I have to confess that when I went to medical school, and was educated in science, I developed an increasing scepticism about some of the religious tenets that I had been taught in my childhood. It was only in latter years that I began to recognise, as the Bard said, that, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." It was that which brought me back to an understanding of what I believe is the true meaning of spirituality. More than anything else in this country, we need a mechanism in schools, in collaboration with parents, by which we can offer a spiritual, moral and social understanding of the important issues which are all too often neglected in current-day education, but which we all, in this Chamber, learnt in our youth.

Perhaps I may add one point, which I believe is relevant, arising out of my experience in a totally different field; namely, the field of medical education? When I was chairman of the Education Committee of the General Medical Council we struggled with the problem of trying to define, in our recommendations on education, the various tenets that should be looked at in detail relating to knowledge, skills and attitudes.

I would disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, on this point. In trying to educate people in such qualities as compassion, humanity, understanding, kindness and all the other values which are so fundamental to our society, I believe that we came up with recommendations which helped us to indicate how these qualities should be transmitted to students and how they could be assessed. I do not believe that the target setting or the assessment is as difficult as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, suggested. I warmly support these amendments.

Lord Sheppard of Liverpool

I should also like to support the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Some fears have been surfacing in this debate, and I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was right to point out that when people have quoted the example of Church of England schools, the Church has not been trying to make little Christians of everybody. That is the task of home and of church. I believe that the task of schools in a spiritual dimension is to give the pupils the opportunity to make up their own minds. We should all like to say that people should make up their own minds, but unless you have some information on which to make up your mind, you are unlikely to get very far.

I believe also that there was a misunderstanding in what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said about setting targets. I do not contemplate that a school should be expected to set the targets of the spiritual understanding which they expect each pupil to achieve. It would be perfectly reasonable and possible for a school to speak about the kind of experiences that they have allowed children to have, as they face some of the issues that human beings have to face, as schools already do. That could offer a strong report to show the power that some spiritual values have in motivating people in service to other people and facing some of those human issues.

I hope that some of those fears may be put away and that something of immense value in our history may become part of that which we hope for from our schools.

The Earl of Sandwich

I wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington for inspiring many fine sentiments. Whether he intended that or not in this debate I do not know. I shall not add to the high-flown words, but in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, I think she is right in saying that the Church of England orthodoxy is long behind us when talking about moral and spiritual education.

I should like to add one dimension; that is, the international side. Many young people are responding to the experience that voluntary organisations and churches are bringing back from overseas, and some of that is material education, which can be measured. I agree completely with previous speakers in response to the noble Lord, Lord Desai, that this can be measured. Inspectors have measured it and have said that schools come up to expectations. Therefore, I believe that that is an important aspect.

Lord Stallard

I rise briefly to support the noble Baroness and her amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, seemed to assume that because one espouses socialism that means that one is anti-Christian. I should hate people to go away from here thinking that all the Christians are on that side and all the atheists are on this side. That is not true.

If the noble Lord studies social history he will see that most of the early socialists were Christians and upheld the Christian faith. I know for a fact that Keir Hardie was a lay preacher in the place where I was born. I had great respect for his Christian views as well as his socialism. I am very sad that he was not converted because he would have found, I am sure, as much satisfaction as I have over a long period in having both socialist principles and Christian morals and spiritual values.

I can only speak from previous experience of a recent Bill in this House, the Education Bill, when we talked about a conscience clause, and so on. I had literally hundreds of letters—perhaps more than that—from people pleading for that to be carried and pleading for support from politicians of all kinds for the values that parents thought were being attacked, mainly through television advertising, through politically correct school teachers, and so on. I know from 30 years' experience as a school governor in different schools in a London borough that there is a feeling of support for such a provision among parents who admire the ethos of the Church schools with which they have been involved or with which they would like to be involved. I hope that the noble Baroness's amendment will be carried. But if it goes to a Division, I shall certainly support her.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Baker of Dorking

We are not debating whether these matters should be taught in a school framework. The Minister will know and those who are familiar with the legislation will know that schools are obliged to observe spiritual, moral, social and cultural matters. That is on the face of the 1988 Act. When we first drafted the Act we had just "mental and physical education". That was really what education was all about. In fact, it was very close to the definition given by Xenophon. But we added to the Act spiritual, moral, cultural and social matters because obviously education is much wider than physical and mental education. What we wanted to do was to remind schools and teachers that what was important was not just physical and mental education but also the need to awaken a spiritual awareness, which may or may not come from a religious belief. In fact, religious education is defined quite separately in the basic legislation. We also wanted to remind them that there is a wider awareness—social and cultural, which has hardly been touched on this afternoon, and spiritual and moral.

The spiritual development of a child goes rather wider than just being aware of good neighbourliness. Good neighbourliness can be taught in many different ways. For example, it can be taught in citizenship lessons. What we meant by spiritual was touched on by my noble friend Lord Pilkington when he said that it added to the depth of life. If one can strike the flint in the child and get the spark from the flint and raise the imaginative concept that is really behind spirituality, that is an enormous enhancement.

What the first amendment does—I support the first amendment rather more keenly than the other ones—is to require the governors to report to the parents on these matters, so there will have to be debate and discussion. It cannot just be brushed aside casually with the words, "Well, we do that, don't we?". I very much support the first amendment and I hope that the Government will support it as well.

Baroness Blackstone

These amendments take a threefold approach to confirming the significance within the curriculum of pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, an annual statement by the governing body, the annual parents' meeting and the home-school agreement. Before I go further in discussing the amendments, I should like to say how grateful I am to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and to the right reverend Prelate for what they have said about the government amendments that come later to Clause 59.

Many of your Lordships have spoken in favour of at least some of these amendments so I fear that I shall disappoint many of those who have spoken in support of them, not I think because of any difference in principle about the value of what lies behind them or their intent but more because of a difference in terms of the approach that is entailed. They do add weight but also, if I may say so, quite a lot of significant detail to the existing statutory requirement. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, is right. The 1988 Act included clauses on this matter. More recently, Section 351 of the 1996 Act provides that the governing body and head of every school shall exercise their functions with a view to securing that the curriculum, promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and … prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life". Perhaps it would be a little foolhardy for me to get into debating the meaning of all these terms, but I simply want to say that the Government attach great importance—when I say "great importance" I really mean "great importance"—to pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. As the right reverend Prelate said earlier, Ofsted inspectors have looked at these aspects of education when inspecting schools. Their evidence shows that schools experience a particular difficulty with pupils' spiritual and cultural development in terms of how to interpret that and how to implement it. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said that inspectors had found a way of measuring it. I am unaware of how they have done this. Perhaps I am not adequately informed, but that is the first I had heard that they had been able to measure it in the sense that I understand the term "measurement".

Shortly after taking office the Government approved a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority pilot of the draft guidance that it had prepared on the whole school approach to spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. That guidance is now being piloted in 150 schools. The pilot is very important from the point of view of informing the national curriculum review which is being undertaken by the QCA; specifically, the focus that that review gives to preparation for adult life. The QCA's recently published advice on the scope of the review notes: There is a strong case for recognising the central place of citizenship, personal, social and health education and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in the education of all young people by introducing more explicit provision within the statutory framework". However, it concludes that it will not be possible to decide the best way forward until we have considered the recommendations of a range of advisory groups covering areas such as PSHE, if I may use the acronym, creative and cultural education, and sustainable development education, which I know is an interest of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has agreed this advice and the QCA will provide him with further recommendations in September. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that it will be rather easier for me to give a definitive government response to his first two questions then.

As part of its review, the QCA will also be developing a statement of the core values and aims which should underpin the school curriculum and identifying aims and priorities for each key stage. We would expect the spiritual, moral, social and cultural aspects of children's education to be reflected in that work. So this area is very firmly on the Government's agenda, with the possibility of more explicit statutory provision in due course. However, at this stage, the Government feel, given the work that is going on in this area, that it would be premature to put such amendments into law. Moreover, significant as this issue is, the approach taken in the amendments is rather prescriptive and detailed. They would put extra pressure on schools. I am sure many Members of the Committee would agree that we want to avoid the danger of threatening to overburden the vehicles which carry them.

Perhaps I may deal with each of the amendments in turn. With regard to Amendment No. 156, we do not want to be unduly prescriptive about the items for discussion at annual parents' meetings. That could possibly divert governing bodies from their main purpose, which is to provide parents with an opportunity to discuss the annual report and the conduct of the school generally. Many governing bodies will see the promotion of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils as part of their conduct of the school and will want to discuss it. Nothing will prevent them from doing so. They will be free to do that and I hope that they will.

I turn to Amendment No. 157. Similarly, we see no need for the governors to publish a curriculum statement akin to that which they are required to produce on sex education, but with much greater specificity as to content. Indeed, the Bill actually removes the existing requirement for the governors to produce a general statement on the secular curriculum because we judge that to be unnecessary.

I also have some sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and my noble friend Lord Desai had to say about targets in this amendment. If what is meant by "targets" is broadly expressed good intent, all well and good, but the normal use of that word in educational law and in all the guidance that is given to schools these days, is much more precise than that. It is about being able to measure a particular objective and set a goal for schools to achieve. Perhaps the disagreement here is simply a matter of definition.

I turn to Amendment No. 236. Clause 103 defines a home-school agreement as a statement specifying the school's aims and values and the responsibilities which the school intends to discharge in connection with the education of pupils who are of compulsory age. I believe that this definition covers the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. We have made it clear that home-school agreements should include expectations regarding the ethos of the school and we shall reinforce this in our guidance to schools. However, we do not want to be too prescriptive about the content. Schools and parents should be free to determine the detail of their agreements.

The Bill really requires that a home-school agreement should specify the school's aims and values and that the instrument of government for a school with a religious character should include a statement of the school's ethos. Governing bodies are already required to publish in the school's annual prospectus a statement on the ethos and values of the school which underpin the spiritual, moral, cultural and social development of the pupils through the curriculum and any other activities that the school may provide.

We are currently consulting on proposals to give governing bodies more freedom to determine the content of prospectuses that propose to retain the requirement for a statement on ethos and values. So parents who want to discuss the school's aims and values at the annual meeting can do so in the context of the prospectus, the instrument of government or the home-school agreement.

I know that what I have said may be disappointing to some of those who have participated in this debate, but in the light of what has been said I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that the Government are very committed to this area. It is waiting for further QCA advice. In the light of what has been said, I hope that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Northbourne

Before the noble Baroness sits down perhaps I may raise with her the point I made about the importance of parents being involved in, and contributing to, the implementation of the values policy. These amendments would facilitate parents becoming involved and they will encourage them to do so. From what the noble Baroness said it did not appear that the Government see that as an important issue.

Baroness Blackstone

I am very sorry that I forgot about that. I agree that all parents must be given the opportunity to express their views on the home-school agreement. That is why we require the governing body to consult all parents at the school before adopting or reviving a home-school agreement or any parental declaration. I hope that schools will involve parents very substantially in drawing up the agreement. Our guidance on home-school agreements will include many examples of good practice in this area. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord.

The Earl of Sandwich

Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness a question about inspections since she mentioned my name. I am aware of a particular case in which a school from the west country made a visit to Brixton. The children were exposed to the culture of the Caribbean for the first time. That occurred shortly before an inspection. As I understand it, it was recorded. Whether one can call that a mathematical measurement, I am not certain. Perhaps the noble Baroness can help.

Baroness Blackstone

I know that Ofsted inspectors are looking at many aspects of this part of the curriculum and they may well record good practice of that sort. I understood the noble Earl's use of the word "measurement" to be something rather more precise. I understand what he is saying.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Young

I thank all those who have taken part in this debate. I am extremely grateful for the extensive support that I have had from all parts of the House. Perhaps I may begin by reassuring the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. We agree so regularly on these matters. I believe that those of us who are Christians are not confined to any one party or part of the House. We share common values and that is what we are talking about in particular.

Today I would not wish to emphasise particularly that we are talking about some kind of Church of England education. I believe that these are very modest amendments. I am very interested in the support that I have received from all parts of the House. I believe that frequently the danger for young people today is that this area of the curriculum is neglected. I was very disturbed to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in replying to the debate, say that this matter would go to the annual meeting with parents and that she did not want to divert governing bodies from their main purpose. It is that kind of attitude which causes anxiety about this issue. Of course, we care about the academic side of the school and sport, music and other subjects. But there is something very fundamental about the spiritual, moral and cultural side of a child's development.

I would love to answer the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, and explain what I mean by spiritual, but I shall not take up the time of the Committee to do so. The point has been made by my noble friend Lord Pilkington. I was very interested in the comments made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. When one visits schools and meets young people one is very conscious of the numbers who devote a lot of time to charitable work. They devote a lot of time to work overseas, particularly in their "gap" year between school and university. They also help in their own communities. That is some measure of the kinds of things that we are talking about. When I was a child I was taught the values of truth, beauty and goodness. We all know what they are. Those are the kinds of things that we are looking for and which we share.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I thought that my question was a very simple and innocent one. It has given rise to quite an interesting debate, not least about the benefits of education in County Durham. All I can say is that I spent more than 70 years in a mining village in County Durham and look what it did for me! It is different from the effect that it has had on the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington.

My main point was to try to define the position. I say this not just to the noble Baroness but to other speakers. There is a need for good citizenship. No one would disagree with that. Those who do not have religious beliefs would not disagree with that. We are saying that there is a different way of achieving the objective and that the views held by people such as myself could also achieve that end. However, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for at least attempting to give me more information on the matter.

Baroness Young

I shall give the noble Lord a lot more information on another occasion. I do not think that the Committee wants to hear it now. However, I note what the noble Lord says.

On the whole question of the spiritual and moral side of education, the words of the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, were most helpful. I am also grateful for the support of my noble friend Lady Carnegy who pointed out that many of the experiences of the past have not necessarily been helpful but that we can learn from the strengths of Church schools. I am also grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, whose knowledge of education is infinitely greater than mine, and for that of the noble Lord, Lord Walton.

I am grateful for the trouble the Minister took in replying to the debate. I recognise that the Government attach importance to this area of the school curriculum. I know what has been done—at any rate, what has been published—by the QCA and following Ofsted inspections.

However, I am concerned about the Minister's reply on two counts. First, I have an uncomfortable feeling that the noble Baroness was not talking about what I and those who support my amendments have been talking about. The noble Baroness suggested that citizenship could be a substitute for spiritual and moral values. I am not against citizenship. Of course, being a good citizen is in itself a good thing, but I am talking about something infinitely greater and deeper than that.

My second concern about the Minister's reply relates to the point I made at the beginning and to the Government's suggestion that spiritual and moral values are not central to a school. Anyone who visits a school can tell its ethos, almost on walking through the front door. Perhaps I may give one small illustration. Where I stay in London I go first thing in the morning to buy a newspaper from a small shop run by an Indian family. Invariably when I am in the shop, it contains a number of pupils, obviously from the local comprehensive. I regret to say that they are usually buying sweets and soft drinks, which I strongly suspect comprise their breakfast. Nevertheless, those large boys are nearly always in the shop. They are universally polite. It is extraordinarily impressive that if they bump into you, as teenagers can so easily do in a confined space, they invariably apologise. They hold open the door for the customers. That school has got those children to do something remarkable—and the outsider immediately judges the school on that. Its young people are very thoughtful. They have no idea who I am, so I am certain that they behave in that way to everyone. That school has given those children something, a moral education—and it shows. However, it is more than that. It is something of value and we all know how important it is.

Although I had not intended to divide the Committee on this amendment, in view of the support that I have received, I now seek the opinion of the Committee.

4.53 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 156) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 119; Not-Contents, 104.

Division No. 1
Addison, V. Brentford, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Broadbridge, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Annaly, L. Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Ashbourne, L. Butterworth, L.
Attlee, E. Byford, B.
Baker of Dorking, L. Cadman, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Caithness, E.
Beloff, L. Calverley, L.
Birdwood, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Blatch, B. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Carnock, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Chesham, L.
Coleridge, L. Mersey, V.
Colwyn, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Milverton, L.
Craig of Radley, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Crathorne, L. Monson, L.
Cross, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Munster, E.
Davidson, V. Northbourne, L.
Dearing, L. Northesk, E.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Norton, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. O'Cathain, B.
Ellenborough, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Oxfuird, V.
Fitt, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Foley, L Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Fookes, B. Rawlings, B.
Gainford, L. Reading, M.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Renton, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L. Ripon, Bp.
Halsbury, E. Rix, L.
Harding of Petherton, L. Romney, E.
Hayhoe, L. Sainsbury, L.
Hemphill, L. Sandwich, E.
Higgins, L. Seccombe, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Holderness, L. Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Howe, E. Slim, V.
Hurd of Westwell, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Stallard, L.
Kimball, L. Stockton, E.
Kinnoull, E. Strathcarron, L.
Kintore, E. Strathclyde, L.
Kirkwood, L. Swansea, L
Lauderdale, E. Swinfen, L.
Layton, L. Teviot, L.
Liverpool, E. Thurlow, L.
Long, V. Vivian, L.
Longford, E. Waddington, L.
Lucas, L. Walton of Detchant, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Warnock, B.
Luke, L. Weatherill, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Westbury, L.
McConnell, L. Wharton, B.
Macleod of Borve, B. Wilcox, B.
Marlesford, L. Wise, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Young, B. [Teller.]
Acton, L. Dubs, L.
Addington, L. Evans of Parkside, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Ezra, L.
Annan, L. Falkland, V.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Blackstone, B. Gallacher, L.
Borrie, L. Gilbert, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Gladwin of Clee, L.
Burlison, L. Glasgow, E.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Carlisle, E. Grenfell, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.] Hardie, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B. Hardy of Wath, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Haskel, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Hayman, B.
Craigavoa, V. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
David, B. Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Davies of Oldham, L. Hoyle, L.
Desai, L. Hughes, L.
Dholakia, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Diamond, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Dixon, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Puttnam, L.
Judd, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Kilbracken, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Kirkhill, L. Rea, L.
Leigh, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Linklater of Butterstone, B. Richard, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Lockwood, B. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Russell, E.
McCarthy, L. Shepherd, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.] Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Mallalieu, B. Smith of Clifton, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Strabolgi, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Mishcon, L. Taverne, L.
Molloy, L. Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Monkswell, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Montague of Oxford, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Morris of Manchester, L. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Nicol, B. Whitty, L.
Orme, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Peston, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Pitkeathley, B. Winston, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

5 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 156A:

Page 34, line 27, leave out first ("special school").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 42, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 157:

After Clause 42, insert the following new clause—