HL Deb 18 January 1999 vol 596 cc440-64

8 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to implement the recommendations of the final report of the Crick Advisory Group on Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful to the House for allowing this Unstarred Question. It is extremely gratifying that so many noble Lords are present and that so many wish to speak. It is a cause for frustration therefore that the time available to speak is only five minutes—but that is better than three. I wish to refer to the involvement of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford in putting the Motion forward. Furthermore, I welcome the participation of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, whose Commission on Citizenship was such a signal landmark in the development of interest in the subject in recent years. I should also declare an interest as chairman of a charity called the Citizenship Foundation which was established 10 years ago and of which I am chairman. As its name implies. it has a complete identification with citizenship.

Democracy is a word never far from our lips, even in this place. Yet democracy is about substance and not form; heart as much as head; and common values and attitudes even more than about rules and regulations, vital though they are. As the Americans say, democracy should be of the people, by the people and for the people. The trouble is that in Britain today it is not, it is not and it is not. The democratic deficit, widely talked about in relation to the European Union, is a major problem here as well.

In 1948, Lord Beveridge said: Educating for citizenship is one of the most vital conditions of success in democracy". Even then, it was clear that Mark Twain's recipe for success that, all you need is ignorance and confidence", was losing its charm. One question to which all of us need to address an answer is why there is a pressing need for structured citizenship education.

Last summer, MORI did some research for the Institute of Citizenship, one of the excellent bodies in the citizenship field, together with NatWest and with a scientifically constructed sample of 900 people aged 16 and over. It makes vividly clear that most people are concerned about citizenship but mainly in a passive, domestic, local way—not breaking the law, not kicking the neighbour's cat and being nice to one's children.

By contrast, knowing their formal rights and responsibilities as citizens was way down the list, as was voting at elections. I do not need to remind the House that in 1997 the 71 per cent. turnout was the worst since 1935 and that was in the age of uniquely advanced education. This was counterbalanced by one striking finding of the MORI research: almost everyone agreed that schools should teach about citizenship.

I wish to mention too the depressing findings of the Essex University/University of North Carolina survey about the making of citizens in Britain and the United States. It involved fieldwork in both countries during a three-year period in three different types of community in each country. It showed that one third of those questioned here did not engage in any voluntary or civic activity, even as bland a kind as joining a club or informally helping neighbours. That compared with only 6 per cent. of Americans who were not so engaged. Furthermore, nearly 80 per cent. of pupils aged 15 to 16 in Britain claimed to have engaged in very little or no discussion of public issues whether at home or at school. As Professor Ivor Crewe concluded: British school students have not yet absorbed the practice of public discussion, but they have absorbed the norms which discourage it. Of course, life is changing dramatically. When I was a boy growing up in the settled market town of my title, people's identification with their local community and institutions was innate and natural. Today we inhabit a rootless, classless, mobile world in which everything is possible for ill as well as good. Work is more pressurised and insecure and there has developed a privatisation of life in a highly complicated world in which there are few common causes or places where a sense of citizenship can be learnt, shared and developed. A bias to Christianity has shifted in 50 years to a bias to materialism, which can hardly be said to succour the values of the involved, contributive citizen.

Yet enabling every young adult to contribute is what Professor Crick's committee rightly cherish. In order to be able to contribute, however, one needs knowledge, skills and the will. An increasing minority of our fellow citizens feel wholly inadequate in all three dimensions. However, would the right kind of citizenship education—and I urge noble Lords who have not yet done so to read the Crick proposals—make much difference where it most counts? Consider the early results from the Social Exclusion Unit. They show that 13,000 pupils are being excluded from schools every year and another 100,000 are excluded temporarily; 1 million are truanting; 40 per cent. of all robberies and 25 per cent. of all burglaries are being committed by 10 to 16 year-olds; and 7 million offences are caused by young people annually at an estimated cost of £13 billion to society. By definition, these youngsters are both problem people and disadvantaged people, the prospects for whom, and indeed the prospects for society, are on present prognosis bleak.

Yet we know from the chalkface that good citizenship education can turn round some of the most difficult and disaffected pupils when confronted with real life dilemmas, moral, legal and social. Listen to these unsolicited comments recently received by the Citizenship Foundation from schools using its moral education materials with 12 to 16 year-olds. After a lesson on the role of the state with regard to family welfare, the teacher said: It was a lesson that most students felt passionately about and led to an unprompted and long discussion about ideal families and society's attitude towards them". After a lesson with 12 year-olds on recognising moral issues the teacher said: A great opportunity for discussion and people recognised the value of talking as a means of learning". Were there time I could go on. Those proposals are intentionally open textured, setting objectives for learning outcomes at the four key stages of schooling (seven, 11, 14 and 16) but leaving schools to plot their own pathways. This light touch is consistent with the nature of the subject itself, which would be damaged by a centralised, prescriptive hand.

The crying need now is for a modicum of courage and the resources to get on and implement the report. Of course there are anxieties among teachers, and for good reason. They will need help in developing programmes as well as appropriate training. Schools will need time and resources for a gradual phasing in of the new regime.

As for curriculum time, at primary level it is proposed that citizenship will be part of a mix and match of related subjects such as religious education. At secondary level, however, it needs discrete space and designated curriculum time which will of course need negotiation and careful planning. For too long, citizenship education has been pushed to the margins of education by its failure to count for anything in the league tables and its lack of coherence, requirement and resources.

Some, naturally perhaps, are worried by the danger of biased and value-prescriptive teaching. Bias is already outlawed by Sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996. But generally we should have confidence in school staff and their governors to be professionals. The in-depth research carried out by a university a few years ago provides firm reassurance that pupils are sufficiently shrewd and robust to see through a maverick teacher's bias.

Above all, I hope that this House will plump for certainty rather than for what is largely phantasmagorical. The certainty is that unless we really grasp the thistle of citizenship education now, the dry rot of disassociation and disillusionment in our society will spread and spread rapidly.

8.10 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say how much we appreciate the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, in introducing the debate this evening. Also, I wish to thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford for the part which he has played in bringing this matter before the House.

Any committee headed by the irrepressible and imaginative Professor Crick, with the distinguished colleagues whom he gathered around him, coupled with allies like the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford is a powerful alliance. We have already seen the power of that alliance because it has increased by 50 per cent. this evening the amount of time allocated for the debate and we have seen the Government galloping through their business in order to accommodate these important deliberations.

There are really three points that I wish to make in the time available. First, we have a Government who are deeply committed to the regeneration of democracy by appropriate changes in our constitution. But we must all remember that any structure is inanimate. No structure makes anything happen. What is important is the quality of the human material, the imagination and the drive which is there within the structure.

I am sure that in our own experiences, we have all seen imperfect structures where very exciting things were happening because there was a lot of imagination and drive. We have seen perfected structures where absolutely nothing happened because everything was dead from the neck upwards. Therefore, if we are serious about the regeneration of democracy, education and preparation for citizenship is all important.

Secondly, at a time when we are preoccupied with the measurement of the basics in education—and no one denies their importance—and when we are preoccupied with reading, writing, arithmetic and equipping people for the techniques of living, if we are serious about the regeneration of democracy, an equal commitment to preparing people in the education system to come out of their schools and to move forward into life as critical, questioning, self-confident individuals is every bit as important.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, spoke about social exclusion. I hope he will agree with me when I say that I wish we did not talk so often about social exclusion but talked more about social inclusion. If we are serious in our determination to achieve an inclusive society, a great deal of effort and concentration will have to go into providing resources, space and facilities to enable those who live in the most deprived social situations in our country to compensate for that in terms of the self-confidence which can be generated among them as young people during the years when they are enjoying their primary and secondary education.

The difficulty there is that the very pressures about which I spoke in terms of leagues and so on, with their highly quantitative approach to education, present real difficulties for teachers operating in precisely that situation. We must look at that.

The second point I wish to make is that if there is one reality about the age in which we live which has struck me repeatedly in the course of my life it is that we are moving into an age when all the major strategic issues which will affect the young people of today in the course of their lives require an international approach. I can think of hardly any single major issue which will affect my grandson which can be resolved within the context of the nation state alone. Therefore, if we are speaking about preparation for citizenship, it is absolutely crucial that central to that preparation for citizenship is an understanding of global interdependence and an understanding that we cannot separate ourselves from the interests of the global community as a whole. The art of the success of democracy and governance in our society lies in how we manage to work out a place for ourselves as a community in the United Kingdom which is a constructive and dynamic part of global society as a whole.

Therefore, I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate, she will deal with the issue of special assistance for areas of deprivation; that she will deal with the issue of how we can assist in the regeneration of democracy by the policies which Professor Crick and others have advocated; but that she will deal also with the issue of the importance of a global approach to citizenship in the education in our schools.

8.16 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, this is obviously an important report. Citizenship education as defined in it is a much larger issue than teaching about the British constitution or what may be described loosely as civic education, which is normally taught in schools. It is a far-ranging and far-reaching concept touching on both politics and morality. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, to whom we are grateful for introducing this debate, made much of that in his remarks. I only regret that an Unstarred Question offers far too short a time in which to discuss the report adequately. One is conscious that one is merely touching on a few points in an extremely detailed and far-reaching report.

There is much in the report with which we all agree—the stress on the importance of understanding how a system of government works, the system in Europe and the system in the Commonwealth. Although I am not quite certain what is meant by the global part of that, nevertheless, I can see that that is an issue.

I was struck in particular by the analysis in paragraph 3.5 and the following paragraphs—again, the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, mentioned it—giving clear figures to show that at present, young people are not voting; they are not interested in politics; and they appear to be turned off the subject altogether. That confirms what was said to me quite recently. I have just completed my term of office as Chancellor of the University of Greenwich. A leading figure in the university said that what he most regretted was that students were no longer interested at all in political affairs. I do not know that that would necessarily be a view shared by all but I was very struck by the statement that he made. I believe that all of us here this evening would agree with the statement that politics is not a spectator sport.

In my opinion and experience, many young people, and in particular the most able young people, are far more interested in going into the media world whether newspapers, radio or television. And, after all, why not? The media exercise real and immediate power. I am sorry to say that from my experience I believe that it is far easier to comment than to take part in and make up one's mind about the really difficult decisions which governments have to take whether locally, nationally or anywhere else.

But we need to keep a balance in the argument. Many young people in schools spend a lot of time undertaking community work of one sort or another. I am struck by the numbers of people going in for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemes. Before we write off all the young people as not contributing anything, we need to maintain a sense of balance.

Having said that, I have many concerns about the report. Some are quite practical, and no doubt other noble Lords will comment on them. Can schools really give up 5 per cent. of their time to teach that subject? For example, when I looked at the tables on page 44, it looks to me as though what is being proposed is fit for a university degree, if not followed by a D.Phil. before one has understood it all.

Many questions are raised. For instance, under the column headed "Values and Dispositions", it says, judging and acting by a moral code". That begs almost as many questions as it is possible to ask. And I feel an underlying concern that what is being proposed is in part a substitution for religious education of training in citizenship and the extension of a whole secular world into a spiritual world; giving up the spiritual side of education for a general secularisation. Perhaps I misinterpreted that and someone will correct me, but it needs to be made clear. I have always believed that education is about the intellect, the physical development of life through sport and the spiritual development of a child or adult. Secular education, no matter how good, cannot be a substitute. Therefore a good deal of that side of the matter is bound to be controversial.

Finally, there is much to be debated about the establishment of a commission—who is on it, what its powers would be and how far teachers could be expected to accept what a commission says as to what they should teach. Those are many and serious questions, to which no doubt we can return on another occasion.

8.21 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, for initiating this debate.

Your Lordships may remember that during the 1980s there were recurring allegations that the curriculum in some institutes of higher education and some schools had become politicised, more specifically, that left wing propaganda was being inculcated under the guise of education. It was argued by those who believed that this was happening that what we want in colleges and schools is education, not propaganda. I agree. But we should not make the mistake—as I believe they did—of thinking that education is somehow value free or that there are no political assumptions in our education system.

The fact is that nothing in this life is value free. There are no neutral zones evacuated of all political assumptions. The point is to be aware of the values and assumptions in our political system and its institution; to articulate them and subject them to scrutiny. I believe that the educational system in this country is integrally related to the political system in which it is set—namely, liberal democracy—and that the same values of respect for the facts, rational argument, checks and balances and decision-making by the majority of voting imbue both. I believe that those values, at once political and moral, not only are, but should be, at the heart of our educational process. People should be made aware of them and learn to argue critically in relation to them. They should, in the words of the Crick Report—whose publication I value—be politically literate. Liberal democracy, and the educational system which goes with it, is a precious inheritance. But I stress that it is not neutral or value free. It represents a particular understanding of what it means to be a human being in society, derived from our history. But that is nothing to be ashamed about. On the contrary, it can and should be championed.

There is another reason why I believe that the central concerns of the Crick Report are so crucial. The profession of politics today is held in low regard. Those voting, particularly in local elections, are too few. In contrast to this is the old Greek ideal that it was a privilege for everyone (sadly, at that point, excluding slaves and women) to come together to share in the ordering of the common life. It belongs to the dignity of being a citizen to share with others in the shaping of society, whether locally or nationally. At school pupils should be encouraged to share this vision, to know something of how the system works, to reflect on its philosophical basis and to express its values in voluntary service for the wider community. That is why I am so grateful to the Crick Report. I am not going to comment on its provisions in detail except to emphasise the importance of recommendation 4.1 that, citizenship education be a statutory entitlement in the curriculum and that all schools should be required to show that they are fulfilling the obligation that this places upon them". The report quotes a speech by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor: We should not, must not, dare not, be complacent about the health and future of British democracy. Unless we become a nation of engaged citizens, our democracy is not secure". The recommendations of the Crick Report, if carried through, will do more than has ever been done before to bring about those engaged citizens.

8.26 p.m.

Lord Weatherill

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury—and also to the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Oxford—for initiating this debate. I do not recollect an Unstarred Question at this time of night which attracted so many Memhers of your Lordships' House and I commend your Lordships for that. It was kind of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, to mention my involvement with the Institute for Citizenship. I also commend his work in the Citizenship Foundation.

The Institute for Citizenship Report was published by HMSO in 1990. I was privileged to chair that committee and a member of the commission at the time was the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. Among our recommendations—many of which were incorporated in the party manifestos in 1992—was that young people in our country were as likely to become good citizens just by chance, as they were to become good doctors, nurses or engineers; that citizenship needed to be taught. I am pleased to note that the recommendation of Professor Crick's report was that good citizenship should be taught, despite the difficulties mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Young.

I hope that on this occasion those recommendations will not be pigeon-holed as being too difficult, but will be acted upon. My reason for stressing that—the point has already been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and others, including the right reverend Prelate—is that, sadly, politics in our country is in low repute. In a democracy that is a serious matter. As a former Member of the other place and a Speaker, it is a matter which greatly concerned me.

The Institute for Citizenship recently commissioned a survey by MORI which produced some disturbing findings. The first was that 95 per cent. of those participating in the survey thought that they were good citizens, though only 67 per cent. thought that their neighbours were good citizens. However, 70 per cent. of those who participated claimed to know very little about their local council or the European Parliament, or even that the European elections were to be held on 10th June. The institute has been carrying out a series of seminars entitled, "Get the vote out", in order to encourage interest and participation in the European elections. It is to be hoped that our recent debates in the House on the open and closed list systems may have drawn attention to the fact that there will be a European election on 10th June.

This is a matter of concern because in a democracy there is no "them" and "us". We are all in it together. A country that claims to be the mother of parliaments should have active citizens among its electorate. That will happen only if the citizens of our country are knowledgeable about our parliamentary and local government systems and the issues involved.

In 1991, I represented the House of Commons at the 2,500th anniversary of the birth of democracy in Athens. On that dramatic occasion, many tributes were paid to our country for our contributions over the centuries to the principles of democracy. Tributes were paid to other countries also, but specifically to the United Kingdom.

Then I turned to the last page and found a quotation from Plato. Let these be my last words tonight and I had better make them politically correct: The penalty that good men"— and women— pay for failing to participate in public affairs is to be governed by others worse than themselves".

8.32 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest. I am chairman of the Further Education Funding Council, which in 1996 produced a report, Enrichment of the Curriculum, which advocated certain aspects present in the Crick Report. The chief executive also gave evidence to the Crick Committee. I hasten to add that that was before my time as chairman.

This evening I do not want to focus on the post-16 position, although the evidence is quite clear that one could not expect to spread notions of good citizenship among the post-16 generation unless the essential building blocks had been adequately established by schools. That is the main purpose of this debate.

I also want to declare a second interest as a former student of Professor Crick. He might not want to own up to that, but might attest to the fact that I was enormously grateful for his seminal work of the time, In Defence of Politics.

Like other noble Lords who were also active in higher education at the time, I was beset by the rather ideological challenge which denied the concept of democratic debate by the certainties that were being put forward by students, who had the great merit of being active but fewer merits in terms of democratic discourse. There is no doubt that had that challenge been presented with the more liberal-minded politics of Professor Crick, the nation would have advanced considerably at that time.

I maintain that the reason good citizenship is an important concept in education is that I am all too well aware that all education practitioners recognise how crowded the curriculum is. Even the modest request in this report that 5 per cent. of school time should be devoted to this essential subject imposes great difficulties on the education system.

We need to recognise three aspects of our present society which need to be addressed in schools on the basis of the principles behind this report. I refer first to the apathy among the younger generation. The very low participation rates at the last general election have already been quoted. The group that participated least comprised 18 to 24 year-olds. There is a real concern about the development of an alienated response to the fundamental duties of democracy. That concerns us all. The point has already been alluded to.

Secondly, what has been considered only tangentially this evening is the nature of our present society. I am thinking more in terms of those issues which the Americans have addressed more successfully. We all know why the American education system pays such real regard to the issues of citizenship and why, for instance, the American flag flies in every classroom. It is because Americans have been aware of the fact that their society is composed of people who come from diverse backgrounds and that they need to understand the fundamental values of power in their society and how they have recently effected changes in the concept of democracy. We need that too. We should not underestimate the extent to which our society comprises people from many different traditions in which the automatic assumptions of British education in the past did not obtain. If those fellow citizens—often from the most deprived sectors of our community—are to grow up to play their part, they need to know how to act democratically and effectively in defence of their interests.

Thirdly, the IT revolution will give enormous opportunities to some. However, the great danger is that it will create further imbalances in our society unless people are educated effectively in its opportunities and, above all, in the recognition of the significant importance of the media in this day and age. I am referring not only to the printed word, which we all respected in the past, but also to television and to the opportunities of the computer-driven media revolution. It is essential that young people gain an understanding of how to make judgments of the message being put across and that they have the effective critical faculties for doing so. We all agree that that is at the heart of democracy. The report is suffused with those principles. That is why I have the greatest pleasure in commending it to the House.

8.36 p.m.

Lord Baker of Dorking

My Lords, I was very glad to serve on the Crick Committee. I should like to pay tribute to Bernard Crick for the excellent way in which he chaired the committee and produced the report within 12 months.

Our association on citizenship goes back over 20 years. I remember joining Bernard Crick many decades ago in trying to persuade the then Shirley Williams, Secretary of State for Education and Science, to include something about citizenship in the curriculum. In those days, Ministers were not allowed to trample in the sacred vineyard of the curriculum. I changed all that.

The essence of our report comes on page nine, which states specifically: for pupils—an entitlement in schools that will empower them to participate in society effectively as active, informed, critical and responsible citizens". We were quite specific about how that should be achieved. There should be three areas of study. One should be moral and social responsibility, which almost happens automatically when a child goes to primary school and realises that he or she is a member of a society that is bigger than the family and that in that society there has to be give and take, fair play and resistance to bullying.

The second element is community involvement. A lot of that happens in schools, as my noble friend Lady Young said earlier. I refer to the involvement of pupils in improving their immediate environment, such as the estates on which they live—in many cases, miserable estates indeed; in planning better and safer routes to school; and in helping elderly and disabled people. Much of that is done through Community Service Volunteers. Indeed, Elisabeth Hoodless served on the committee. Such work should be encouraged.

The third element is political literacy. There is the rub. That goes far beyond a knowledge of the British constitution—important as that is. Political literacy is not political indoctrination. I am perfectly aware that many young people say, "We are not interested in politics or religion"; yet those young people will go home tonight, turn on their televisions and watch "News at Ten"—if it is still on at 10 o'clock—and they will be presented with a series of acute, fascinating political dilemmas: the rights of foster parents as opposed to natural parents; whether other countries have a right to do something about a great crime that occurs in another country and, if so, how and with what consequences; and whether heads of state should be immune from the consequences of the activities for which they are responsible. Those are fascinating political problems which obtrude on everybody's consciousness. They are not only political but also moral problems.

I agree with the right reverend Prelate that it is very difficult to say that education can be value free; indeed, I do not think that it can be. I am proud to be associated with some of the values that are mentioned on page 44 of the report. For example, one wants to inculcate in young children a belief in human dignity and equality. Mention is also made of the, concern to resolve conflicts [and the] practice of tolerance". Faced with militant Islam, I should have thought that the practice of tolerance today was a very necessary and important quality to ingrain into a child. The report also talks about, courage to defend a point of view…civility and respect for the rule of law…concern for human rights [and] concern for the environment". The report also recommends how that can be achieved.

However, the question is how it can be achieved, because there is immense pressure on the curriculum. We are ambitious in recommending a statutory entitlement for a time. Perhaps I may make some helpful suggestions to the Minister as to how this can be accommodated in the curriculum. At present, the Government are examining the content of the curriculum. There is a great move to make it more flexible. I would advise the Government to resist that word and to resist the move. Flexibility often means watering down.

One of my successors in the Department of Education made the huge mistake of allowing children to give up the study of history at the age of 14. As a result, the phasing out of history is beginning in our schools. Indeed, 5 per cent. fewer students take GCSE examinations in history each year. We are the only country in Europe, apart from Albania, to allow children to drop history at the age of 14. Therefore, I am not for flexibility.

However, what I am for is the notion that the Government should look most carefully at the amount of teaching time in English schools. If they do so, they will see that the average teaching time in our schools is 23 hours a week. In the Scottish schools it is 26 hours a week. How does Scotland do so much better? In a Continental school the teaching hours are about 33 a week, and in a Far Eastern school the number is in the high 30s each week. There are some English schools where the teaching time is much higher than the average 23 hours a week.

I have one great regret regarding my time as Secretary of State for Education, which relates to something that I did not do. I make no apology for the things that I did; indeed, noble Lords would not expect me to do so. My regret is that I did not manage to extend the teaching day by one period. I know how controversial that is, having settled the teachers' strike and having secured the teachers' agreement on the numbers of hours to be taught in schools. However, if one had an extra lesson a day one could accommodate this, and many other things, in the curriculum. But if we are to ask teachers to teach more, then they should administer less. The quid pro quo is to give substantial extra administrative help to schools so as to reduce the administrative burden on teachers and thereby free them to do what they do best; namely, standing up in front of a class and teaching the children sitting before them.

Therefore, I hope that the Government will be imaginative. A great deal could be done by managing the system better and making it more effective. I hope that they will do so and that they will not miss this very great opportunity to improve the awareness of children of the greater society in which they live. The arguments that that is beneficial for our society, not for the children only, are both manifest and clear.

8.42 p.m.

Lord Dahrendorf

My Lords, democracy is above all, as Carl Popper put it, a method by which citizens can remove governments without violence. To be sure, governments have to be allowed to pursue the policies for which they were elected in the first place; but if they fail, or when their energies are spent, peaceful change must be possible. In that sense, the underlying principle is one of trial and error, and it is the citizens who have the right to determine both.

There are, as this century has shown in abundance, many threats to democracy in this sense. Leaders can initiate necessary changes but they can also mislead, sometimes disastrously so. Many a pied piper has induced citizens to sacrifice their rights on the altars of false gods. The waves of violent nationalism—tribalism perhaps—which are sweeping the Balkans and parts of Africa today are but the most recent examples. It is therefore necessary that citizens are prepared to guard against such threats, which may sound alluring at first but often end in murder and mayhem.

In our own part of the world there is, however, another risk; it is that of creeping authoritarianism. Governments have a tendency to arrogate more and more powers to the executive. In addition, internationalisation generally means a loss in democratic control. Who will ever remove the UN Security Council, the G7 or even the European Commission without violence? This is a new challenge to citizenship. Yet, in view of such changes, we are faced with a serious threat—with citizens who are not trying and who therefore let governments get away with, if not murder, then unfettered power.

Civic ignorance and apathy can destroy democracy as effectively as brutal leadership. Citizens have to know their rights and make use of them for democracy to live. That is why the report by the Crick Advisory Group is so important, and why my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury is so right to press the Government for early action. I hope that the result of today's debate will be a sense that many of us strongly endorse the proposals of the Crick Advisory Group for the education of active citizens through a statutory entitlement in the school curriculum. Like the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, I have looked with great interest at the overview of essential elements of such teaching and have my own preferences as regards the values which I believe should inform such education: courage to defend a point of view; individual initiative and effort; and commitment to active citizenship.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, in joining with all those who have contributed to the debate thus far, perhaps I may welcome the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, in drawing this matter to our attention tonight and giving us the opportunity of this short debate. I should also declare my interest in that I hold the chair in citizenship at the Liverpool John Moores University. In so doing, perhaps I may also refer to Professor Peter Toyne, the Vice-Chancellor of that university, whose brainchild it was two years ago to establish both the chair in citizenship (the first of its kind in the country) and also the creation of a foundation in citizenship.

It is drawing on that experience that I venture to address your Lordships on this subject tonight. During the intervening two years we have been successful in extending into 500 of the 600 schools on Merseyside good citizenship award schemes supported by local companies in the area. I passionately believe that citizenship has to be experienced as well as learnt. We have also been able to highlight examples of many youngsters who are already engaged and involved in acts of good citizenship. This has been sponsored by a local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo. Telling these stories again and again, and night after night, has helped to create a culture of good citizenship.

However, in addition to that and in trying to address the intellectual questions, we have initiated a series of town and gown lectures. Indeed, some Members of your Lordships' House have been good enough to take part in some of those lectures. Coming in the next few weeks we have the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Mr. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary Mr. Jack Straw and Ann Widdecombe. During the past few months we have had contributors such as the Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks. It has been a way of drawing many people—in fact, hundreds of people. Over 900 people heard the President of the Irish Republic, Mary McAleese, deliver her lecture on citizenship just a month or so ago.

The latter has triggered widespread discussion in a community which needs to express real concern about dis-affection in our civic institutions. In one local government by-election, for instance, within the last 12 months the turnout was a mere 6 per cent. In the face of such widespread alienation and, if you like, the collapse of human ecology, it is urgent that we deal with the matters that are being addressed here tonight. Professor Bernard Crick was good enough to describe the initiatives that I have outlined as a good deed in a naughty world". He would know as well as I that these things are not in themselves enough. We need to underline in our schools, through the National Curriculum, the teaching of civic virtues and a love of democracy. That has to be nurtured in the classroom as well as in the home, and we have to create a widespread debate in the country about the need to re-address the imbalance between claimed rights and entitlements and the need to emphasise duties and responsibilities. There has been some very flaccid language about rights and entitlements.

Given the plethora of competing demands being faced in schools, unless these questions are properly resourced and, as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, has already mentioned, unless teachers are trained appropriately and a mandatory requirement placed on schools to address these proper civic concerns, it simply will not happen. Education is about more than league tables and academic achievement, important though these matters are.

In July 1997 the Government in their White Paper, Excellence in Schools, recognised this when they said, schools can help to ensure that young people have a stake in our society and the community in which they live by teaching them the nature of democracy and duties, responsibilities and rights of citizens". The issue now is how to turn those excellent sentiments into reality. Recently too much of the debate about education has centred on methods of assessment. Too little has been said about the kind of citizen we are producing. This is not a plea to teach political ideology: quite the reverse. In his book, The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis said that value-neutral education produces "men without chests". He wrote, In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful". The Government's White Paper and Professor Crick's report were about making men "with chests". Perhaps we should extend the metaphor and say "with hearts and heads as well". We have the unique opportunity now to create a civic culture and environment in which we can encourage participation in our structures, where people will take their responsibilities and duties seriously again.

I hope that the Government will seize that opportunity, and again I strongly welcome the opportunity for debating these matters tonight.

8.52 p.m.

Baroness Young of Old Scone

My Lords, perhaps I may add my welcome, in a slightly croaky voice, to those which have already been expressed for the opportunity to debate the Crick Report, which is a very important piece of work. The Secretary of State for Education and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority are considering revisions to the curriculum right now, and looking particularly at this very important area of the curriculum. There will be input from a whole range of advisory groups, of which the Crick Committee is only one. There are groups on personal, social and health education, spiritual, moral and cultural values, on creative and cultural education and, of course, on sustainable development. It is this latter aspect to which I should like to draw attention tonight, because there is also an excellent report, a companion to the Crick Report, on education for sustainable development in the schools sector by the panel led by Sir Geoffrey Holland.

I should like to make three points on how these two reports combine in the area of citizenship. Citizenship and sustainable development are closely interlinked, and being a citizen for the future means understanding the interdependence of society, the economy and the environment, and the fact that one cannot have objectives for one without the other. Citizenship for the future needs to bring on board an understanding of the needs and the rights of a future generation and not simply of current generations in the political and social arena. Citizenship needs to bring an understanding that the quality of life includes environmental quality. We need to look at a broader definition of citizenship that takes on this very important element of sustainable development.

The second point I should like to make has already been raised by several speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, commented on the apathy and lack of engagement in young people over citizenship and public life. One of the areas where I think young people are more engaged than most is in the area of the environment and sustainable development. Unfortunately, involvement and engagement in some respects means living in tree houses at Newbury or lying in front of bulldozers at Manchester airport. But there are real signs of engagement there. I would hope that we shall see environmental and sustainability issues used as a conduit to help to bring our young people into the area of citizenship for the future.

My last point concerns the fact that practically every issue in this country is jostling for space in the curriculum at the moment. There are the Crick Report, the Home Report and reports from other groups. There is a plethora of advice to Ministers and to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. I ask the Minister tonight to give an assurance that in this jostling vital education on sustainable development and sustainable citizenship will be the centrepiece.

8.55 p.m.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I too am very grateful for the introduction of this short debate. It has been a most interesting discussion and I do not propose to go over again the contents of the report. However interesting the debate has been, to me the most interesting part of it will be the answer of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, when she tells us exactly what are the Government's plans for implementing the recommendations of the report. It is all very well talking about a wonderful report; what we actually need is for Her Majesty's Government to implement it. That is what I shall find the most interesting part of the debate. I hope that the response will be thoroughly positive.

I was certainly intending to raise the question of how to carve out 5 per cent. from the national curriculum in order to bring forward implementation. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, has provided one solution. Whether that will be acceptable to the Government, I do not know.

I feel there is a lot of "aggro" out in the country at the present time, not against democracy but against political parties. As well as the education process that is required for democracy, I hope that we shall over the course of the next few years be able to put a much more healthy view of practical politics before the nation generally, and particularly the younger generation. The report seems to me excellent. There is a recommendation for a DfEE order setting out the need for values and practices of participative democracy, the development of pupils into citizens and involvement in the local and wider community. That could extend to the global context, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. There is a great deal that needs to be done; the report's proposals would he highly beneficial.

Education is to develop the whole person, not just the intellect. The 1988 Education Act began with an important rubric that schools were to attend to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils as well as the cognitive. I believe that we need a broad and balanced education covering all these aspects. It needs to be cross-curricular, not just ousting religious education. as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. It must be relevant and practical for students. I certainly believe that citizenship and a curriculum covering personal, social and health education will give those opportunities.

I look forward to the noble Baroness's reply. I hope that all the different aspects can be addressed. I shall be grateful if she can tell us whether it is true that we are the only country in Europe that does not educate our young people to be politically aware and to participate in the community. We must do it: it is a vital part of the whole of education. I very much hope that that aspect can be strengthened.

9 p.m.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I too greatly welcome the report. Citizenship education has an important part to play in preparing young people for the responsibilities and opportunities of adult life. It can be a way to overcome the sense of frustration, powerlessness and exclusion from which a considerable tranche of our young people today suffer.

There are two aspects of the report that I particularly like. One is its emphasis on "learning outcomes" rather than on the syllabus. The other is its emphasis on learning about democracy by experience through involvement in community projects and volunteering, and in particular through democracy in schools. I draw your Lordships' attention to the Elton Report. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is not present as he might have told us more about it. That report drew attention to the multiple advantages which derive from democracy in schools. It discovered that democracy in schools was linked to good behaviour. Therefore there is a pay off for the school itself. Children learn through experience and they have a sense of ownership of the rules if they have at least been involved in discussing the rules and the behaviour policy of the school. That sense of ownership may well be an important paradigm for the adult community too. Do people in this country have a sense of ownership?

However, there is a caveat. Citizenship education will not be effective unless the Government practise what they preach. Children are quick to spot insincerity. I do not think that the spectacle of a Conservative government which over an enormous number of years continuously transferred power from local government to Whitehall was a good way to demonstrate the power of local democracy. As I am a fair and equal-minded Cross-Bencher I must also say that nor do I think that the spectacle of the new Labour Government transferring power from Parliament to Brussels and from Parliament to the party machine is a good example for young people of parliamentary democracy.

I wish to make one rather more negative comment about the report. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, has already referred to the pressure on the curriculum. I suggest that this report is not really written in context. It is as if it believes that citizenship education is the only thing that matters. Of course citizenship education matters but there are a great many other things that matter too. There are a great many subjects jockeying for a place in the new curriculum. Many of them to some extent overlap as regards the disciplines, skills and knowledge which they seek to transfer to children. At this moment the Government have five groups working on issues connected with personal development. There is education for sustainable development, citizenship education, personal, social and health education. There is a group concerned with creativity and culture and, finally, the National Forum on Shared Values. In addition to those—perhaps this somehow meshes in with them—there is sex and relationships education. In my view that is tremendously important. There is also careers education and parenting education. That is also tremendously important in my view.

Therefore there is a need for more joined-up thinking. Fortunately the Government, in the form of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, have foreseen this. I understand that they have set up a co-ordinating group, the PAL group, which is the Preparation for Adult Life Group. Has the PAL group reported yet and, if so, do the Government propose to disclose its findings and recommendations to Parliament? It seems to me that if they do not do so that will once again send the wrong message to young people as regards a lack of respect for parliamentary democracy. Therefore I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us something of the group's conclusions when she replies to the debate this evening.

9.4 p.m.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, it is a pleasure for me to speak in a debate where there has been almost unanimous agreement on all sides of the House that we need to do something urgently with regard to implementing the recommendations of this excellent report.

As a Liberal Democrat, it is difficult for me not to agree with the report. It is one of our core beliefs that Britain should become an active democracy in which as many citizens as possible take part. That is part of the wider belief we have that every citizen should be given the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential. We have failed to give our citizens the best chance to achieve both those aims. That has been obvious to me throughout most of my adult life. It became even more obvious to me when I was an elected member of a city authority for nine years and then a Member of Parliament for four years. My surgery workload could have been more than halved if we had been more successful in educating our citizens in the widest sense. I remember enabling people to take part in public inquiries and to speak about what concerned them in their local areas. I perhaps occasionally saved young people from becoming homeless and I certainly gave advice to families who were in danger of having their homes repossessed.

As I said, I believe we are in agreement on the principles of this matter, but we appear to be rather worried as regards reaching agreement on the way forward and where we go from here. Listening to the debate tonight I was relieved to discover that we have done away with the idea that somehow education for citizenship involves political indoctrination. The report does much to encourage belief in that change and emphasises how important it is to involve a wide range of bodies and individuals from outside schools in the process of citizenship education. Today, of course, information technology enables a wide range of views, opinions and practice to be made available in our schools. I believe this will be helpful for teachers, who will perhaps be the key people responsible for enabling this wide programme to become an integral part of the present curriculum.

Originally I thought my speech would be limited to three minutes. I am pleased to be able to spend just a little time talking about the role of the teacher, which has not been much touched on tonight. Teachers will be a little relieved. I congratulate the Crick Report on recommending that the statutory entitlement should be established by specific learning outcomes rather than the spelling out of detailed programmes of study. We on these Benches believe that the professionalism of teachers should be respected when it comes to how these outcomes should be reached.

There has been very understandable anxiety amongst teachers on an issue discussed here tonight. Many noble Lords have spoken about further crowding of the curriculum. Part of the answer, as set out in the document, is surely a modular approach. No one is saying that citizenship education needs to go on every week at the same time. Blocks of time, visiting speakers and trips to see democracy at work will probably have a much more lasting impact. It is important for us to recognise the professionalism of teachers and to allow them to decide what best suits their way of working.

Summing up, citizenship education is not only a matter of understanding our democratic processes; our young people need to understand how to function in the adult world. They need to gain access to all the opportunities that are open to them. We all want a society of responsible citizens who understand about coping with their personal finances, taxation and the duty they have to make our society a decent place to live.

We on these Benches urge the Government to make a reality of the recommendations in this Report. We all recognise that this cannot be done at once, as it says in paragraph 4.9. There is the tale of a French general at a frontier post in the desert urging that trees should be planted to provide shade. He was told that only one species of tree would grow there and that it took 80 years to mature. "My God", he said, "we have not got a moment to lose". I suggest that neither have we. This year we shall see in Britain elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly with a new proportional electoral system; we will elect our members of the European Parliament under a new proportional electoral system; we shall also see this year the beginning of the reform of this House. We do not have a moment to lose.

9.10 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, for this opportunity.

To be suggesting compulsory implementation of the recommendations in the final report of the Advisory Group on Citizenship is disturbing. in that there is considerable uncertainty on some aspects of the Report. I have time only to flag one or two practical concerns and to pose some questions. However, let me preface my specific remarks by recognising the importance of young people growing up with an understanding of how our democratic institutions work within the context of national and international institutions, with an understanding of democratic processes and a developing commitment to participate in those processes, and with the capacity to address the issue of rights with responsibilities, together with the vexed issue of values.

However, it is somewhat of an indictment to be proposing a specific and compulsory subject within the curriculum which is to be measured and inspected by Ofsted. It has always been the case that good schools and effective parenting make good citizens. It is implicit in the way a good school operates. Voluntary activity is very real in this country. My right honourable friend John Major initiated the "make a difference" initiative. All the work done on that has shown that this country has a higher development of voluntary commitment among its people, including its young, than almost any other country in the world.

I am conscious too that reference in paragraph 3.17 to the low number of responses expressed a variety of views about what programmes the work should cover. There was absolutely no consensus on the aims and purposes—or even what citizenship education was. Can I ask the Minister, if another 5 per cent. of the curriculum is to be used up, what must be sacrificed? Who will fund the teacher training, the additional inspection hours, the curriculum materials and so forth? It is true that my right honourable friend has proposed a rather radical solution to this. It will be a brave Minister who adds to the school day at no cost to the taxpayer.

If we are not careful, curriculum overload will be the result. For example, how can outside agencies be forced to co-operate or, indeed, held to account? Will there be an opportunity for parents to exercise an opt-out for their own children, especially as controversial subjects are to be addressed? For example, will religious education in the curriculum be protected as a core subject available to all children, subject, of course, to the opt-out clause? What safeguards will the Government put in place to guard against undue political bias and/or propaganda in the classroom? Whose values will be taught and whose moral code will children be required to accept?

Sadly, we live in times when it is common for politicians to regard abortion, extra-marital sex as long as the individuals wear protection, and the lowering of the age of consent for homosexual sex as acceptable. Are we therefore to expect government diktat on these matters? Will those who hold Christian values be protected? Will Christian values be at the heart of the implementation of this report? The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, made reference to the move away from Christian values. Is the noble Lord advocating a return to them? If that is the case, I shall support him. If there is to be no control over the content of the subject but outcomes are to be measured, how will that be achieved and how can the safeguards for which I have asked be delivered?

America has been held up as a good example. I do not know how many noble Lords have visited America in recent years. All I can say is that turnouts for elections are lamentable. There is an extremely poor turnout of citizens to vote for their judges, their education boards and politicians. I would not look to America for an example of citizenship.

I agree with the right reverend Prelate. Education is not value free. I believe strongly—I believe that children should be taught this—that marriage is the cornerstone of our communities. However, not all schools and not all teachers believe in that. A sense of right and wrong is very important and Christian values are very important, but that is not always agreed by others in education.

Finally, if the Government are to press ahead with implementation, will they guard against the reintroduction of political correctness into our schools? Time prevents us all from doing justice to this subject. I hope that we shall be able to return to it when more time is provided for debate.

9.16 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, for giving me the opportunity to speak about the Government's plans for citizenship education. For many years he has been a powerful advocate for effective citizenship, both in a personal capacity and through the work of the organisation which he chairs, the Citizenship Foundation. I share the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that we have had too little time to give the report the attention it deserves. With the notable exception of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who is something of a sceptic, every other speaker in the debate has endorsed Professor Crick's report.

The Government see citizenship education as central to our drive to create a modern and inclusive society where everyone has a stake in its future and the opportunity to contribute. It will help us to give our young people the understanding and motivation needed to survive in community life, to fulfil their responsibilities and to make political and economic decisions. Most importantly, it will help them to understand that in a democracy there are different points of view which should be respected; it will help them to appreciate that their actions have effects on others and that they should care about the consequences of their actions; and it will also help them to recognise the essential value of democracy as a means of resolving the competing interests which exist in all complex societies.

I wish to confirm to the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, that we are alone among our European partners and a great many other developed countries in not having formal citizenship education in the curriculum. Yet promoting liberal democratic, plural values and stimulating moral, critical thinking are essential to building a healthy society. In the UK there are worrying indicators of a democratic deficit which none of us can afford to ignore.

In the local elections last May, many people did not vote—as many as 90 per cent. in one or two of the most disadvantaged areas of the country. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, mentioned, some 80 per cent. of the British school pupils surveyed for research by Professor Ivor Crewe of Essex University in 1996 said that they engaged in very little discussion of public issues and only 10 per cent. mentioned voting or exercising political rights as an example of good citizenship. That should concern us all.

My noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham referred to abstentions among young people at general elections, which are now running at over 30 per cent.—again a matter for concern. A Demos survey of 18 to 34 year-olds in Britain showed distrust of core institutions and a third taking pride in being outside the mainstream, identifying only with their own sub-cultures.

To be citizens in any meaningful way, all young people, and especially those who are struggling with disadvantage, need to be able to exploit opportunities to learn throughout their lives and develop the knowledge, skills and aptitudes to participate fully in society, including exercising their right to vote in elections. There is an important role for schools in helping young people to understand their rights and duties as citizens.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment set up the Advisory Group on Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools under the "irrepressible" Professor Bernard Crick—that was the very good adjective used by my noble friend Lord Judd to describe him—to help us develop an effective framework for teaching citizenship in schools. The group was fortunate to have been able to benefit from the significant and helpful work of the Speaker's Commission set up by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, which reported in 1990. I endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and I am sure all noble Lords would agree that we are indebted to him and to the commission for raising the profile of citizenship education and encouraging the activities of a number of organisations in this field.

The citizenship advisory group's final report, published in September, makes a powerful and persuasive case for citizenship education. I am pleased that it has been widely welcomed in this debate. The Government understand well why the group recommended that education for citizenship should be an entitlement for all pupils and welcome its view of that entitlement as comprising the three interlinked strands mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, of social and moral responsibility; community involvement; and political literacy. All three are important if we are to give our young people an education that is relevant to their lives and equips them to be responsible citizens.

It is not enough to tell young people about Parliament and political parties. We must help them to develop their formal knowledge of politics together with an appreciation of its value as a means of bringing about change through negotiation, the law and government. We must help young people to develop the skills of inquiry, reflection and debate—so that they are then able to make their voices heard. That is of little use, of course, unless we also help them to reason, to distinguish between facts and values and to exercise social and moral responsibility. And it has no practical effect unless we give young people opportunities to take responsibility and action in their own communities to change things for the better.

The citizenship advisory group's report is a major input into the review of the national curriculum. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which is carrying out the review, is also considering advice from the advisory groups for personal, social and health education; sustainable development; and creative and cultural education; and its own work on spiritual, moral and cultural development.

I want to make absolutely clear that citizenship will not replace other areas such as history, religious education or personal, social and health education. It will complement them. Each has a contribution to make, underpinned by spiritual, moral, social and cultural development—which the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, would support as important, not least in encouraging and informing the exploration of values and moral issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also spoke of the moral basis for citizenship, and that is reflected in the important and timely work that he and his Foundation for Citizenship have been doing, including the Good Citizenship awards in Merseyside.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, mentioned the importance of learning from experience and giving young people a sense of ownership of their own learning. He asked about the PAL group. The work of that group has informed the QCA in drawing up its advice. The Government will consider the QCA's advice and later on, when we have settled on firm proposals, we shall consult on them.

The fruitful connections to be made with all the areas I have mentioned and others highlighted in the citizenship advisory report must be developed. We want to help schools make the most of them. But the important thing will be to ensure that there is coherent provision across the curriculum. We are determined, above all, that citizenship is introduced in a way which supports our drive to raise overall standards and does not cause unnecessary disruption in schools.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Baker, a distinguished and valued member of the citizenship advisory group, have spoken about our shared commitment to education for citizenship. They rightly draw attention to the need to ensure that schools have both time and resources to deliver it. I appreciate those concerns and can assure their Lordships that we shall consider them very carefully with the advice that we shall receive from the QCA. I noted what the noble Lord, Lord Baker, said about the number of hours taught each week—not, I think, a longer school day, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, suggested.

Much can be done in the classroom. But we need to give young people wider opportunities to become involved in making things happen. Study support—the name which we give to out-of-school learning activities—can offer these opportunities and help us to create well-motivated, independent young people who will become lifelong learners, something which is dear to my heart. Giving young people responsibility for their own development and enabling them to take part in decision-making is crucial to active citizenship.

Study support creates opportunities for young people to get involved with their school as a community. As a Government, we are committed to creating more opportunities in this respect. That is why we are making £180 million of lottery money available across the UK to fund high-quality study support programmes.

Millennium volunteers, which we shall launch in England shortly and in the rest of the UK separately, will encourage community involvement beyond schools. It will support young people aged 16 to 24 in making a sustained commitment to volunteering as regards activities which benefit the community.

My noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone mentioned the importance of environmental education. Towards the end of last year the Government launched the Children's Parliament on the Environment, which will be for 11 year-olds. I believe that that will be important in stimulating pupils' commitment to having good environmental policies.

The youth services, voluntary groups and the further and higher education sectors also play their part, often in partnership with the various citizenship education groups. I can mention here the Common Purpose "Your Turn" project and the Council for Education in World Citizenship, of which my noble friend Lord Judd is honorary vice-president. He mentioned the importance of young people understanding interdependence in the global world, a view which the advisory group shares. There are also the community service volunteers, changemakers, the Institute for Citizenship and, of course, the Hansard Society, to mention a few. We shall want to draw on the expertise of all these different groups.

The citizenship advisory group's report shows how schools already help their pupils to learn about democratic institutions. We are not starting with a blank sheet. There are many different practical activities that take place in schools and in their communities. I can give many examples but unfortunately I do not have time this evening.

Perhaps I may conclude by saying a few words about next steps. We shall establish a framework that builds on good practice and extends it nationally. We shall make connections with the good work that is taking place up and down the country through youth work and in further education, HE and in our schools. Undoubtedly, there will be some anxieties about how the development of citizenship education across all schools will work. There are bound to be training and resource issues and legitimate concerns and questions about the demands upon, and the capacity of, teachers and schools in any changes to the curriculum. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we shall consider all of those issues carefully.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said quite rightly that citizenship education was not about indoctrination. We shall seek to reassure those who have any worries about that. I am more optimistic about it than the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. This has always been an issue in other areas such as history and English, but teachers are aware of the potential difficulties and, as other speakers have said, are professional in dealing with them. There are also safeguards in law to guard against biased and unbalanced teaching. We should not be afraid of teaching about controversial issues. It is essential in a democracy to understanding citizenship.

I assure all those who have taken part in the debate that the Government will give education for citizenship and democracy a high profile in the reshaped curriculum from the year 2000. We shall certainly not pigeonhole it but shall support its development within and beyond the curriculum in the years to come.

House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes before ten o'clock.