HL Deb 28 May 2002 vol 635 cc1151-218

3.21 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland)

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 Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 72 [Interpretation of Part 6]:

Lord Northbourne

moved Amendment No. 262: Page 49, line 21, at end insert— "the pre-foundation stage" means the stage in a child's educational development between birth and the age of three; The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 262, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 263 and 265. Amendment No. 262 would formally establish a pre-foundation stage to education in this country. On reflection, that stage might more appropriately be called the "family learning stage". Amendment No. 265 would define the pre-foundation stage in terms of the age of the child and it would also encourage the Secretary of State to give guidance to parents as to how they can fill their role most effectively as their child's first educator.

This Government are, indeed, to be congratulated on making nursery education available to all three and four year-olds. But education does not start at the age of three; it starts at zero. The importance of what a child learns in the first year or two of its life—the period of education in the family—cannot be overestimated. Perhaps I can make my point, without taking up too much of the Committee's time, by telling a brief anecdote.

Three weeks ago I was left in charge of a grandson who has just passed his first birthday. He took a fancy to some brightly coloured objects on the table—fragile objects, as it happened. He worked out that by climbing on the sofa and then on to the arm he could reach them. So, with a great deal of repeated effort, he climbed up and reached out. I said, "No, Alfie". He turned and looked at me. He worked out whether or not I meant it and then continued to look at me to see whether I was going to look away. When I did not, he tried again. I said, "No, Alfie". Therefore, he had another idea and beamed a lovely two-toothed smile at me in the hope that that would make me give way.

I foretell with confidence that when that child goes to school he will have the necessary confidence and social skills to cope with the problems of entering nursery or primary school. He will also have the background of early learning which will ensure that he succeeds. That child is a privileged child because during his first years he will have had the time, the love, the stimulation and the security which he needed from his parents or, when they were both working, from first-class childcare.

I am sure that the Committee will share with me the wish for every child in this country to have those advantages. Noble Lords will ask whether that is realistic and, in terms of 100 per cent success, clearly it is not. But we could do a great deal better than we do at present in that respect.

Nearly all parents start out by wanting to do the best for their child. Many are hungry for help or desperate for support. Many excellent initiatives, such as Homestart and PIPPIN, have shown that help can be given without stigmatising the parents. These two amendments would give the Secretary of State for Education the power to provide support, help and guidance to parents in their role as their child's first educator.

I now turn briefly to Amendment No. 263. This amendment seeks to make it clear that grandparents and other members of a child's extended family are not precluded from providing nursery education to that child. I beg to move.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for raising the issue of the crucial—as I am sure all Members of the Committee will agree—period in a child's development between birth and the age of three. I assure him that I agree that this is a very important stage in children's lives. We know that development and learning are rapid during those years, and the support given to a child at that stage can reap many rewards later.

Therefore, I hope that I can assure the Committee of the Government's real commitment to finding ways of supporting the crucial early years of a child's development. We certainly aim to encourage early years workers and parents to recognise and support that development in ways that are appropriate to the particular needs of babies and toddlers.

We are, in particular, learning the lessons from Sure Start. Parents are very much involved in the management and delivery of local Sure Start programmes. As of this week, 263 such programmes have been approved and are delivering services to children under the age of four and their families.

However, we are not convinced that the creation of a pre-foundation stage of the national curriculum for children between birth and the age of three would be either helpful to, or welcomed by, parents. The needs and interests of babies and toddlers are, of course, very different from those of three, four and five year-old children in the foundation stage.

Of course, I agree that parents and grandparents have a key role in their children's education. Indeed, the foundation stage guidance emphasises the importance of that role in providing a child's first and enduring level of education. We shall continue to do all that we can to encourage and support that.

However, I am not convinced that guidance from the Secretary of State to parents about how they should best carry out that role at home would be appropriate. In the main, they are best placed to judge how to meet their particular needs and interests in these earliest years.

I turn to Amendment No. 263, which seeks to extend the duties for the foundation stage to parents. Clause 73 will impose duties to implement the foundation stage curriculum on all those outside the maintained school sector who are receiving public funding to deliver early years education. We believe that that is right and proper. We are funding early years education places in the maintained, voluntary and private sectors in order to give parents choice. If parents choose, for example, a private nursery or playgroup, they need to be assured that their child will have the same opportunities for high quality learning experiences as they would in the nursery or reception class of a maintained school. This clause will give them that reassurance.

As I said, the foundation stage guidance emphasises the importance of parents as the child's first eduicator. It encourages all early years settings to work closely with parents and sets out the key role that they play in young children's education. We shall continue to do all that we can to encourage and support that. But I do not believe that we should be extending the duties of the foundation stage to parents and grandparents.

I hope that with the reassurances that I have given, and by pointing to the Sure Start project, the noble Lord will see that we have been attempting to do what he is looking for and will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote

The Minister will forgive me because I should have risen to speak earlier. I thought that all three amendments would be taken together. They allow the maximum flexibility for an education authority to provide financial and other help to families where—and only where-—it is thought that the earliest-possible intervention could make a difference in allowing a child to benefit more fully from later compulsory education. Although health and social care are clearly important at this early stage, so too is educational input.

A vulnerable child's ability to benefit more fully from the education system can change his life and help the Government to achieve their aim of getting more bright children from deprived backgrounds into university.

In Committee on 14th May (at cols. 264 and 265 of the Official Report) the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, stressed that similar support will be needed for looked-after children—whose educational performance is currently abysmally low—in the form of admissions forums and so on.. Amendment No. 262, by deliberately focusing on the early years, when good attention could begin, would prevent at leant some children needing to be taken into care. All that will need more resources, co-ordination and more locally based social services, health and police resources in identifying children most at risk at an early stage.

The Minister has spoken about Sure Start. On a previous occasion, there was a question mark over which department's purse funds this kind of early help, which I believe amounts to £499 million. Can the Minister give concrete examples of Sure Start's success and the ways that such initiatives are proving of benefit to children and communities'? Are the considerable sums needed available, including for educational expertise? If at least some deprived children and their parents can be equipped early enough to benefit properly from the education system, that will undoubtedly assist them, the economy and communities. The horrendous prison population might decrease instead of increase. We were told yesterday that the current prison population of 72,000 is the highest yet—and of the appalling financial cost per prisoner of £31,000 per annum.

I hope that the Minister will reconsider the importance of early educational input into a special group that has been causing problems for the country's education system for more years than I like to think about—certainly through all my adult life.

Lord Jones

My noble friend the Minister spoke persuasively but I ask her to describe in some little detail what the Government have done, in the two Labour administrations since 1997, for the youngest children. There may be a good story to tell in response to these important amendments.

What investment, in terms of finance and professional staffing provision, has been made? Does my noble friend have any figures? I have in mind the livelihood of children from deprived areas in the great cities and some rural areas who have only one parent in their household—together with children from estates and streets where there is widespread drug abuse.

I am sure that my noble friend the Minister listens hard to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. When he last spoke several days ago, he referred to the developing science of the circuitry of the mind and predicted advancements. Within days, a science programme on Radio 4 discoursed at length on that subject. The current edition of the prestigious magazine the Economist devotes more than a page to the same topic. I imagine that my noble friend the Minister is listening most sympathetically and that her reply will be helpful.

Baroness Blatch

I hope that the Minister agrees that some of the most caring provision in services to very young people is that of playgroups, which have been extremely vulnerable in recent years. Playgroups work well with social services and mainstream schools, and they involve parents daily in a practical way. Playgroups are subject to inspection and co-operate with the local community. Nevertheless, by 2004—well intentioned though this may be—the Government plan that for every 10 children, including in playgroups, there will be a fully qualified teacher.

One of the glories of playgroups, particularly in rural areas, is that parents can afford to send their children to them. Come 2004, there is no way that those same parents will be able to afford a fully qualified teacher for every 10 children. At a time when playgroups provide such a good service to young children, particularly in rural areas, they will be made even more vulnerable by a well-intentioned policy.

Why are excellent child minding services provided, for example, by the Soho Family Centre refused recognition by Ofsted? It maintains that under existing legislation, it cannot register child minders who work for such centres. Is it the Government's intention to change that situation?

Baroness Walmsley

I give my general support to this batch of amendments. Childcare experts emphasise the importance of identifying in early years appropriate activities for children at different stages of development—particularly the stage that a child has reached. That can be done only by experts. The designation of the different stages in a child's development is helpful in that regard.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I obviously responded too quickly. Nothing that I have said suggests other than that we recognise the importance of child development from nought to three years. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, about the role of playgroups.

The question posed by the amendments is whether or not we should formalise the role of playgroups as part of education. In our view, that would not be appropriate. Equally, we do not believe that the department should regulate education in the home.

Perhaps I can put the specific amendments to one side for a moment. As part of the Sure Start programme, it is crucial in the early years to reach children who are disadvantaged and to support them. Sure Start is about supporting parents in parenting. It is about helping them to become more able to support their children, to introduce their children to books and to educate and to support parents, before and after a child is born.

We believe that it is a good programme. It is also a cross-cutting programme, which is probably why there was confusion about the funding. It is the responsibility of my honourable friend the Minister responsible for public health, who reports to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. She is the Cabinet Minister responsible. The group of Ministers, of whom I am currently one, who sit on the Sure Start group are trying to ensure that the Sure Start programmes address the full range of issues, including the fact that some of our deprived children live in rural communities as well as in the inner cities. Indeed, there is the over-arching issue of how to reach the maximum number of children, which leads us to consider how we make the programme appropriate in the mainstream.

There are 263 programmes. A further £948 million was announced in the July 2000 spending review and the plan is to reach a third of all under four year-olds living in poverty by 2004. I know that that means we shall not reach two-thirds of those children, but we recognise that the programme will grow.

On the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in relation to playgroups, I was fortunate to be at the Pre-School Learning Alliance's annual meeting on Friday where 900 people gathered to talk about the future. I am delighted that we have worked constructively and creatively with them to develop playgroups so that some can become neighbourhood nurseries if they so wish and further develop their role.

We want to ensure that the quality that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, are seeking in relation to experience is recognised by all organisations and by all groups. That is why we are aiming to develop a qualification and to ensure that people working with those children are qualified to do so. We are keen to ensure that people train at the same time as working. We want to recognise the skills of some people who do not have a formal qualification and provide them with experience. We are working in conjunction with those organisations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, makes an important point about ensuring that we proceed in a way that does not prevent children and families participating. I shall ensure that that is the way we approach the matter. The Soho family centre is affected by an amendment which follows shortly, but there is no doubt that we want the Soho family centre to register with Ofsted. There is an issue as to the description of a child minder. On 11th June the head of early years at Ofsted, Maggie Smith, will visit the centre. In no way would we allow the centre not to continue. It is simply a matter of registration. I can perhaps deal with that matter under the appropriate amendment. I hope that that will satisfy the noble Baroness for the moment.

Baroness Blatch

On the playgroups issue, at the moment the parents raise enough money to pay the playgroup leader who is trained and the helpers. Often the helpers give their time freely because they are the parents of the children in the playgroup. A playgroup that serves, say, 40 children, would have to find between £80,000 and £100,000 year on year. How on earth will that bill be met?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

In relation to the work with the Pre-School Learning Alliance, we are seeking to develop playgroups so that they can access funding from the Government and develop themselves. They tell us that that is what they want. We want people to work towards qualifications, not so that they become too highly paid for the market, but so that there is recognition of the qualifications that many have but which are not formalised. Our intention is not to make costs prohibitive. I am happy to write to the noble Baroness to give her more detail, but that is the intention.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Can the Minister say how many pre-school playgroups have disappeared since the Government came to power?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I am unable to give the noble Baroness that figure for two reasons. I do not have the brief that gives me the specific figures on playgroups and, more importantly, many playgroups have not disappeared but have changed. They have altered because they want to transform themselves, under the funding we have made available, into a different format. I am always willing to give more detail to the noble Baroness in writing if that would be helpful.

Lord Jones

Would my noble friend repeat her courteous and helpful reply in relation to funding? It is possible that she hurried a little too much over what I believe may be good news.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I apologise to my noble friend if I hurried. I said that there was a further £948 million announced in the July 2000 spending review.

Lord Northbourne

Before I withdraw the amendment, I want to make two points. First, wish it were true that parents are best placed to judge what their children need. Most parents are, but there are teenage parents, single parents who are struggling and unable to cope, and parents who do not know how to cope with their children's sleeplessness or disobedience. Those parents need help. I do not suggest that we should interfere or intrude, but they need help.

Secondly, the noble Baroness mentioned Sure Start. She has kindly said that I may talk to the officials about that; I am sure that I shall learn much more before Report stage. Although Sure Start is excellent, I am interested that the Department for Education and Skills should take on board the problem. In fact it is a problem for three different departments: the Department of Health, the Department for Education and Skills and the Home Office. If youngsters are excluded from school they end up on the streets. Although the problem is much more important in terms of education than health, the Department of Health is putting up the money. I would like that to be undertaken by the Department for Education and Skills. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 72 agreed to.

Clause 73 [Meaning of 'nursery education' and related expressions]:

[Amendment No. 263 not moved.]

Clause 73 agreed to.

Clauses 74 and 75 agreed to.

Clause 76 [Basic curriculum for every maintained school in England]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 264: Page 52, line 4, at end insert— () Where the Secretary of State proposes to make an order under subsection (3) that would affect the education of disabled children and children with special educational needs, he shall first consult such persons as appear to him to be appropriate. The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 264 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 268, 276 and 280. These four amendments deal with the issue of special educational needs in the curriculum. This part of the Bill rewrites many of the previous provisions of the national curriculum but introduces greater flexibility, particularly at key stage 4. While there has been a welcome for some of the proposed flexibility in the national curriculum, those concerned with special educational needs have a wide range of concerns about the extent of those flexibilities. Those concerns have to be seen in the context of what the national curriculum is perceived to have done for special education and for those with difficulties.

The national curriculum is widely perceived as having been the single most significant factor in improving special education in the past 14 years. In that time, imaginative teaching has demonstrated that it is possible to teach children with learning difficulties knowledge, skills and understanding that would not have been thought possible only a few years ago; for example, concepts such as evidence in history can be and are taught to children with learning difficulties through creative practical activities.

The concern is that if there is less emphasis to provide all the different aspects of the national curriculum, there will be less pressure to rethink some of our stereotyped ideas about what children with special educational needs can learn. Leaving those assumptions unchallenged in the future may lead to under-expectation of children with special educational needs and a consequent loss of entitlement.

There is a guarded welcome for the new emphasis on vocational training at key stage 4, but, again, there are equivalent concerns that low expectations of children with special educational needs will mean that they are placed in groups that have reduced access to more academic subjects. They may thus receive an impoverished curriculum mix compared with other pupils.

When these proposals are combined with the potential for earlier specialisation and the increase in specialist schools where a decision at the age of 11 may determine areas where a child subsequently specialises, there are even greater grounds for concern. The greatest concern of all is that the power to vary the national curriculum is concentrated in the hands of the Secretary of State with little or no duty to consult on significant aspects of these curriculum provisions. In issuing orders in respect of some of the provisions in this part of the Bill, the Secretary of State is required to refer the proposals to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. In turn, it is required to consult with a range of different groups and individuals.

But as regards some of the duties there is no such requirement, and in particular Clause 82 appears to enable the Secretary of State to amend or suspend the national curriculum at key stage 4 without any consultation. The Special Educational Needs Consortium is particularly concerned that where an order is made there should be an opportunity to consult on the likely impact on education with special educational needs.

Therefore, all these amendments seek to make sure that there is some form of consultation over these changes in the curriculum. We would like some reassurance from the Secretary of State that she will endeavour to provide such consultation. Is our reading of Clause 82 correct that the Secretary of State does not have to consult before using these powers? Should not the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority be consulted about any possible orders? Should there not be opportunities to consider the impact of any orders on particular groups of vulnerable children by consulting with the relevant groups and individuals? I beg to move.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

We have already had discussions about the need to consult those concerned with the education of disabled children or children with special educational needs. Again, I would like to make it clear to Members of the Committee that we have absolutely no disagreement with the intentions behind these amendments. It is, of course, right that all parties with an interest in the education of all children, not just children with special educational needs or disability, should be consulted on any proposal to add or alter the requirements of the curriculum. That is what we intend to do. We certainly expect to consult on any order to be made under Clause 76(3) or Clause 82, ahead of laying the draft instrument for the approval of both Houses. I can assure Members of the Committee that this will involve all relevant interests and will, of course, include those with particular interests in the needs of children with disabilities or those with special educational needs. As Members of the Committee will be aware, orders under these clauses will be subject to the affirmative procedure as set out in Clause 203.

As regards Amendments Nos. 268 and 276, I believe that the case is even clearer. Consultation with both the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and other interested parties is already required under legislation being re-enacted in this Bill prior to any order being made under either Clause 79 or Clause 80 in the Bill. Clearly, any decision to amend either the foundation stage or the core and foundation subjects to key stages 1 to 3 would apply equally to able-bodied children as well as to children with special educational needs or disability. Consultation will occur with all bodies or persons representing the interests of all children.

In addition, government Amendment No. 365, if it is acceptable to the Committee, will ensure that any proposed changes under Clause 79 will also be subject to the affirmative procedure. The requirement already exists in this legislation as regards Clause 80(6). I hope, therefore, that in the circumstances the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Jones

Does my noble friend have knowledge of any government programmes designed to enhance the status of teachers practising in the field of special needs? Their status is absolutely vital if the pupils with specials needs are to have the best chance.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The status of all teachers is that they are all responsible for working with children with special educational needs. It is very important that when we train our teachers we enable them to work effectively with such children. The noble Lord will be aware that within schools there are special educational needs co-ordinators who play a crucial role in supporting children, and often their families and other teachers in providing that support. We also want to ensure that our teaching assistants are able to work effectively with children with special educational needs and constantly look at how—there is the implementation group within the department which I am proud to chair—we can ensure that we support our teachers most effectively, where possible.

Another example I give the noble Lord is the role of specials schools. We are working closely with them to examine how best the expertise which, on occasions has been locked away in those schools, is more available in the mainstream and at how they are able to work more closely with us to enable children to participate in the mainstream where that is appropriate. In addition, we are working to offer that expertise to teachers. I hope that that gives the noble Lord a flavour of the work that we are doing.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for her very reassuring reply on these issues. As she said, we have debated special educational needs at other times. She has again given us assurances on a wide range of topics. I am delighted to have her assurances on the curriculum. It is very important indeed that we do not lower aspirations here. As has been said, many teachers have been surprised at what has been achieved by some children when set high targets. With the Minister's assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Clause 76 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 265 not moved.]

Clauses 77 and 78 agreed to.

Clause 79 [Curriculum requirements for the foundation stage]:

[Amendment Nos. 266 to 268 not moved.]

Clause 79 agreed to.

Clause 80 [Curriculum requirements for first, second and third key stages]:

[Amendments Nos. 269 to 274 not moved.]

Lord Northbourne

moved Amendment No. 275: Page 54, line 11, after "citizenship" insert "and social responsibility The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall also speak to Amendment No. 277. These two amendments are tabled to draw attention to the risk of too narrow an interpretation of the term "citizenship" in the citizenship curriculum.

There appears to be two schools of thought about what is meant by citizenship in this context. There is the narrow interpretation favoured at present which considers good citizenship as mainly promoting active and informed participation in the democratic process. Admirable as that is, there is also a wider view which I favour: it sees citizenship as being the process of being a good citizen.

There are many choices within the law which a citizen can make and which affect the lives of others. Many of these choices affect the lives of the vulnerable, the aged, disabled and young children. If we believe that the welfare of our society as a whole depends on most people making unselfish decisions, at least some of the time, it is particularly important that young people, as they grow up and look forward to adulthood, have the opportunity to think about such issues as the importance of giving as well as taking, of accepting responsibility as well as claiming rights. These issues can be best explored through well-led and well-informed discussion. Manifestly, that must take place in the latter years in school.

This part of social education should not be left to the voluntary PSHE curriculum, but should have the status of being part of the mandatory citizenship curriculum. I beg to move.

4 p.m.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote

I am very glad indeed to have added my name to this amendment. I am also very glad that citizenship will be on the compulsory agenda from September. Early instruction in citizenship should, and I hope will, play a major role in reinforcing the Government's aim of inclusiveness; for example, for all to feel very much part of the country that they live in.

Furthermore, it has never been a better time to introduce it. We have probably the largest percentage ever of would-be immigrants. They will add, if and when they are accepted, talents and cultures to enrich our society. It is good to know that their children, together with those born in the UK, will have this early opportunity to learn about their rights and about the responsibilities which are involved in being a citizen of this country. The amendment seeks to encourage the Minister to emphasise the responsibilities side of the relationship.

On 17th April, the Minister, in reply to my Question for Written Answer, kindly explained the bones of what would be taught under "citizenship". The three main strands are: first, political literacy; secondly, social and moral responsibility; and, thirdly, community involvement. She also pointed me to the appropriate website, which I found less than enlightening.

I turn to the three strands of citizenship. Certainly political literacy is vital. Today's children are tomorrow's citizens. They should not only know about, but should also, from an early age, be involved in democratic processes—and, it is to be hoped, value them. Those processes are there to safeguard their freedoms. They should also—I refer to previous arguments in Committee—become involved in those areas that directly affect them, such as school governing bodies and so on.

However, I want to emphasise social and moral responsibility and community involvement. This country has a long and valued tradition of voluntary work. I am glad to see that increasingly children and young people are being encouraged by their schools and universities to play an active practical part in helping those from deprived backgrounds to achieve their full potential. Quite apart from the effect on the recipient of such help, the value to the individual young person so engaged in that voluntary work is immeasurable, and, I believe, lasts throughout his life.

The other day I was at Stamford University. I sat next to a young man who was personally much involved in this kind of work. He told me about a particular form of social entrepreneurship where the lowest 10 per cent of society—drug dealers, former convicts and so on—were involved in helping one another to emerge from that state of affairs.

In sending me more details about this activity, he drew attention to his own dilemma. He said: "I feel very privileged to have been allowed to get involved in all this. But I worry a little that, as life goes on and other responsibilities come my way, I might actually forget all that I have learnt and not be as actively involved". It is my belief—and I replied to him on the point—that he will never forget his experience at that personal practical level. That will be the benefit in encouraging this side of affairs.

There is one area of citizenship which has not been stressed but which I hope will be taught. It is the social responsibility of being a parent—we have had some discussion about that aspect already—and the duties that this imposes on us all. Today is a particularly appropriate moment to discuss the subject in view of the reaction of one parent and her children to the final sanction of imprisonment, which was imposed for not sending the children to school. It is a salutary lesson as a final sanction, and one which one gathers is having an effect in some other areas too. But all our best efforts surely must be aimed at creating an early awareness of our parental duties.

I would argue that none of us is born a good parent. Most get by on instinct and with help from the wider family. But for those from already vulnerable backgrounds, who no doubt are living also in fairly inadequate circumstances, the early support mentioned earlier could make a great difference to how they carry out their responsibilities.

Finally, I hope that the teaching of citizenship leaves our young people with tolerance for the views of others and a belief that their views and those of others can be accommodated in rational discussions. That is part of freedom of speech—the essential ingredient of a real liberal democracy.

I have another tiny anecdote from my period as a very mature student at the LSE. It was one that made me quite proud. The students were somewhat stroppy about not wanting to hear from members of a political party that they had taken against. The quiet fury of the academics from that establishment at the prospect that there should be a ban in any sense or that they should be shouted down, epitomised the kind of approach that we all should have if we value democracy. I hope very much that the Minister will emphasise the social responsibilities as well as the rights—those are important too—of citizenship.

Lord Jones

To marshal arguments against the teaching of citizenship and social responsibility would be very hard indeed. None of those words is overtly political. I have a brief question for my noble friend. How will the Government ensure that the teaching of citizenship, and, I hope, social responsibility, is impartial?

Lord Peston

My noble friend has said that it is difficult to marshal arguments against the issue. I am about to do that—

Lord Jones

With ease.

Lord Peston

I hope with ease. I am obviously very sympathetic to what the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, have said. My difficulty is that I am a traditionalist with regard to education. I want our young people to be good citizens. Clearly, we all believe that social responsibility should permeate everything that goes on in the school. Indeed, these are matters regarding the ethos of the school. But my difficulty is—and this is a pass which I imagine that we have sold before—that I simply do not see citizenship and social responsibility as subjects. I hate to emphasise this to Members of the Committee, but, as a conservative person, with a small "c", I think that children go to school to learn and that teachers work in schools to teach.

We should like those concepts to permeate what goes on in the schools. The Bill refers to "foundation subjects". The use of that language makes no sense to me, even though it is in the Bill. It refers to "foundation subjects". I repeat, citizenship and social responsibility do not seem to be subjects. So, I appreciate that the pass has been sold. The Government have bought all these ideas and so on, but— someone has to utter a semi-academic traditionalist view—I should like schools to teach subjects so that young people leave knowing something about them, I hope in depth rather than superficially. Therefore, not only am I not sympathetic to extending the concept here—much as I am totally in favour of that happening as part of the school—but, if I could find a way, I should like the citizenship part taken out as well.

Lord Dearing

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for the way he enlivens our debates. I do not know what we would do without him. But his suggestion that citizenship is a subject without substance surprises me. Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, gave a lecture some years ago—I cannot precisely recall when—in which he derived the roots of our civilisation from the Greeks as a political entity founded and expressed through law on the one hand, and from Hebrew culture, based on family and shared obligations—what we might call social responsibility—on the other.

It matters in a society—a western civilization—increasingly based on the individual that we should emphasise as a complement to that our relationship with society and how the quality of our civilisation matters to our individual well-being. It helps our children to get more out of life if they leave school with a better understanding of how our society works. If I have one regret about the amendment, it concerns its use of the word "and" rather than "including". In my view, any course of learning that does not comprehend social responsibility does not teach citizenship.

Lord Hylton

I should like to argue for the widest possible interpretation of the word "citizenship". It includes much more than just the democratic process, important as that is. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that the ethos of the school is important and that the total behaviour in a school and how it is run are vital. If that degrades, overall results will be poor. But I hope that the noble Lord, the Government and your Lordships generally would agree that how to make a moral choice, for example, can be taught as a methodology. Health and personal hygiene can be taught with a highly factual content. Those should lead first to self-respect and then to respect for others. If they were more emphasised, we might have rather less vandalism, anti-social behaviour, road rage and so on.

Baroness Blatch

First, I do not know what it will do for the reputation of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, but I must agree with an awful lot of what he said. I hope that that does not disturb his afternoon too much.

Secondly, my understanding of the amendment is that it would remove "history" and "in relation to the third key stage"; in other words, the insertion would apply to all key stages, 1, 2, 3 and 4. I wish to make two points.

I want to ask the Minister a question about the whole of Part 6, which concerns the national curriculum. In earlier debates, the noble Baroness told us that exceptions under Clause 5 would not freely allow exemption from these clauses. If we start to add up what is in these clauses and this part of the Bill, there is not much from which to be exempted. It would be helpful if by the end of this debate, we could be told where the freedom for exemption lies. If these clauses apply come what may, irrespective of Clause 5, it would be helpful to know where exactly is the freedom of movement for those schools that earn autonomy.

My other point is a plea on behalf of those teaching key stage 1. The national curriculum was introduced under the 1988 Act. When I was a Minister, schools were greatly concerned that there was too much cramming into the curriculum—in particular, into key stage 1. So, as an exercise as a fairly junior Minister in the department, I asked my officials to put on my desk every day what literature went to schools for key stage 1. When the pile became taller than me, I had to admit that it would be impossible for any teacher who taught the same children in one classroom eight, nine or 10 subjects, sometimes for more than a whole year, to be fresh and to approach that curriculum in any effective way. After that, a great deal of modification took place and the way in which the curriculum was applied was relaxed in some subjects.

We appear to be turning the clock back. My concern about making citizenship a formal subject in the curriculum—for any key stage, but especially for earlier key stages—is that the moment it is part of the formal curriculum it will have formal parameters, schemes of work and central direction and people such as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who did such sterling work, will be beavering away writing prescriptive literature for teachers. Teachers have these great tomes in one hand while teaching the children on the other.

I absolutely agree that we want our children to be good citizens. Personal responsibility and understanding of democratic institutions permeates the best schools. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that the subject goes wider than that and includes understanding of global llssues, which will occur in a small way at early key stages but in more depth later. That is taught through geography, history, English, drama, music—through so many subjects in the curriculum—but the moment that it is introduced as a subject in itself, we lay on teachers a burden that they will find unhelpful at the early key stages.

I do not know whether I represent the noble Lord, Lord Peston, well, but the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, accused the noble Lord, Lord Peston, of arguing that citizenship was a subject without substance. I do not think that that is what he was saying. Citizenship has great substance, but it really should permeate everything that children do and learn in school—the ethos of the school; the way that the school is layered; how teachers behave and interact with children; how teachers proactively involve parents in that process; and how the school relates to the local community. Some schools do that exceedingly well.

So on the one hand, I ask a straightforward technical question about the status of the clauses in the Bill, but on the other, my point is that we must remember that at the end of the day teachers must interpret what we say in rather stratospheric terms in the Chamber. If citizenship becomes a practical subject in the classroom, it will make teachers' lives difficult.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley

I should be very concerned if the amendments meant that history were removed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, fears. I do not see it that way, but no doubt the Minister will enlighten us.

I both agree and disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I disagree with him about citizenship. It is appropriate that it should be taught as a subject that can be examined and monitored. There are many issues to do with our rights and responsibilities as citizens that we should formally teach our children. However, I agree with him on the issue of social responsibility. Yes, it should permeate the ethos of the school, but I would go further. We can teach social responsibility in every single subject: socially responsible history, biology, drama, geography, every kind of science and perhaps even rugby. Every subject has an aspect of social responsibility that should permeate it.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

In speaking to Amendment No. 275, in the name of my noble friend, Lord Northbourne, perhaps I may draw the Committee's attention to my interest. I am a director of the Foundation for Citizenship at the Liverpool John Moores University.

I have much sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, but she made one statement that is not correct. Citizenship will not be examinable. However, I agree with what she said about it being a subject that should permeate the teaching of all subjects and that it should be part of the ethos of schools. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, was echoing sentiments expressed recently by Chris Woodhead in the Sunday Times when he cast some doubt on whether it should be a stand-alone subject. He may find himself in interesting company this afternoon for a variety of reasons.

Your Lordships will recall that the genesis of the debate began in 1990 when our noble friend Lord Weatherill, a former Speaker of the House of Commons, chaired a commission which looked at the issue of citizenship. The right honourable David Blunkett was a member of that commission and brought these issues to the table when he was Secretary of State for Education. I made representations at the time that it was not a good idea to make it a mandatory subject for the national curriculum as I had memories of the teaching of the British constitution and dry-as-dust physics. If the subject is in that sort of category, people will avoid it like the plague. The fact that it is not examinable will mean that it may be disregarded by some students as something in which they need not participate.

In any case, I have reservations about making subjects mandatory in an already overcrowded national curriculum. Only in this country would we turn community service, which is a perfectly good objective towards which people should be encouraged, into a punishment that is dispensed by the courts. I recently heard a Minister talking about the wonders of voluntary endeavour and the hope that it could be encouraged by making it compulsory. I thought that that rather missed the point. Volunteering is to be encouraged, but it should not be made compulsory. Citizenship is for everyone; it is not a spectator sport. We all have to participate in it.

I wonder whether it would be better for Ofsted inspectors to look at the ethos of the schools they visit to ensure that our responsibilities to form good citizens are met. My noble friend Lord Northbourne and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, referred to that issue and how it was being achieved.

My noble friends were right to emphasise the need to balance the classic language of rights and entitlement, about which we hear so much today, with the richer language to which the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, referred. In his lecture, the Chief Rabbi Dr Johnathan Sacks said that we must place greater emphasis on obligations, duties and responsibilities. I am sure that that should be the cornerstone of how we proceed.

Teachers complain that we are overloading the national curriculum and that we do not give them the necessary resources. They say that people have not been trained properly and that from September they will be responsible for something they do not feel competent to do. I hope that that will not bring the concept of citizenship into disrepute.

We have had extensive debates in Committee about faith schools and we have discussed issues such as quotas, admission systems, and so on. The worry about faith schools stems from the question of citizenship. Will those schools encourage a love of our civic or civil society—that no man's land somewhere between the state and government? Will they encourage a love of our democratic institutions, the upholding of the law and the commonly held values that we have in the secular part of the society in which we live? It is through citizenship and through its monitoring and teaching that we can reassure ourselves about the objectives of those schools. I, for one, would be very concerned if schools that are inspired by faith were not seeking to form good civic citizens—people with a proper appreciation of issues such as social responsibility, to which my noble friend referred.

Before the Committee met last week, on Thursday morning I attended an event at Brentwood Cathedral where Catholic schools from the east end of London and Essex were taking part in their school citizenship awards. I have a copy of the brochure that was handed out. I was deeply impressed by the numbers of children involved. They came from many different racial backgrounds and were singled out for all the things that they had been doing as good citizens. They ranged from a young man who had been voted by his compatriots for standing up to school bullies through to a young woman who raised a substantial sum of money to help with an AIDS project in west Africa.

Good citizenship is going on anyway. It is best experienced rather than taught. We must be careful not to put the dead hand of the state on to the issue, which, like volunteerism or community service, would perhaps kill it.

I have a final point to make regarding primary schools. Curiously, it will be a mandatory subject in secondary schools where young people are already being put through the "Gradgrind" of highly pressured programmes on which they will be examined. It is yet another requirement on those young people, but it will not be mandatory in primary schools. Thematic teaching has been referred to. Looking at issues such as slavery, the holocaust or the Irish famine and relating it to contemporary issues can be done much more easily in primary schools. Perhaps that is the place in which to crack this nut rather than in secondary schools.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Northbourne for giving us the chance to explore this question. I hope that it will not go the way of AS levels but that the Government will appraise the first year of citizenship with an open mind and will go back to the drawing board if necessary.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

There have been some fascinating contributions. I start by saying that we are seeking to ensure that all children—I include mine—have the opportunity in their education to explore ideas to enable them to cope with the world that they will find themselves in as adults, a 'world infinitely more complicated and complex than at the time I became an adult.

There is a place for education that goes beyond the academic. I am talking about the opportunity for young people to think, inquire, debate and understand the importance of making decisions about their lives and some of the great issues that will affect them. I can only gaze into a crystal ball and imagine what those issues will be, but some of them, such as the more complicated world in which we live, science and technology issues, the changing pace of the world, and so on, are as important to all children as ensuring that they have the right level of academic ability and attainment at the end of their education.

I greet the arrival of citizenship in the secondary school curriculum with nothing short of delight. It is extremely important. If I may tease my noble friend Lord Peston, I wonder whether he would remind us when economics became a secondary school subject. If we go back far enough we will discover that it was not always such.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, opened up this extraordinarily interesting debate. I am sorry about the website, but I am not allowed to design one or to get anywhere near them—for good reasons, I can assure the noble Baroness.

My noble friend Lord Jones asked about impartial teaching. That is what all teachers do. We have a fantastic cadre of teachers in this country and I should not want anyone to believe that the teaching of this subject, or any other—history, science, or whatever—is done by anyone other than teachers who are willing to give children opportunities to learn. I hope that all noble Lords will join me in echoing those sentiments.

I recognise from the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Hylton and Lord Alton, the desire for the subject to permeate and come within the context of every subject. I do not disagree with that. It is important that our children are given every opportunity to debate, inquire, learn and understand all that we see as part of the curriculum and for them to see the link with their role in a wider society. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said about faith schools. I would not wish citizenship teaching to go the way of the British constitution, although there were occasional flashes of inspiration from certain teachers in my experience.

We need to look across to ensure that the curriculum is appropriate. The reasons why citizenship has been included will have been debated in your Lordships' House before and I do not want to dwell too much on how we arrived at this point. I shall say why we believe that the three strands are very important. First, clue to the role that we play, I believe that all Members accept the importance of political literacy for all our children and young people. We must ensure that our children understand the role and importance of democracy in our society. They should also understand its underpinning as regards our future, as well as the role and nature of the political parties and democratic institutions that operate within its scope.

Community involvement is very important. "Volunteering" has always been described to me as the essential act of citizenship. Through volunteering, many noble Lords—and, indeed, many other people—acknowledge the fact that they learnt not only a huge amount about some of the social issues in this country but also about their own place and role within it.

Secondly, noble Lords have pointed out the difference between primary and secondary provision. It is in secondary provision that we are seeking to ensure that children receive such opportunities—the kind of opportunities where they can consider certain issues: for example, investigating crime and its consequences; looking at issues relating to imprisonment; and, indeed, understanding many social issues that are most important.

The third inter-related strand is social and moral responsibility. Social responsibility is very clear, and very key to the role that citizenship will play. I accept entirely what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, said about the value and importance of responsibility, as well as rights. We must give our children that sense of responsibility and ensure —as with the PSHE curriculum—that people understand that parenting carries with it huge responsibilities. We need to help people learn and develop that understanding.

We have made our commitment to citizenship clear within the framework that we have established. As I said, under the 14 to 19 Green Paper, we propose to retain it as a statutory requirement. In the light of my response, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Before I conclude, I should deal with the specific question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I have not, as yet, addressed. The clauses affected by earned autonomy are Clauses 77 to 85. In my reply to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, I talked about the programme for study being the area in which we would be looking to examine earned autonomy in more detail. I shall return to the matter at the next stage of the Bill to discuss it at length.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Northbourne

Before I withdraw my amendment, I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and other Members of the Committee, that the trouble with education debates of this kind is that too many noble Lords are teachers, or at least academics. Teaching is, therefore, perceived as standing at the front of a classroom of children with chalk in one's hand. I perceive this citizenship curriculum as being a led discussion where young people are led to think for themselves and encouraged to make intelligent choices, and, indeed, to assess risks. That concept cannot be examined, as was determined by our discussion.

I shall read the Minister's response before I decide whether or not to return to the matter at the next stage—

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, I should point out to the Minister that my question was not about Clause 5, although there is a connection. My question is: what is the status of these clauses? If approved, would the provisions in these clauses be compulsory, irrespective of Clause 5? Can the Minister tell the Committee the status of the clauses that we are currently discussing?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I must apologise to the noble Baroness, but I do not think that I understand her question.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may ask the same question in an effort to be helpful. I thought that foundation subjects were compulsory. Am I right in that assumption? I have never fully understood the position, because the national curriculum was introduced by the then government all those years ago. I thought that a foundation subject was something that you had to teach, and that you could not suddenly announce that you would not teach, for example—to take the obvious one—citizenship. You have just got to teach it. I really do not understand the position.

Baroness Blatch

The precise point is that both the core and the foundation subjects are subjects that must be taught. However, another part of the Bill allows earned autonomy or exemption from the national curriculum, as set out in these clauses. We were told earlier in our debates that these clauses were inviolable; in other words, that there could not be exemptions. I am simply asking about the status of these clauses.

Lord Northbourne

I believe that the noble Baroness has rather hijacked my amendment. It seems to me that she has raised quite a different point and one that might perfectly well be raised in a separate amendment. We are discussing whether or not citizenship is about social responsibility, and, if so, whether young people should be encouraged to understand such social responsibilities—

Lord Peston

I am sorry, but I am not convinced that the noble Baroness has hijacked the noble Lord's amendment. If you do not have to teach citizenship as a subject, but you do teach it as part of the rest of the curriculum—which was my view—it meets both the noble Lord's requirements, as just outlined, and my own. However, it is a different matter if you have to teach it as a subject. That is the question that we are asking.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote

Perhaps I may refer to the Written Answer I received on citizenship education last month, which concluded by saying: This allows schools flexibility in how they deliver the subject, for example, as a discrete subject or through other subjects".—[Official Report, 17/4/02; col. WA 160.] It seems to me that that meets the point raised by the noble Baroness. If it is allowed to be taught, there should be flexibility for teachers as regards how it is taught—either as a "discrete" subject of their choice, or, indeed, "through other subjects". However, I have no answer as to whether or not the subject is to be examined.

Baroness Blatch

I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, if he believes that I have hijacked his amendment. However, if the noble Lord's amendment is accepted, "social responsibility" would become a compulsory subject, whether applied in a free way or as a self-contained "discrete" subject. If it is included as a compulsory subject, I want to know where it stands in terms of the status of these clauses vis-à-vis exemption and/or earned autonomy.

Lord Jones

In his last remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, with some resignation and, I believe, some regret, quite fairly said that perhaps there were too many teachers participating in this debate. If I misrepresent what he said, I apologise. However, if the noble Lord were to visit the Tate Britain gallery tomorrow, he would see there a portrait by Allan Ramsey, a noted rational man, who painted the House of Hanover—namely, Queen Charlotte and several young Hanoverians. At the corner of this very large painting there is a very learned treatise, entitled, Some Thoughts concerning Education 1693, by John Locke. Perhaps such thoughts would enhance this debate.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I shall try to address the issue properly. For noble Lords who are unfamiliar with the position, the national curriculum consists of the core and the foundation subjects. The core subjects are maths, English and science; and the foundation subjects include design technology, modern foreign languages, ICT, geography, history, and so on. I believe it necessary to place that on the record. I do not know whether the noble Baroness had the same problem, but when I became a Minister it took me some time to work out the difference between the core, the foundation, and the basic subjects.

I apologise for not recognising the nature of the noble Baroness's question. We have said that earned autonomy—Clause 5—means that schools are exempted from the provisions of Clauses 77 to 85. However, I have made it clear that we are not talking about exemptions from curriculum subjects; we are talking only about changes in the programmes of study. Therefore, although the subjects will be compulsory, the programmes of study will be varied under the regulations that we propose to make under Clause 6. I hope that that clarifies the position, and that we can move on to consider further amendments.

Lord Northbourne

I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 276 not moved.]

Clause 80 agreed to.

Clause 81 [Curriculum requirements for fourth key stage]:

[Amendment No. 277 not moved.]

Baroness Walmsley

moved Amendment No. 278: Page 54, line 36, at end insert— (f) at least one of the following—

  1. (i) history,
  2. (ii) geography, and
(g) at least one of the following—
  1. (i)art and design,
  2. (ii) music."
The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 279, 288 and 289, all of which were initially to be included in an earlier group of amendments that was not moved. The purpose of these amendments is to ensure curricular breadth and balance at key stage 4, the first two for England and the second two for Wales.

Clause 81 lists the compulsory core subjects of the national curriculum but does not include any of the humanities such as geography and history nor the creative arts, despite the fact that these are popular and valued subjects. There is evidence that geography graduates are among the most employable of new graduates. However, the Green Paper assured us that, we are determined to preserve access to a broad and balanced curriculum for all". In view of the Government's declared intention it is surprising that those subjects have been left out. Amendment No. 278 seeks to reintroduce them.

Amendment No. 279 is crucial. It seeks to ensure that whatever flexibility is introduced in key stage 4, young people will be guaranteed a broad and balanced curriculum. While my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford has advocated that schools should have flexibility on 20 per cent of the curriculum, the reference to a "broadly based curriculum" is important to ensure that students are well prepared for life in the 21st century. For example, making a modern foreign language optional could be seen as a retrograde step given the UK's membership of the European Union, with all its diversity, particularly in the light of the ever-increasing educational and job opportunities in member countries.

Last week the TES reported that some schools are jumping the gun and making modern foreign languages optional. The different pathways that are to he on offer to young people could start them off in what turns out to be the wrong direction. We seek reassurance that students will be able to move easily between the academic, vocational and occupational pathways. The Green Paper did not specify how that would he achieved. Will the Minister put some meat on the bones?

Research shows that students front certain minority ethnic groups and socially disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately represented in vocational and occupational courses. It is vital that they have the opportunity to move easily if the chosen path turns out not to be the best route for them as they develop. Many young people still do not have a clear idea where they want to go by 14, and employment trends are currently shifting rapidly. That makes the Government's pathways less important than a good broad core curriculum, giving young people the basic skills, understanding and knowledge to benefit from other courses later and to respond to changes in the workplace.

There is evidence of continuing gender bias in the vocational courses, which could be detrimental to girls' career choices. We also need to ensure that children with special educational needs are not unintentionally all encouraged into the same sort of courses. I can envisage nightmares ahead for whomever is responsible for timetabling in secondary schools—usually one of the poor, benighted deputy heads—and also for staffing, professional development and funding issues in relation to creating these pathways, with sufficient opportunity for switching. All those considerations make the core curriculum vitally important. All students, including those with special needs, should receive the same opportunities.

Amendments Nos. 288 and 289 seek similar provisions for Wales. It is of concern that Clause 102, which separates the national curriculum subjects at key stage 4 for students in Wales, has even fewer foundation subjects than the list for England. That is despite the declaration by Jane Davidson, the Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning in the National Assembly for Wales, that she has consulted widely with stakeholders and will, develop the best practice already in place and identify innovative ideas for widening development". None of the subjects set out in our amendments is mentioned on the face of the Bill. Are students in Wales not entitled to study information and communications technology, for example? What about citizenship? Amendment No. 289 seeks to ensure that whatever flexibility is introduced, the entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum remains. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Lucas

I apologise to the Committee for the inconvenience caused by my not being here to move the first amendment in what should have been this group. I got myself in a mess.

I support a number of the noble Baroness's points. The core foundation curriculum is a deficient set of subjects. It contains almost nothing about people. We spend most of our lives with people. Understanding them is one of the most important things we can do. Understanding how to work with people and what motivates them has long been one of the notable deficiencies in British management. If we are looking for subjects we should be teaching, it comes down to the likes of history and geography.

Art and drama enlighten people and increase their appreciation of what they can do and of working with others. They are important parts of basic education, but we are leaving them behind in favour of the driest subjects. At the foundation of the core level are mathematics, English and science. We all use English every day. The better we speak it and the more we know about it, the better. It is a vital tool. But maths and science?

One of the many achievements of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was to bring back mental arithmetic. We use that kind of arithmetic every day, but do we have to calculate angles and triangles and bearings? Do we have to deal with quadratic and simultaneous equations in everyday life? I am a science graduate, and I have used mathematics in science, but not in ordinary life. I understand why those are useful tools for academics and economics professors. They are useful too for those aiming for the new baccalaureate. I do not know why the Government have to invent a new baccalaureate rather than use the IB, which was invented in England, but that is a side issue.

I understand why it is important to build a broad base for someone going on to university and higher things, and that mathematics and science are a necessary element, but to elevate their knowledge above that of people seems profoundly wrongheaded. That attitude, which has been with us for a long time, results in people who are a little disenchanted with school growing extremely disenchanted and finding academic learning difficult.

My son has just been through key stage 3 science, so I have been taking him through it. By and large, it is "Trivial Pursuit". I enjoy facts, and knowing what an architrave is, but they are not the foundation of learning and appreciation of the world. Does any Member of the Committee suffer from not knowing the difference between a pistil and a stamen? It is nice to know, but it does not alter the way one relates to life and to other people. Is it important to know the reactive order of metals, the periodic table, or how rocks weather? Is it important to understand what particles are and how they interact?

Science is fascinating stuff; I learnt and enjoyed it, and I still enjoy going through it. But it should not be a foundation or core subject. Core subjects should be those necessary to enrich our lives as foundations for whatever we choose to do. I place history and geography top among those. Historians have shot themselves in the foot by turning history from a fascinating subject into a scientific investigation, but at the root of history are the most wonderful stories; the reasons why we are a country.

Those are the reasons why my noble friend Lady Blatch and the noble Lord, Lord Peston, would like citizenship taught, and so they should be, but they are also a great route to understanding people: what motivates them, how they work and what we as people are about; the possibility of greatness, self-sacrifice and courage. They are all best learnt through history and the stories of others.

It is important that we gain an appreciation of the world. We are one planet and in almost every aspect of our lives we interact with people a great distance away. When I buy beans from Sainsbury's, I buy those from Kenya, Zimbabwe or some such place. To be ignorant of how the world works and of how people, economies and structures work and interact would be terrible. The decisions which we as citizens of this country are asked to take when we have the chance to vote in general elections, when we have the opportunity to express ourselves in newspapers and in support we give to political parties have an effect on the way in which the world works. Not to understand that is to leave us deficient as citizens of the world.

How we can believe that learning that is less important than learning the order of the reactivity of metals or the structure of a flower leaves me completely flabbergasted. I believe that we have got our order of priorities completely wrong and I therefore hope that the amendment will be accepted. It will be a step back in the right direction and will introduce the study of man into our basic education and ensure that it stays there.

I do not suppose that the noble Baroness will press the amendment to a vote at this stage, but I hope that we will have a chance to vote on it at a later stage. I shall certainly support her.

Lord Peston

We are talking only about key stage 4 and not all the other key stages. I strongly support the Government's position of creating room and flexibility in that stage. However, in doing so one must say, "This is more important than that"; in other words, "This is vital and that you can choose". My reading of the Bill is not that no one can study history, geography or the other subjects but that they are not obliged to do so at that stage.

A good reason for that is that students might want to study other subjects, which seems to make good sense. We can all name a subject and make an impassioned plea as to why it is the most important for people to study, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, seemed to be under the impression that one could teach people to make moral decisions. Anyone who has read any moral philosophy knows that that is not the case. However, as someone who is devoted to moral philosophy, I could make an impassioned plea that it ought to be a compulsory subject in schools simply so that young people could learn how difficult it is to make a moral decision—that is, the very nature of a moral decision and not the decision itself. I could do that with almost any subject one cares to name. However, I do not believe that the Government are wrong in saying that at this stage we ought to create some room and the only way of doing that is to leave it to the school or the child to decide.

It is not in my nature to be supportive of the Government on these matters, as my noble friend knows. However, pupils will have been taught some history and geography and, unless I am on the wrong page of the Bill, music. That is all to the good. The real question is whether it is unreasonable to suggest that we are given choices. My concern is that in making choices they might still go too far down the academic road. In that respect I support the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. As I have previously mentioned, I am desperately sorry that I did not learn how to strip a car engine when I was at school. There was no later time to do so and I hope that within the vocational part of the curriculum, including for the "academic" boys and girls, ii can be said, "You're going to learn to strip a car engine whether you like it or not". However, we need to create room for that in the curriculum.

I do not want to prolong the discussion by having a continual debate with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, but I must say that maths taught properly is the most exciting intellectual subject one can imagine. The trouble is that frequently it is not taught properly; it is taught rote as a set of rules. However, taught as it is in terms of foundation, with the exception of learning how to write a decent sentence in English, I can think of nothing more important. The one thing I would die in the last ditch for would be keeping maths, taught properly, in the curriculum.

Lord Dearing

I am delighted to find myself for once in total agreement with the noble Lord. If we a re to excite all our children to engage in learning by the age of 16, the more we can free up the 14 to 16 curriculum the better. Our key objective must be to want them to engage in learning beyond 16 and for life. Unless we can do so, we have failed them.

Therefore, we need to trust our schools much more to be able to respond flexibly. It does not mean that if that is not prescribed they will not do it. I believe that in the great majority of cases children will want to follow what we might regard as the standard subjects. But I would like teachers to have more freedom not only in choosing subjects but in choosing which elements excite them so that they can then communicate that excitement to young people.

As regards mathematics, I did not have the privilege of finding excitement. It was not until the age of 26 that to my astonishment I found an application for simultaneous equations. For ever after, that was known in the department in which I worked as the "Dearing formula". It was a miracle but it took until the age of 26, having left school at 16, to find it. I think I could have managed without it, but my main point is the more serious one. We must trust our schools more and realise that our primary duty is to engage the attention and enthusiasm of children in learning before they can choose to shed education from their lives.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote

I could happily join the queue with my favourite subject and equally support the Government's argument that there should be flexibility for schools and individual children to make choices. However, I want to re-open the subject of language teaching for a different reason. If it is to be allowed to be dropped from key stage 4, I want to be assured that it is done for the right reasons.

It has been said that there is a shortage of language teachers. Surely, one of the ways to make the best use of the language teachers who do exist would be a more imaginative use of distance learning methods, which have been so brilliantly pioneered by the Open University. I declare an interest because I am the vice-chairman of the OU Council.

The OU is currently involved in training more than a quarter of all UK teachers in its Learning Schools Programme which will be running until the end of March next year. And the 10,000 who have already completed the programme are known to have gained significantly more confidence in using new technologies in their teaching.

Surely, too, in partnership with broadcast media, we need more imaginative programmes for the actual teaching of languages, in particular for the young. That will release more teachers for the older generation. A more educational version of "The Tweenies"—even "The Teletubbies"—in French or German should certainly help turn on the very young at the age when they are most receptive to language and accent. For older children, something similar to "The Simpsons" would almost certainly produce the same result, teaching them within the genre that they find exciting and interesting.

Judging by the concern expressed by Foreign Office Ministers—and indeed by Ambassadors from the EU—at the suggestion that the UK should drop languages from the compulsory curriculum at key stage 4, practical help with the language and pronunciation side of such programmes might well be forthcoming.

Therefore, although I want the flexibility in the Bill, I want to be reassured about the reasons for dropping particular subjects. Although, let us face it, everyone else speaks English, it would be a great shame if there were not the ability to open minds to other languages and the experience and wider understanding of a culture that that can bring. I find it fascinating that most universities, certainly the LSE at some stage, were teaching with their subject matter—perhaps resisted somewhat by the academics—the language, so that economics or whatever subject it was could be taught against the background of another language.

5 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I take the point made again by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, in terms of flexibility at age 14. However, I find it very hard to accept that citizenship is a subject that must be compulsory, however it is taught, over and above history and geography, for example. It seems to me that a proper understanding of one's past and of the physical world around one are so very important. As has been said, citizenship can be imbibed through all subjects, including history and geography. So I find it very difficult.

I am a Monty Finniston fan. It was Monty Finniston who created "education for capability". The process of young people identifying problems and creating solutions to them by making things and by evaluating them, through science and through design and technology, is important. They go together in terms of young people learning how to solve problems in their everyday lives by employing the processes that are used in science and by evaluating them.

Again, there is the idea that that information and communication technology should be compulsory when history and geography are not—for today's children, who are so proficient at communicating and using technology even before they start school. I find the proposition strange that those subjects should still be compulsory at key stage 4 when history and geography are not.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

I am inclined to support the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I, too, have a big reservation about appearing in any way to diminish the importance of the teaching of history and geography. I accept the crucial importance of children understanding information technology and knowing how to access the Internet to find resources there that would never be available to them otherwise; in today's world people must be computer literate. Nevertheless, an understanding of ourselves—here I support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—of how we relate to others, and of our nation's history and the reasons we are as a nation how we are, go to the very heart of how we live our lives. Any proposal that relegates history or geography should be resisted.

I hope that when the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, is examining this matter between now and Report she will consider whether the provision is set out in the most helpful way. It may send a signal into the system that Parliament, having considered these matters, believes that the diminishing of the status of history and geography within the curriculum is a matter that is negotiable. If we were to have a thoroughgoing debate on that subject alone, I do not think that we should necessarily come to that conclusion.

I also support the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, in what she said about distance learning as a way of supporting the teaching of many of the subjects listed. This is the way in which education is bound to open up in the future, and we need to give more attention and time to that. But, surely, none of it will replace inspired teachers. It is a shame that we have not had a chance during the Committee stage to say a little more about the crisis that is affecting the teaching profession.

At one time, teaching was seen as a vocation—a calling in life. Yet many people now are even repelled from entering the teaching profession. They know so much about its lack of status, about the many pressures that are placed on teachers, and about the issues that have been raised during our debates in Committee; namely, violence and indiscipline in the classroom—all of which have been registered by teachers.

A very worrying issue—one that I raised at Second Reading—is the number of supply teachers who are now used in the classroom rather than steady teachers who spend all their time inspiring the children. Supply teachers, by definition, are here today and gone tomorrow, so they cannot bring stability or continuity into the schools. There has been a significant increase across the country in the use of supply teachers over the past couple of years.

All of us, whenever we see the Times Educational Supplement section on "teachers who inspired us" probably go to that section first. We all remember from our own lives at school those teachers who made a significant difference to us. My love of history was certainly given to me by a teacher who knew how to teach history.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Although I agree that we have to teach some facts—I do not think that the teaching of any subject can be devoid of the teaching of facts—the way in which we go about it is essential. If the teaching consists purely of a distribution of facts on a rote basis with no inspiration behind it, such teachers have little chance of inspiring the children entrusted to their care.

Lord Jones

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said that she was a Monty Finniston fan. Would that be Sir Monty Finniston, who headed the British Steel Corporation and who headed the Government inquiry on engineering? I see the noble Baroness nodding.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

This discussion is the only chance that we have had to debate the consultation paper on 14 to 19 education. Clause 81 is the precursor to its implementation. We have had a wide discussion on how far subjects should be made compulsory at key stage 4, which is the part of the process relating to 14 to 16 year-olds.

One of my worries about the whole concept of the 14 to 19 paper is the lack of a degree of coherence. There are pathways that diverge from 14 onwards. But one of the problems that we have had in this country for many years is the degree to which we have narrowed down the curriculum post-16—the A-level curriculum in particular—and students have studied far too narrow a range of subjects. I know that it is hoped that the AS levels will open that up, but they have not succeeded in doing very well so far. I worry, for example, about the dropping of a modern foreign language for 14 to 16 year-olds (at key stage 4). Frankly, in this day and age we should be encouraging students to take a modern foreign language through to 16.

The same is true so far as concerns mathematics—in spite of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I support the idea of the international baccalaureate. It has a coherence. One of its features is that it carries on mathematics. In this country, the kind of mathematics that is taught through to GCSE is not sufficient to support the kinds of applications that we now require in terms of training. If we compare this mathematics with the requirement for vocational courses in Germany it is often totally insufficient.

I am worried that the pathways that are being foreseen in the 14 to 19 paper are too narrow, that it will lead to increased specialisation along narrow pathways rather than to a broad-based, balanced education. That is one reason why we have tabled the amendments. They require the concept of a broad and balanced curriculum to underpin the whole. There is a great danger that we shall find ourselves pushing children into narrow channels which are not what are required in this modern day and age.

Lord Lucas

To return to the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Peston and Lord Dearing, about cluttering up the curriculum, I entirely agree that we should look at reducing the burden in the 14 to 16 curriculum. But the way in which I would set about it is very different from the way in which the Government have set about it.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that mathematics is beautiful, if you happen to be one of those people who can read it that way. Even I, who managed to struggle through a university degree in physics, find it difficult. There are a few people who find it wonderful.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, says, mathematics is important in some careers. Yes, it should be included in vocational courses. But there is no reason why someone who will end up as a commercial artist should have to struggle with simultaneous equations. It is not a foundation for such people. It will not give them any joy or purpose, and it will be of no use to them in life thereafter. I think that mathematics should be taken out of the core subjects and put into the foundation subjects.

I think that we should follow the ideas on science put forward by my noble friend Lady Blatch. The current science curriculum is terribly dusty, dry and uninteresting. We should make it much more about problem solving and real, everyday life. We should also combine it with a good element of citizenship. There should be a good understanding of how science relates to society and the world. If scientists understood a little about society, and everyone else understood a bit about science, we might be able to avoid some of the horrors being visited on the world. Science, too, should be a foundation subject.

Design and technology is a non-subject. What else do those involved in it do, other than design plastic windmills or play around in a basic way with a few microchips? Design and technology really should be replaced by proper vocational courses. As the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said, if one knew how to maintain a modern motorcar, one would understand a great deal about the electronics which are at the core of those motorcars. However, it is ridiculous to say that design and technology in its present form should be a foundation subject.

I agree entirely with what my noble friend Lady Blatch said about information and communication technology, which should be part of every subject. One should not have to learn ICT separately. Other than programming, my children can already handle a computer much better than I can. I suspect that my son, by the end of his GCSE course, will also be a better programmer than I am. ICT skills are acquired simply because ICT is part of the way in which children learn other subjects.

We must maintain space in the curriculum for physical education. As we cannot have a nation of desk-bound children, I see the function of physical education. Citizenship should be part of the way in which we teach all sorts of other subjects. Modern foreign languages also should be included. Combining all those subjects, we end up with a thinned down curriculum with lots of room for history, geography and arts and music, as Amendment No. 278 proposes. I think that that would be a much better balance for the core subjects than that proposed by the Government.

Lord Dearing

I intervene very briefly to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp: encourage, yes; compel, no.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

I must spring to the defence of science. Last night we had a very interesting debate on the issue of alcohol, and one aspect which emerged loud and clear was the problem of binge drinking by youngsters and their lack of understanding of their own biology and reactions to alcohol. Unplanned pregnancy is another aspect of the problem. Some noble Lords who participated in that debated are in the Chamber now.

If we are not preparing our young people for whatever life lies ahead of them, we are failing them. In establishing any curriculum, we can argue long and hard about whether to include or exclude a given subject. However, we have to educate the whole spectrum of society. Some children come from extremely deprived and difficult backgrounds, and we have to educate them to avoid some of the traps that their parents have fallen into. Part of education should be to prevent the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children.

Lord Peston

As we seem to be having two debates, perhaps logic should also be a compulsory subject; it seems to be lacking at the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is being logical. He is saying that he would take one subject out because he wants to put another in. I can understand that although I may not agree with him on what should come out or go in. However, I am totally lost in relation to the amendments tabled by the Liberal Democrat Front-Benchers. They have told us what will have to go in, but they have not said what can come out. Logically, therefore, they are saying that they are opposed to flexibility. They must not want a flexible 14 age group. If they do want flexibility, they have to accept that choices will have to be made. But they do not seem to want to do that. When I was a teacher, one of my constant problems was trying to persuade young people that if they chose this, they could not do that. Young people find that incredibly hard to grasp. 'There are very few points that we can teach beyond, "If this, then not that". The answer, however, is always "both".

It is right that we are having this debate. I believe that we are trying to understand what young people should be doing at 14. I think that there should be as much choice as possible at 14. Indeed, I go further and entirely accept the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton—that if we do not say that something is not compulsory, it may seem that it is not that important. I understand the point. Our duty, however, is to say, "No, it is not compulsory, but we believe that it is tremendously important". Although—to my horror—one can do economics at 14, I regard that as absurd. I would not teach economics at that age. However, if that is the choice that is made, so be it.

As I said in your Lordships' House 10 years ago, if we are preparing people for life, we should be teaching them skills such as how to read the Good Food Guide, and things of that sort, as that is what young people become obsessed with once they join the bourgeoisie. However, I take it that none of us is advocating that. More seriously, in terms of later life, perhaps we should be teaching accounting to young people, including the moral side of the subject, and particularly how to spot a dodgy balance sheet. They will learn very few things more important than that.

I stick to my view that the Government are right on this issue. If I were to criticise them, it would be to advocate fewer compulsory subjects and more choice. However, I certainly would not go down the line of saying, think this is important. Therefore, we have to do it". The point is that I think this is important. Therefore, we hope that people will choose to do it. That seems to be the correct way. For once, I strongly believe that the Government are going in the right direction.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

Like the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I am a great fan of history. I understand that Simon Scharma is presenting his new programme at 9 o'clock tonight on BBC. However, I shall not be able to watch it. That is just a gentle reminder to noble Lords of how much we have yet to do. Nevertheless, I shall ensure that the programme is videotaped for me. I am also glad for the support of my noble friend Lord Peston. I wanted to put that on the record because it is a very great moment for me. I am fascinated by his desire to understand how to strip a car engine. I wonder if he has looked at one recently. They are impossible to understand.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing the debate. She described the gender bias in vocational education and issues affecting ethnic minorities. We want to create a system in which vocational is as good and important, and is seen to be as good and important, as academic. We are therefore not approaching the issue in the same way as we would if we felt that the subjects were being described as inferior. It is important to recognise that we are trying to create a new pathway and a new 14 to 19 phase of learning, the purpose and intention of which is to move away from the culture of leaving school at 16 and to create the opportunities that are necessary if we are to compete successfully in the global economy. We need not only to have the best-educated people possible but to recognise the inherent value of education. As noble Lords will be aware, consultation on the new pathway ends on 31st May.

The Bill does not change in any way the status quo in terms of key stage 3 and key stage 4 subjects. The power to alter key stage 4 is contained in Clause 82. However, the Bill does not change the subjects that must be taught in schools. Moreover, any order made under Clause 82 would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. We would have the opportunity to debate and discuss the matter.

It is also important to realise that history and geography were made optional at key stage 4 some years ago, under the previous Conservative government. I believe that the change was a result of the review conducted by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing—who has left the Chamber. Currently, it is for schools to determine whether and to whom they will make these subjects available. In the Green Paper, we are proposing that although pupils should not be statutorily obliged to study these subjects, schools should be obliged to make them available to pupils who wished to take them. That is arguably a stronger position than the current one. It is important to see it in that context.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, talked about language learning. As she knows, I could talk for hours on that subject; but I shall resist the temptation to do so. However, I was very interested in her knowledge of the Tweenies and the Simpsons. I, too, have been in discussion with many people on the language issue. As we speak, the language group which I chair at the department is meeting to consider a language strategy which, as noble Lords will know, will be presented in the autumn. As I have said, the strategy considers issues of motivation and opportunity and how to provide opportunity particularly to the youngest children, who—as noble Lords have recognised in previous debates—are perhaps best able to learn languages. We must also motivate children to learn languages. Moreover, we have to convince them that language skills will provide them with employment opportunities as they grow older.

We have previously debated which languages should be taught and identified 11 or 13. So there is a recognition within our languages strategy of the need to think about the languages that we offer. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, about the value of ICT, not only in terms of distance learning as we would normally recognise it, but also as regards the opportunity through video conferencing and other initiatives to be able to join a class in, say, Spain, France or Germany and participate perhaps in a science lesson in a different language. Those are important opportunities.

In both England and Wales we want to create a positive model that offers greater space—Members of the Committee have talked about that need—at key stage 4 for greater flexibility. We want students to pursue studies that reflect their aptitudes, abilities and preferences while maintaining a strong grip on the basics. We propose that the phase will provide an entitlement for all students to continue to include elements of the national curriculum. We recognise the need for a broad and balanced curriculum.

I address that point as regards Amendments Nos. 279 and 289. I can understand the reasons why the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Sharp, tabled those amendments, but I want to assure them that Clauses 75(1) and 96(1) already place a duty respectively on the Secretary of State, in the case of England, and the National Assembly for Wales to exercise their functions with a view to securing the general requirements respectively of Clauses 74(1) and 95(1) for a balanced and broadly based curriculum in maintained schools. That applies as much to the fourth key stage curriculum requirements as it does to the requirements at the other key stages. The duty also applies in respect of the powers to alter or remove the requirements for the fourth key stage.

I hope that those reassurances are helpful to the Committee. I take on board all of the key points that Members of the Committee have made, but our purpose is clear. Within the Bill we are creating the ability to put forward to this Chamber potential changes if we believe that they should be made. That will occur, as I have said, by means of the affirmative resolution procedure. It is worth saying that at the present time neither the Secretary of State nor the National Assembly for Wales envisage a need to remove national curriculum requirements. However, if that became apparent as a result of the consultation, we should be able to do so by means of the affirmative resolution procedure. I hope that on the basis of those comments the Committee will feel able—

Lord Roberts of Conwy

Before the noble Baroness sits down, I draw her attention in particular to Amendment No. 289 which relates to Clause 102 and the curriculum requirements for the fourth key stage in Wales. I draw her attention in particular to subsection (3) of that clause where it is clearly stated: The following are the other foundation subjects for the fourth stage—

  1. (a) physical education, and
  2. (b) Welsh, if the school is not a Welsh-speaking school".
It seems to me that that subsection makes those particular subjects exclusively the foundation subjects in Wales. I do not know whether the noble Baroness will be able to answer me now, but I am happy to tell her that there is a later amendment which we shall discuss shortly where the same problem arises.

Baroness Blatch

I also ask the noble Baroness for clarification. My understanding was that the noble Baroness said that the foundation subjects which are set out in the clause constitute an obligation as regards a school teaching them but not as regards children studying them. My understanding is that if they are listed in this clause they are subjects that young people have to study at that key stage.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The Bill does not change the current position; the noble Baroness is absolutely right about that. However, with regard to our deliberations on key stage 4, the clause provides an opportunity to make changes, should we so wish, under the affirmative resolution procedure. Members of the Committee have discussed the existing consultation process as regards the role of modern foreign languages and design and technology. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, that I shall respond to his points later when we discuss the relevant amendment. I hope that that is satisfactory.

Baroness Blatch

I am sorry but that response does not clarify the position. The noble Baroness argued that there was an obligation to make certain subjects available, but not an obligation necessarily for each pupil to study those subjects.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I referred to changes that may be made under key stage 4 by the affirmative resolution procedure. What we described in our Green Paper constituted an entitlement. That is a different situation from that which is currently in place.

Baroness Walmsley

I welcome the Minister's comments on the lack of hierarchy among the proposed pathways and also her reassurances on the Government's attitude towards a broad and balanced curriculum. One of the many reasons I wish that I were younger is that I wish that I had been educated under the national curriculum. I believe that I would have followed a much broader and more balanced curriculum. I specialised in the sciences at far too young an age. I missed out on the humanities. That is one of the reasons that I think it is so important that one of the humanities subjects—I emphasise this to the noble Lord, Lord Peston—and one of the creative arts subjects should be included in the national curriculum. However, we shall undoubtedly return to the mutter on Report. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Brightman

moved Amendment No. 278A: Page 54, line 36, at end insert ", and (f) geography The noble and learned Lord said: I shall be as brief as I can. The purpose of Amendment No. 278A is that a school should have to offer geography as an optional foundation subject up to school leaving age instead of stopping two years earlier as at present, and under the Bill. I do not seek to make geography a core foundation subject and therefore compulsory in the final stage.

In approaching the amendment, the questions which need to be answered are, what is meant by geography and what is its importance in the national curriculum? Geography is not, of course, just a matter of knowing the countries of the world, where they are and what are their towns, rivers and mountains. The science of geography is far wider than that.

The dictionary definition of geography, which I take from The Concise Oxford Dictionary, is the following. Geography means, The science of the earth's surface, form, physical features, natural and political divisions, climate, productions, populations, etc". The importance of geography and the reason why it should not be lightly dismissed from the national curriculum before school leaving age lies in the fact that so many of the problems which beset us today fall within the scope of that definition. We need people with a knowledge of geography to help us to understand and to cope with those problems. We shall not have those people if we remove their interest at too early an age. The sort of problems which I have in mind, all of which fall within the scope of the dictionary definition of geography, are the following. I give a few examples not in any particular order: climate change; retreating ice caps and glaciers and the effect on ocean levels; environmental degradation; racial conflicts; economic migration; coastal erosion; destructive dams, disappearing rain forests; landfill sites and the safe disposal of nuclear waste. The science of geography encompasses or touches on all those problems.

If we do not encourage the study of geography at school and if we dismiss it too early from the national curriculum, we shall end up with fewer trained geographers. If we have fewer trained geographers, we shall be less well equipped to deal with the problems that I have outlined. I should therefore like to see geography not only in the first, second and third key stages of the national curriculum but also in the fourth key stage, but not, as I said, as a core foundation subject.

I have a duty to declare an interest. I have the privilege of being an honorary fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, which was founded by Royal Charter many years ago.

An event has recently occurred which I believe indicates the importance that the Government attach to geography. Last year, the Privy Council approved the introduction of the status of "chartered geographer", which could be awarded to geographers with the requisite academic and field experience. I was told that that approval was granted by the Privy Council only after consultation with the relevant government departments. In my submission, that event gives some indication of the importance that those in government attach to geography.

I obviously do not intend to divide the House on the amendment. However, I should be immensely grateful if the Minister would allow me to meet her and discuss in a little more depth the possibility of retaining geography in the national curriculum until school leaving age instead of two years earlier than that.

I want to add a few words on a matter that puzzles me. Neither I nor the legal department of the Library have been able to find a statutory definition of "core foundation subject" or "non-core foundation subject". My understanding is that core foundation subjects have to be offered, taught and taken by students in a school and that non-core foundation subjects have to be on offer if there is a demand for them but that they are not compulsory subjects. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

Earl Jellicoe

I must admit that history has for a long time been my favourite subject. However, this afternoon, I speak for geography. I must declare an interest as a former president of the Royal Geographical Society, with which I maintain a keen interest these days. I only regret that two other former presidents of the Royal Geographical Society are not able to be present this evening—the noble Lord, Lord Chorley and the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. They would have spoken with far more authority than this elderly gentleman!

However, we had a powerful, balanced and extremely well-informed speech from one of the society's most distinguished fellows: the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. The noble and learned Lord—perhaps I should refer to him as the noble and learned fellow—made a powerful case for geography as a foundation subject. It is a popular subject and most geography students find that employment is pretty easy to secure following graduation because of their attainments. Like history, it is a civilising subject in the curriculum. Moreover, it has great relevance to many of the problems and challenges that we face in our present-day world.

I very much hope that we can return to this subject at the Bill's next stage. I strongly support what the noble and learned Lord said. If geography is to be retained as a foundation subject at the 14 to 16 year-old level, there is a case for ranking it as an alternative to history. I do not know what the rights and wrongs would be in that regard. That possibility was raised in relation to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

I shall be extremely brief. I have no qualifications to speak about geography but by chance and coincidence I was educated at the same school as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, who moved the amendment. At the age of 13, I was confronted in a geography paper by the question, "Is the Thames deep because it is slow or slow because it is deep?". Fortunately, the questions were optional and I did not essay that question. However, 35 years later, I discovered that I knew well the person who had set it, and I asked him what the answer was. He said, "I haven't the faintest idea. I just wanted to see what you would say". Apart from the benefit to which the noble Lord, Lord Peston, alluded—that of bringing logic into the process—any subject that sets questions in that manner is likely to excite the young.

Lord Lucas

Quite. But how on earth does one mark that, given current pressures on time and the ability of markers?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

For one horrible moment, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, was going to ask me to answer the question. I am relieved.

I should be honoured to meet the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. They put very eloquently the case involving geography, which is an important subject. If I may be pedantic and stick with my brief, I point out that the amendment would make the subject compulsory, not optional. It is already optional to schools to offer geography. Geography is a foundation subject at key stage 3, and there is no difference between foundation and core subjects in terms of the way in which they are regarded in law. The overwhelming majority of schools offer geography at key stage 4. Nothing in the Bill will alter that position or in any way reduce the importance of geography.

The Green Paper on 14 to 19 year-olds suggests that all students should have an entitlement to study geography if they choose to do so during the 14 to 16 year-old stage; that is, schools will be obliged to offer it. As I said in relation to earlier amendments, that is arguably a more enhanced position. On the basis that I shall of course be happy to meet the noble and learned Lord, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Brightman

Before the Minister concludes, I ask for her help on one small point. I have the Education Act 1996 before me. Section 354 states that the core subjects are, "mathematics, English and science" and there is a further provision relating to Wales. It also states that, in relation to schools in England, the other foundation subjects are, "technology and physical education" and some others. What is the difference between a core foundation subject and a non-core foundation subject?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

My understanding, in terms of the way in which schools deliver, is that there is no difference. If I am incorrect, I shall of course write to the noble and learned Lord and put a copy of the letter in the Library.

Lord Lucas

Does the Minister mean that there are two separate provisions in the Bill—one set of subjects is in one provision and the other set is in the other—and that there is no difference between the two? I am bemused.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

That is indeed the case. We should not refer to this Government in that regard—I hasten to add that that is not a criticism. It is simply a result of the way in which the provisions on core and foundation subjects are laid out. We could argue about the legal position of the subjects. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, may have something to say about the background. The legal position, as I understand it, is that there is no difference in that regard.

Baroness Blatch

That is an interesting answer but the Government are in their sixth year in office. We should consider what would happen if everyone hid behind what was in an earlier statute. In the Bill, the Government are changing almost all previous statutes. There are references to the 1988 Act, the 1996 Act and even the original 1944 Act. I am not sure that the Minister has provided the answer. The Government are now in a position to have their own definitions of what they believe to be core and foundation subjects.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

We are quite happy with the definition; I was trying to be light-hearted. I apologise to the noble Baroness. I meant, in relation to core and foundation subjects, that there is no legal difference, which is important and, relevant in this context.

Lord Brightman

I am most grateful for what the noble Baroness said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Clause 81 agreed to.

Clause 82 [Power to alter or remove requirements for the fourth key stage]:

[Amendment No. 279 not moved.] Clause 82 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 280 not moved.]

Clause 83 [Establishment of the National Curriculum for England by order]:

Baroness Walmsley

moved Amenclment No. 281: Page 56, line 29, leave out subsection (12). The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 281, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 290. The current arrangements for sex education, as reenacted in the Bill, mean that no reference to issues relating to sexual health can be included within the programme of study for the science national curriculum. The amendment seeks to remove that restriction.

In 1993, a law was introduced to separate sex education from science so as to make it easier for parents to withdraw their children from sex education in primary schools in cases where the Government had decided that sex education should be taught at all. We do not know how many primary schools do not include any sex education, although how a curriculum can be broad and balanced without it, I do not know.

However, in secondary schools, where sex education must be taught, since 1995 education about the common and dangerous disease of HIV/AIDS has been outside the national curriculum—that is, it is not examined and not compulsory for all children whose parents can still withdraw them.

I am aware that there is nothing to prohibit a teacher answering a question about any aspect of sexual health, including AIDS, during a science lesson. There is also nothing to stop a governing body incorporating sex education within its science curriculum, although parents still have the right of withdrawal. Therefore, the existence of this subsection on the face of the Bill is nonsensical because it is relatively easy to get round if one believes, as I do, that we have a duty to inform young people about this modern—day plague.

The fact that it is nonsense became very clear in the debate on the Bill in another place. The honourable Member for Epsom and Ewell, Mr Chris Grayling, asked whether it was the case that science teachers may not refer to AIDS or HIV in a science lesson or give any indication of their nature. He said that if that were true, it was nonsense. I agree. In reply, the Minister, Mr Ivan Lewis, confirmed that nonsense. He said that it was the case because of legislation introduced by a Conservative government. We cannot rely on a stray child asking a stray question or a governing body feeling so strongly about the matter as to include it in the curriculum.

Ofsted has already identified the problem and its associated dangers. A recent report by Ofsted, published in 2002, found that: Education about HIV/AIDS is receiving less attention than in the past, despite the fact that it remains a significant health problem. Education about parenthood does not feature in all secondary schools' programmes even though most schools recognise its importance". The report concluded that, more attention should be given in secondary schools to education about HIV/AIDS and about parenthood". It is the Government's duty to equip our children with the defence of accurate factual information against this dreadful disease. We must ensure that by removing this nonsense from the Bill. There are plenty of safeguards to ensure that the provision of sex education in schools is made responsibly, sensitively and in consultation with parents, but we must not miss out this vital information. It is more important now than it was even in 1993 because many people have become complacent now that the full horror of this widespread disease has worn off.

International travel, the proliferation of intravenous drug-taking and the earlier sexual activity of young people make it essential that we do not let them down by keeping them in ignorance. We cannot rely on peer group education. Children's misunderstandings of matters sexual are notorious among those of us who have taught it. We all have funny stories about the silly ideas that some children pick up and about the misinformation that children give to each other. They must have the facts, and they must have them from a qualified teacher and not from their friends. In view of all that, how can the Minister justify this provision? I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Peston

I want to be as supportive as possible in speaking to this amendment. Like other Members of the Committee, I have always been rather bewildered as to what this subject is about. Starting with the amendment and the science curriculum, so far as I can see it would be perfectly lawful to teach science and talk about the immune system of the body. One can give all kinds of examples so long as one does not mention HIV. More generally, in relation to biology one can teach reproductive processes in every possible way so long as one does not stray into what might be regarded as sexual matters—whatever that means—as opposed to the reproductive system. Therefore, I am mystified as to what the amendment can possibly mean in relation to science.

However, the situation is worse than that because several other subjects are taught in schools, as we well know. I start with geography. Am I to understand that, although one cannot teach children about HIV in a science class, if one was teaching the geography of sub-Saharan Africa—precisely along the lines that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, told us that geography as a science should be taught—one would be allowed to mention AIDS as a major problem in that area? I am not clear about that. Science may not mean geography in this case, or it may mean geography in which case one cannot mention AIDS and therefore cannot account for the experience of sub-Saharan Africa and teach the subject to students.

In returning to, in my case, my favourite nonsubject—in the case of most other Members of the Committee it may be their subject; namely, citizenship—are we supposed to be able to teach citizenship without mentioning sexual practices or sexual morality and so on? If we can do that, are we then also to be told, "Of course, you mustn't mention AIDS"? It is rather like the famous example of "Don't mention the war". In relation to teaching, the whole matter seems to me extraordinary.

It seems to be based on the notion that, if a teacher does not mention the subject—I believe that this what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, was implying—young people will know nothing about it. They may say, "Oh, I didn't know anything about that and now my whole life has been corrupted because the teacher has mentioned it".

Therefore, I am amazed that the Government have not taken the opportunity to do precisely the opposite of what they are doing. I am amazed that they do not say that we live in a liberal and free society and one in which children can be trusted to be taught freely and openly and that there are no major worries in that respect. That seems to be different from saying, "I don't want my children to have sex education lessons." I have never understood that attitude but I respect parental wishes. However, that is not what the amendment seeks to achieve. If parents were to ask me, I should say, "You're being silly here. This is not to the advantage of your children".

The noble Baroness said that she wished that the national curriculum had been available to her. I certainly wish that sex education had been available in my school. At my school, the children had to make it up and mostly got it wrong. We were amazed to discover what it all turned out to be. It was a better deal than we had worked out, but that is another matter.

I believe that this subject is most important. It lies at the very heart of our approach to education and education philosophy. I am amazed that my noble friend and the Secretary of State have not taken the opportunity to strike this matter from our approach to the curriculum. They should do so if on no other grounds than that the last thing young people in this country need is irrationality built into our approach to education.

Baroness Blatch

For clarification, is the noble Baroness able to tell us why this provision was included in the Bill in the first place? I understand that, in fact, the science curriculum does include learning about the science of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Certainly, the circular—I wish that I could remember its name; the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, is nodding her head in agreement with me—refers to schools dealing with the aspects spelt out in this clause within the science curriculum. Therefore, I am puzzled as to why this subsection is included in the Bill.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

Clause 83(12) specifically prevents the Secretary of State from including AIDS, HIV, STDs and sex education in the national curriculum science programmes of study. It re-enacts existing legislation in Section 356 of the Education Act 1996.

I am concerned about the Ofsted report—as was the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. We have responded by commissioning new guidance for teachers on HIV and sexually transmitted infections, which will provide up-to-date information and references to tried and tested classroom resources. We expect that guidance to be available later this academic year. We must be clear with children and young people, who need to be well aware of the dangers of HIV and AIDS.

Removing subsection (12) would have no direct legal effect on what can be taught in the classroom. The subsection merely prevents those topics being compulsory in the national curriculum programme of study—it does not prevent teaching those topics. The amendment seeks to ensure that important issues are taught within the curriculum. I hope to put the minds of Members of the Committee at rest on the issue.

Clause 76(1)(c) and its equivalent in Wales, Clause 97(1)(c), provide that the curriculum for every maintained school shall comprise a basic curriculum which includes, in the case of a secondary school, provision for sex education for all registered pupils at the school". Schedule 21(57)(c), which relates to general interpretation, re-enacts the definition of sex education thus: 'sex education' includes education about…Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and73x2026;any other sexually transmitted disease". This means that these topics are covered within the basic curriculum—at present within personal, social and health education. That is the appropriate place for those matters to be discussed. It follows that if subsection (12) were removed, we would not alter the programmes of study. Otherwise, parents would lose the right to withdraw their children from sex education lessons that cover HIV, AIDS, STDs and so on. As those topics must be covered as part of sex education and nothing in the Bill prevents teachers from doing so, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Minister has given the Committee an assurance that such issues are covered anyway in PSHE classes and that will continue to be the case. Why has science been singled out? As the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said, it is quite proper for people to discuss the AIDS pandemic in Africa in the teaching of geography. Although I personally have no difficulty with such issues, which I discuss with my children and which are discussed at their schools, I am grateful for the Minister's assurance. Some parents may not want their children to be taught about such matters at school and will wish to reserve that right to themselves. Will the Minister clarify for the Committee's benefit and for those who will read this exchange outside that this Bill will not: affect that right?

Baroness Blatch

The subjects in question can be taught in science. I believe that the Minister was making the distinction that when it comes to national curriculum science, which is a compulsory subject, it would be difficult for parents to exercise their right under the law to withdraw their children. In practice, there have been almost no incidences of parents doing so. The circular makes it clear that when questions arise informally in the classroom, they can be dealt with by a teacher. The only prohibition in the classroom is on proselytising homosexuality. The obligation and right of a teacher to respond to classroom questions is not inhibited but is included in the circular.

Baroness Massey of Darwen

The personal, social and health education curriculum is in guidance. It is not a compulsory, statutory subject.

Lord Lucas

I was puzzled by the Minister's reply. Is she saying that because AIDS is part of the sex education curriculum, when that subject is raised in school it has to be regarded as sex education? Can a teacher not cover what is happening—for example, in South Africa—without giving pupils the right to opt out? If that is not the case, what on earth is the reason for excluding the subject from science? The immune system is a part of key stage 4 science and if one is teaching that system, one absolutely must discuss AIDS as something of which every ordinary child will be aware from discussion and advertising. It seems extraordinary to say that such education must have a man with a red flag walking in front of it and that pupils who do not want to receive sex education must go home. Is that really what the Minister is saying?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I was saying that we are re-enacting what was already in legislation. Teachers are not prevented from talking about such subjects—the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, put it extremely well. Teachers would continue to do what teachers do. The subsection makes it compulsory within the science curriculum to talk about AIDS, HIV, STDs and sex education in that context.

We have always made it possible for parents to withdraw their children from sex education. Members of the Committee may not desire that for their own children. We would argue that sex education is really important, particularly in view of the increase of HIV in the heterosexual community. Subsection (12) allows us to be clear about the national curriculum's compulsory element and to protect the rights of parents who wish to withdraw their children from sex education.

Lord Peston

I am completely puzzled. I should not have remarked about sex education because it is not central to the issue—which is how the national curriculum is taught. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked the central question. Does a mention of AIDS, as one example, within any subject make that subject sex education and therefore immediately invoke the possibility of withdrawing a child from the class? If it does—which I find hard to believe—there is something seriously wrong. If it does not, we have something of a Morton's fork. If the rule does not apply, it should not apply to science as well. The Government cannot have it both ways. Either parents must have the right to withdraw a child every time that AIDS is mentioned or on no occasion may they do so, when AIDS is mentioned in curriculum subjects.

My noble friend has been most helpful throughout the proceedings on the Bill, saying that she would like to think about things again. She would be well advised to reflect on the proposed amendment without turning it down categorically.

Baroness Blatch

As far as I know, the department's current guidelines and guidance allow for all that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, described. The only reason for re-enacting part of a previous statute is to modify it—otherwise it remains. As I understand it, nothing has changed. If the Government plan to change something, what is the distinction between what is on the statute book now and the guidance that flows from it, and what the Government propose in Clause 83(12)? The Minister has not made that clear.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

It is clear that I must reflect further on our discussion, so that I can answer the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in full and consider further the issues that have been raised. The Committee will understand that I seek a solution that enables us to be clear about parental roles, responsibilities and rights, while ensuring that children are taught appropriately, as all noble Lords want.

On that basis, I am happy to consider the matter, and I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

6 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley

I thank the Minister for her willingness to consider the matter further. We have a great muddle here. I see no reason why the Government should not have the courage of their convictions and remove the subsection, if, as the Minister said, its removal would have no effect. The subsection is misleading.

We all believe that what we teach children should be relevant to their everyday life, so it makes no sense to teach them about the immune system in a science lesson without referring to the aspect of it that they are most likely to encounter these days—the increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS, particularly in the heterosexual community. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 83 agreed to.

Clauses 84 to 99 agreed to.

Clause 100 [Curriculum requirements for the foundation stage]:

Lord Roberts of Conwy

moved Amendment No. 282: Page 65, line 39, leave out "may" and insert "shall The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 282, I shall speak to the others in the group. Bearing in mind that it is our sixth and possibly last day in Committee, I shall be as brief as I can.

Amendment No. 282 highlights the uncertainty about what is proposed for the foundation stage in Wales. It is clear from Clause 98 that its precise meaning is to be defined in an order to be made by the Assembly. That contrasts with the fairly clear definition of the foundation stage for England and the definition of key stages 1 to 4 in both countries. The Wales Office briefing says that the special section devoted to the national curriculum in Wales, allows the Welsh Assembly to introduce a foundation stage for 3–7 year olds". Is it intended that the foundation stage should incorporate key stage 1? What is the relationship between them?

The uncertainty persists in Clause 100, in which the curriculum requirements for the foundation stage are dealt with. Again, there is a contrast between the firm curriculum requirements of key stages 1 to 3 and the infirm requirements for the foundation stage. According to the Bill, the national curriculum, shall specify areas of learning". Then comes the triple "may"—what "may" be specified in those areas by way of "desirable outcomes", "educational programmes" and "assessment arrangements". The Bill defines those terms reasonably well but fights shy of further precision in its curriculum description for the foundation stage. All that uncertainty is worrying, and it could lead to all kinds of troublesome situations.

Amendment No. 283 is prompted by the question why the learning of a modern foreign language should be reserved to key stage 3 and not allowed earlier, as a foundation subject. We are all familiar with the arguments; we heard some of them this afternoon. We know the ease with which children can pick up languages. In this context, key stage 2 might make more sense than key stage 3, as it would enable children to learn a foreign language from the age of eight, rather than 12, which is certainly not beyond their capabilities. The Minister has left us for a moment, but I would draw her attention to a pamphlet called Language learning, produced by her department. On page 1, it states that, In the independent sector, almost all preparatory schools offer a second language to their 5–11 year olds. The maintained sector must do the same". Yet, the Bill talks about key stage 3.

Subsection (6) of Clause 101 allows the Assembly to amend the preceding subsections, (2) to (5), by order. That means that it can change the core subjects of the national curriculum listed in subsection (2). Why should the Assembly wish to do that? I can understand the exception of SEN pupils; they are covered by the provisions for special cases in Clauses 107 to 110, particularly Clause 109. It makes one wonder what the circumstances might be—apart from the cases specified—in which exemption from core subject teaching might be warranted, especially today, when we rightly lay so much emphasis on literacy and numeracy, the keys to good citizenship and so much else.

I am glad that the Government recognise the special importance of the core subjects, and I cannot see why the Assembly should ever wish to change them or exempt schools from teaching them. Foundation subjects are, of course, a different matter altogether.

Amendment No. 287 refers to Clause 102. I referred to it in an intervention in the debate on Amendment No. 288. As the Bill stands, key stage 4 pupils are limited to learning core subjects and two foundation subjects—physical education and Welsh, if the school is a non-Welsh speaking school, as defined in the Bill. Surely, that is not the intention; it is, nevertheless, the effect. My amendment would make the position clearer by suggesting that other selected subjects from the foundation subjects or approved vocational courses could be taught.

Clause 102(1) states that the national curriculum for key stage 4 shall comprise, the core and other foundation subjects". Subsection (2) repeats the familiar definition of the core subjects, as in Clause 101. In subsection (3), there is a limited definition of foundation subjects. That gives the impression that they are all the foundation subjects that can be taught. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments.

I suspect that the proposed limited national curriculum for key stage 4 has something to do with the Government's plans for the involvement of the Learning and Skills Council at that stage. That is why the amendment refers to approved vocational courses. If that is the case, we would like greater detail about what the Government have in mind for key stage 4. I beg to move.

Lord Jones

The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, said that he would be brief and he was. However, when in office he did not have a brief tenure. I recollect that when he was in the Welsh Office he had a similar set of portfolios as I had, but his tenure was three times as long as mine. I served in only the fourth administration of the then Mr Wilson and the only administration of my noble friend Lord Callaghan. The noble Lord was a distinguished Minister and was, and still is, highly respected throughout Wales. Today he poses a relevant and shrewd set of questions.

Arguably the finest work in our schools today takes place at the foundation stage. The quality of teaching is very high. I agree that the teachers show professional expertise and dedication. The young people in our schools at the foundation stage receive huge benefits from the proximity and number of ancillary staff who are ever present in classrooms. The tenderness of the age to which these amendments refer points to the general rather than to the specific in so far as the guidance and instructions to our teachers are concerned. I like to think that our teachers and their ancillary staff should receive the benefit of the doubt on these matters without the injunction of the word "shall".

The terminology of the amendment is resonant of the era of Anthony Crosland. Some Members of the Committee may remember that his proposed solutions had greater import than the set of amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, and in reverse, because he rubbed out a "shall" and put in a "may", whereas the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, is advancing the opposite. Mr Crosland.'s decision had a large import on the future of some grammar schools. I wonder whether the noble Lord is advancing rather a hard solution to a general problem.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Before I respond to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, I am sure that he and other noble Lords will want to join me in welcoming the fact that the provisions in the Bill provide, for the first time, a separate national curriculum for Wales. Part 7 of the Bill relating to Wales re-enacts existing legislation to reflect better the distinct structure of the national curriculum in Wales. That has the full support of the National Assembly and has been warmly welcomed by local authorities, schools and others involved in education in Wales.

For the record, it may help if I tell the Committee that the changes that we discussed with my noble friend Lady Ashton on the previous amendment—the separation out of the parts that deal with Wales—are the reason for the re-enactment. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked why we were re-enacting parts of previous legislation. The reason is to provide in discrete form the provisions as they apply to Wales which, of course, involves re-enacting those that apply to England. I hope that that helps to answer the point made by the noble Baroness.

The National Assembly's paving document, The Learning Country, consulted on a proposal to establish a foundation phase extending from ages three to seven. That proposal received widespread support. However, the full details of how the foundation stage would be implemented and its implications for the first key stage of the national curriculum as it currently exists could not be finalised to the timescale of the Bill. The National Assembly is waiting for advice from its Early Years Advisory Panel and from the Qualifications Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales on the implications of the foundation phase, in the light of which it will wish to consider a number of issues: for example, whether, and if so how, the desirable outcomes can be better fitted with expectations for key stage 1; the duration of the foundation stage; and any consequent change to the definition of the first key stage for which powers in the Bill allow. That work is likely to take at least until the end of 2002.

Amendment No. 282 would seem to require the National Assembly—this was, I believe, borne out by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy—to establish the foundation stage for the national curriculum for Wales as soon as the provisions come into force. That is inconsistent with our intentions and, indeed, with Clause 104 of the Bill which confers the specific "power" on the Assembly to make orders specifying desirable outcomes, educational programmes and assessment arrangements for the foundation stage. The duty imposed by subsection (1)(a) of that clause is a duty on the National Assembly to exercise its powers so as to establish a national curriculum for Wales for the foundation stage, as soon as reasonably practicable". That wording is consistent with the equivalent clause for England.

The Assembly will consult on the scope and structure of the foundation stage probably later this year. The expectation is that the foundation phase will cover both the foundation stage and key stage 1. The intention is not to remove key stage I altogether. That may allay the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. Once the Assembly has decided the scope of the foundation stage the order will be final. It will also amend, if necessary, the definition of key stage 1.

Like my noble friend Lord Jones, I pay tribute to and declare an interest on behalf of members of my family for the work of the teaching and non-teaching staff in schools in Wales, especially in the early years. The value of the work that they undertake is widely appreciated by many people in the community.

In response to Amendment No. 283, the National Assembly for Wales takes the learning of languages in schools extremely seriously. It certainly wishes to see pupils opting to study languages beyond the third key stage where it is compulsory for all pupils. The National Assembly's vision for language learning is set out in the national strategy for modern foreign languages, Languages Count, which was debated and approved by the Assembly in its plenary session on 28th February.

That document makes provision for the introduction of modern foreign language teaching in primary schools in Wales on a pilot basis. At this stage, that is the only sensible way to proceed. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, knows only too well, from the inclusion of Welsh as a compulsory subject in primary schools when the national curriculum was first introduced, the tremendous challenges that that can pose for schools, for teachers and for pupils. The number of teachers in primary schools who possess the necessary linguistic and pedagogical skills to deliver effectively a modern foreign language is a real challenge, as is the availability of suitable materials for primary schools and the necessary support structures at local and national level.

For that reason the Assembly is already working with the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research, Wales, with Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales, and the Qualifications Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales, to tackle those issues so that the pilots stand the best possible chance of success.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will agree that that is the way to encourage language learning in primary schools and should the pilots prove successful, there will be a stronger case for rolling out language teaching in primary schools by designating it a foundation subject. That would be the National Assembly's preferred route and one which can be achieved under Clause 101 of the Bill.

Turning to Amendment No. 284, I do understand the desire to protect the position of a set of core subjects within the national curriculum for Wales. After all, these four subjects, mathematics, English, science and Welsh in Welsh-speaking schools, have been so designated since the national curriculum was first instituted by the Education Reform Act 1988.

There is no current intention on the part of the National Assembly to change any of the core subject requirements. We believe that it would be a mistake to constrain their ability to do so if circumstances altered in the future. Welsh legislation and developments since the 1988 Act have been positive: the position of Welsh as a core subject is now stronger than ever. It is a policy which has achieved a very large measure of consensus.

The content of the national curriculum for Wales is a devolved matter. It is right, therefore, that the Welsh Assembly's freedom of manoeuvre should not be fettered. Furthermore, it is a fact that the power to amend the core subjects of the curriculum is not a new power. An identical power was vested in the Secretary of State by the Education Act 1996, and the Education Reform Act 1988 before that. In practice, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, and my noble friend Lord Jones, recognised, the then Secretary of State for Wales held the national curriculum's reins before the devolution settlement.

Clause 102, as drafted, reflects the current position as regards the fourth key stage in Wales. The core subjects, mathematics, English, science and Welsh in Welsh-speaking schools, are all compulsory. As in England, there are two foundation subjects which are also compulsory in Wales. They are physical education and Welsh in schools which are not Welsh-speaking.

As the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, recognised, the National Assembly's vision for education and training to the year 2010, as set out in The Learning Country, indicates that beyond the age of 14 pupils should be offered greater flexibility over and above a core entitlement. That could mean less emphasis on the prescriptive approach to specific subjects; it could also mean a greater emphasis on vocational subjects.

There is also concern that if there were to he more compulsory subjects of whatever nature, in some circumstances the impact of the amendment would be to restrict rather than to enhance pupils' options. Pupils wishing to pursue a subject for which they are admirably suited would find themselves unable to do so because of the augmented number of compulsory foundation stage subjects. It could preclude them from exercising their preferred choice. I am sure that Members of the Committee will recognise that one of the issues concerning the size of school is that it can affect the range of options available to the pupils.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, did not intend his amendment to make curriculum matters worse for key stage 4 pupils in Wales. I hope that he supports the National Assembly's policy of moving towards a curriculum offering pupils greater flexibility to take options which suit their needs and talents, and which match more closely the knowledge and skills needs of Wales.

With those explanations, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Jones

My noble friend was very persuasive. I shall follow her on these amendments. It was good to hear her praise for the teachers of Wales in our primary schools. Only yesterday I spent the morning in the Welsh primary schools of Bronington and Hanmer, the "two church in Wales schools". The work in progress there was splendid. It was superb. The young children were having a wonderful start. They were being led by dedicated and superb professionals. It was clear that both schools were happy and successful.

But it is reasonable at Committee stage to pose a question. My simple and innocent question involves quoting my noble friend who said that for the first time there is a national curriculum for Wales. I take my thoughts some years on, say, to the end of the decade. I seek my noble friend's opinion. Now that we have the likelihood of curricula in Wales and England, will it still be as easy for teachers to move easily, as they do now, from England to Wales and from Wales to England? I do not know whether my noble friend has an opinion on that.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I cannot think of anything in this Bill which would in any way inhibit the ability of teachers wishing to leave the beautiful Principality of Wales to live in England. It is my experience that many people in schools in England have had the pleasure of being taught by teachers educated in Wales and who were Welsh. I hope that answers my noble friend's question.

I must make it absolutely clear that the national curriculum for Wales is already different from that of England and has been since it was instituted under the provisions of the Education Reform Act 1988. It is important to get that on the record.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

I am most grateful in the first place to the noble Lord, Lord Jones, for his kind remarks about my extended tour of office.

Lord Jones

But we often disagreed quite violently at times.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

I do not believe that the noble Lord need remind me of that. I am also very grateful—

Lord Jones

Perhaps I may also say that the day after I was catapulted from office, I noted that the noble Lord's salary had doubled!

6.30 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

I had forgotten that. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. I shall be brief in my comments on it.

I certainly appreciate that the National Assembly has a lot of work to do on the foundation stage. I am reassured that key stage 1 will be preserved while that work continues. But there is some danger that there will be a delay in Wales. I do not want to see Wales lagging behind in its education reforms.

As regards the foreign language issue, I believe that the noble Baroness is right that it would be wise to have a pilot system working so that we can grasp what is required. Wales, with its Welsh language, is already familiar with teaching that language to non-Welsh speakers. Therefore, I believe that we start with a slight advantage in terms of learning yet a third language.

As regards the core subjects, I believe that the noble Baroness agrees with me that they are vital. I certainly cannot foresee a situation where any of them would be abandoned. Nevertheless, such a change is possible under this Bill. But on the assumption that the change will never be made, which is my best hope, I am quite happy to leave that particular subject.

As regards Amendment No. 287 and the position of the curriculum at key stage 4, I say to the noble Baroness that I believe that Clause 102 reads very badly at the moment if it is to be understood in the way that she described.

Clause 102(1) states: For the fourth key stage, the National Curriculum for Wales shall comprise the core and other foundation subjects". Subsection (2) spells out what the core subjects are. Subsection (3) states: The following are the other foundation subjects". The suggestion is that those "other foundation subjects" are the only subjects that can be taught under the clause, whereas we know that schools can make choices from the other foundation subjects and possibly also vocational courses. Perhaps the noble Baroness will take another look at the wording of the clause. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 100 agreed to.

Clause 101 [Curriculum requirements for the first, second and third key stages]:

[Amendments Nos. 283 and 284 not moved.]

Clause 101 agreed to.

Clause 102 [Curriculum requirements for the fourth key stage]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

moved Amendment No. 285: Page 66, line 41, after "fourth" insert "key The noble Baroness said: Perhaps I should place on record that I did not compliment those former Secretaries of State for Wales in your Lordships' House. Were I always to do that, it might add considerably to the length of the proceedings. We are blessed with many former Secretaries of State, none more important than those who have spoken.

In moving Amendment No. 285, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 286. They correct two minor and obvious drafting errors by adding the word "key" in the two references to the fourth key stage in the clause. I trust that the Committee will accept that these simple drafting errors should be corrected. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

moved Amendment No. 286: Page 67, line 2, after "fourth" insert "key On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 287 and 288 not moved.]

Clause 102, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 103 [Power to alter or remove requirements for the fourth key stage]:

[Amendment No. 289 not moved.]

Clause 103 agreed to.

Clause 104 [Establishment of the National Curriculum for Wales by order]:

[Amendment No. 290 not moved.]

Clause 104 agreed to.

Clause 105 [Implementation of the National Curriculum for Wales in schools]:

Lord Roberts of Conwy

moved Amendment No. 291: Page 69, line 7, leave out "subsisting" and insert "it exists The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 291, I shall speak also to Amendments No. 292 and 293. They are all drafting amendments. It sounds strange to my ear to hear of the national curriculum as "subsisting" at a particular time, when it exists. So far as I am aware, the national curriculum's subsistence does not have a particular meaning apart from existence. It does not have to be fed and watered in that sense of the word.

With regard to Amendment No. 294, Clause 107 deals with development work and experimentation in schools. Subsection (1) is quite specific. It refers to a, particular maintained school or maintained nursery school", where the national curriculum may be disapplied to a greater or lesser extent by a direction from the Assembly. That is all well and good. However, in subsection (2) the power of direction becomes more general. It is unclear what it means. It could mean a general disapplication of the national curriculum with or without modifications throughout Wales or in a significant cluster of schools. We should not be prepared to give such a general power even in the name of development work and experiments because it runs contrary to the whole idea of having a national curriculum in the first place. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I confess that I was rather puzzled by Amendments Nos. 291 to 293, to which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, has spoken, in the sense that while I understood what they said, I was rather less than clear about what they hoped to achieve. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his clarification.

In everyday speech, the noble Lord is right. There is no significant difference between "subsist" and "exist". However, in a legal context "subsisting" has a different shade of meaning from "exists". "Existing" conveys the notion of physical existence whereas "subsisting" conveys the notion of legal requirements in force at a particular time. In short, the words "as subsisting" in this clause mean "as in force".

The idea of a national curriculum "subsisting" is not new. It is on the face of the Education Reform Act 1988 and of the Education Act 1996. It is an accepted and well-understood term. I was not aware, before the noble Lord moved his amendment, of any confusion about its meaning which would require the use of different words—whether "it exists" or some other construction.

The provisions of Clauses 105 and 106, to which these amendments relate, are plain enough. They place a duty on the local education authority, the governing body of a maintained school and its head teacher to exercise their respective functions so as to ensure that the national curriculum in place in Wales at the beginning of each school year is implemented.

My conclusion, therefore, is that the current wording expresses the proposition more clearly than the alternative suggested by the amendment. It has the merit of consistency with the wording of Clauses 84 and 85. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will accept that explanation.

I turn to Amendment No. 294. Clause 107 deals with the procedure for disapplying or modifying the national curriculum for Wales, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, recognised, to enable development work or for experiments to be carried out in particular maintained schools or particular maintained nursery schools. In Clause 86 there is an equivalent provision.

Both clauses simply enable the Welsh Assembly and the Secretary of State to make directions which may apply in general as well as specifically.

The intention of the amendment could be to prevent in Wales a "general" direction in the sense that it might apply to all schools or all schools of a particular type. In those circumstances, it would be a misconceived amendment because subsection (2), on which the amendment operates, is an elaboration of subsection (1). The use of the word "particular" in subsection (1) already precludes a direction being given by a reference to a type of description of school. In any case, that outcome could still be achieved simply by individually listing the schools to which the direction applies. Subsection (2) makes it clear that a direction given to specific named schools may be given in general terms—for example, disapplying or modifying the national curriculum as a whole—or in specific terms—for example, disapplying or modifying the national curriculum in relation to a particular subject or key stage.

The provisions of Clause 106 do not confer any new powers on the Welsh Assembly in respect of maintained schools. I think that that was the reassurance sought by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. Under the devolution settlement, they are available to the Assembly by virtue of Section 362 of the Education Act 1996. Clause 107 re-enacts Section 362 and extends the provision to maintained nursery schools.

The existing provisions have not been widely used in Wales. Indeed, I am not aware of a single occasion on which they have been used by either the former Welsh Office or the National Assembly. But it would be inappropriate to constrain the Assembly's ability to implement its vision of flexibility as set out in The Learning Country.

I hope that my reassurances that we are not extending the Assembly's powers in any way and that the provision is a re-enactment will reassure the noble Lord and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

If the national curriculum "subsists" in the Education Act 1988, I must bear some of the responsibility—although I share it, of course, with my noble friend Lord Baker, who led our production of that measure.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

If the noble Lord, Lord Baker, had been in his place, I might have been tempted to draw that to his attention.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

Alas, he is not with us on this occasion. I looked up "subsist" in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary and found it defined as "exist". But I rest content that the national curriculum should continue to "subsist" in the Bill.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the nature and scope of directions that may be given under Clause 107(2). I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 105 agreed to.

Clause 106 [Implementation in respect of nursery schools etc.]:

[Amendments Nos. 292 and 293 not moved.]

Clause 106 agreed to.

Clause 107 [Development work and experiments]:

[Amendment No. 294 not moved.]

Clause 107 agreed to.

Clauses 108 to 114 agreed to.

Clause 115 [School Teachers' Review Body]:

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley

moved Amendment No. 295: Page 73, leave out line 13. The noble Baroness said: I rise to move Amendment No. 295 and to speak to Amendments Nos. 296 and 297. Given that the Government have decided to continue with the School Teachers' Review Body, the purpose of Amendments Nos. 295 and 296 is; simply to allow Parliament to review it from year to year to make it more accountable. That is a simple matter of principle.

I turn to Amendment No. 297. It is designed to write into the Bill guaranteed non-contact time for professional development for teachers. It is in line with the recommendations of the School Teachers' Review Body in its last report and it seeks to address the needs of supply teachers and part-timers as well as full-time teachers. One thing that disappoints those of us on these Benches most is the fact that the Bill does not address the key recruitment and retention issues of excessive workload, pupil behaviour and teacher morale. Indeed, by seeking to remove teachers' rights to have a representative on the governing body, the Government seem hell-bent on ensuring that teacher morale declines even further.

The amendment is intended to rectify that. If the Minister would give a commitment to write into the Bill the guarantee of an entitlement to "professional time" during the working day for all teachers, she would go a long way to rescuing the situation. That would make a positive difference to teachers' working lives and improve educational standards.

We are aware that the Government have made a commitment to address the issue of teacher workload through the Workload Review Group followed by the PricewaterhouseCoopers report. That is the first time since 1987 that teachers' conditions of service have been properly reviewed, which is most welcome. Last December, the School Teachers' Review Body was asked by the Secretary of State to consider several possibilities for reducing workload and its report has been widely welcomed. The evidence given to the review was weighty and credible. The report is particularly critical of Government initiatives, stating: the volume and pace of change and the associated detailed and frequent planning, administration, monitoring and recording are a major contributor to workload problems and a serious threat to teacher morale and supply". The report recommends that, a guarantee be given that all teachers will have an allocation of time set aside for PPMR at the earliest possible date". The Bill's passage through Parliament provides that earliest possible date. The Government asked the questions; they were given the answers; now they must commit to supplying the solution. I beg to move.

Lord Jones

On the question of teacher morale, in my recent forays into schools in north-east Wales, head teachers have always told me of their anxieties regarding the morale of their professional staff. When we visit schools, we are all able to say that the staff are working hard and well and showing great and increased professionalism. Only yesterday, I visited two Church of Wales schools. Head teachers are saying, "Please may we have fewer missives from Ministers so that we can consolidate?"

It is difficult to make that point to Ministers, who themselves are working extremely hard and have a mandate from the nation to improve our schools, but it is a fact that morale is a big issue in the profession. It would be heartening for head teachers and their staff to hear that Ministers in London and the country's other capitals are working on measures and that all have in mind the day-to-day requirements of the teaching staff. After all, those teaching staff are working in the midst of a greater social revolution. Society is changing quickly and the pressures on teachers are growing, not lessening. In many ways, the teacher is now the last line of defence for the values that we hold dear.

So it would be heartening if my noble friend the Minister were able to say that the Government are considering how they may enhance our teachers' morale.

Baroness Blatch

I simply want to add two points. First, I remind the Minister that a letter of mine on the issue of the level of bureaucracy and the bureaucratic burden on schools is still awaiting a reply. Specifically, what is being done now to reduce that burden? I have read the report of the pay review body, which is cogent about the matter.

The other point is that there is a crisis in teaching. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, who is not his place, mentioned earlier that we have an unprecedented number of supply teachers moving in and out of classrooms, sometimes on a half-daily or daily basis, and a real lack of permanent teachers who build up a relationship with other school staff but also, more importantly, with the children. There is also an unprecedented number of teachers who teach subjects for which they are not trained, which will also have an impact. In our discussion on earlier amendments, we said that in just under two years' time, the Government have pledged to have one qualified teacher in place for every 10 children who are now in playgroups and early-learning settings. Many are run at the moment by trained leaders. In future, they will be run by teachers who will be subject to the pay and conditions that fully qualified teachers have the right to expect.

The background to the points that have been raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, are set against an existing problem, and there appears to be no sign that it will be eased.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

In proposing the repeal of the 1991 Act and replacing it with the teachers pay and conditions provisions in Clauses 115 to 126 of the Bill, we in no way wish to disturb the smooth and continued operation of the School Teachers' Review Body. We have no reason to do so. The STRB has worked successfully since 1991 and the Prime Minister has just appointed a new chairman. The STRB needs to continue its work. That is why it is important that the statement that the STRB will continue to exist is set out on the face of the Bill. It is simply a way of ensuring a proper transition from one set of legislation to another.

Were the amendments to be made, the STRB would lose its stability, and there would be danger to the long-established and successful arrangements for providing for independent recommendations to Government on teachers' pay. That would be damaging and disruptive. The STRB could cease to function effectively and the bureaucracy linked to the arrangements as proposed would be excessive.

There is also the issue of what the situation would be if, however unlikely, the STRB's continued existence were to be rejected for whatever reason. School teachers would be left without any means of having their pay and conditions determined. I hope that noble Lords will agree that that is not a situation that we could countenance.

The issues raised in Amendment No. 297 are important and have given rise to some very important statements in your Lordships' House. I have a good deal of sympathy for the points raised and I am glad to have the opportunity to respond to them in debate.

I know that it is really important to secure professional time for all teachers for preparation, planning, marking and related matters. It is for that reason that the Secretary of State drew the matter specifically to the attention of the review body when she asked it to consider the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on teacher workload and to make its own recommendations. The remit letter drew specific attention to the possibility of moving towards a guarantee of professional time for teachers and managers, and of considering changes to contracts to assist in embedding the role of continuing professional development.

It is a key concern for us all for a wide number of reasons that teachers should have sufficient time to carry out professional duties properly and to undertake continuing professional development, both of which help to achieve higher standards of teaching and learning.

Noble Lords will know that the report has now been published and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, it has been widely welcomed. We look forward to a constructive consultation on the very helpful recommendations, several of which deal precisely with the matters raised in this amendment.

That brings me to the key reasons for resisting the amendment. To impose the requirements in this amendment would greatly fetter the discretion of the STRB to consider current facts and prevailing circumstances and to make recommendations independently. It is also inappropriate to seek to introduce into primary legislation something which is currently the subject of quite separate and important discussions. With regard to the matter of professional time, and in respect of the proposed specific requirements relating to time and remuneration for professional development, the amendment is much too restrictive.

The current arrangements, whereby the STRB works in accordance with a public remit provided by the Secretary of State, strike the right balance and work well. The STRB's duty is to make recommendations. I should remind the Committee that the STRB's statutory recommendations are as a matter of principle accepted by Government unless there are overriding reasons not to do so. That was the commitment from the start. The Secretary of State can require the STRB to take certain matters into account when making its recommendations, as indeed has been the case with the latest workload report. But the recommendations are its own and Government evidence is taken into account along with all other representations.

The amendment has raised some important matters for discussion, but it would be unhelpful and potentially damaging to the functions and operation of the STRB. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will feel able to withdraw it.

Lord Jones

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred to morale in the profession. Does my noble friend the Minister have any comments to make about that?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I apologise to my noble friend for not dealing specifically with that point. Of course we are concerned about morale. Indeed, the work that we are doing with the STRB on teachers' earnings is related to that. We have discussed the issues of workload, behaviour and children, all of which are of great concern to us.

We are not complacent about the issues involving teachers, but teacher numbers are up by 9,400 full-time equivalents since January 2001. It is the biggest single year increase in more than 20 years. It is important as it is how we measure the strategies and policies that we have put in place. Teacher vacancies in England are down from 4,980 to 4,480. The vacancy rate has fallen from 1.4% to 1.2% The teacher vacancy rate in London is now 2.6% as opposed to 3.5% last year, and vacancies have fallen in all the secondary shortage subjects.

Without being complacent, as I have said, we can look to some of the things that we are doing. There is more to do and morale is crucial in terms of retention. We hope that we have the right policies in place.

Baroness Walmsley

I confess to being rather disappointed by the Minister's answer. This is the first major Education Bill that we have had for some time and the issue of teacher morale is one of the most serious problems that we face in education today. Although we welcome any reduction in the number of vacancies for teachers, we must bear in mind the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we shall require many more teachers, particularly in the early-years sector in the next few years. Addressing the issue of teacher morale is crucial to that.

This is an issue to which we shall return not only in this Bill but again and again until the matter is resolved. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 296 not moved.]

Clause 115 agreed to.

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Clause 116 [Review Body: function]:

[Amendment No. 297 not moved.]

Clause 116 agreed to.

Clause 117 agreed to.

Clause 118 [Power to prescribe pay and conditions]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 298: Page 74, line 36, leave out "the other party to the contract is" and insert "the contract is one made in pursuance of the duties in relation to education of The noble Baroness said: I shall be brief. This important amendment will enable the STRB to include within its remit teachers employed or engaged by employment bureaux and other persons employed or engaged as teachers by private employers, providing education services under contract to LEAs or governing bodies. It anticipates the introduction of the EU directive on agency workers and the further development of cases in the European Court of Justice on pay equality for workers of different employers in the same undertaking.

The School Teachers' Review Body system, although flawed, provides an important element of transparency for teachers as it includes consultation and response to submissions by Government, teacher organisations and employers.

The amendment would benefit teachers who are currently outside the pay and conditions document and who are vulnerable to exploitation which has occurred on some occasions. For example, it would be interesting if the STRB had been able to report on opportunities and access to professional development for agency teachers. Access to free, high quality training and professional development has long been an issue for such teachers. It has been extremely difficult for agency teachers even to access national training initiatives, let alone CPD that meets their professional and career needs.

Teachers who work on a flexible or a supply basis serve a vital role in schools; indeed, as we know, they are all the more necessary at present. Given the current teacher shortage, supply teachers are playing an ever-important part in filling that gap. The need for additional teachers who are able to cover classes is greater than ever before. It is crucial for the pupils they teach that they are valued and given the same professional opportunities as teachers paid under the pay and conditions document.

The NUT has asked us to put forward this amendment. It is a matter about which the union feels most strongly. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I shall respond to this grouping by speaking, first, to government Amendment No. 299. I should make it clear that this amendment represents a purely technical change to Clause 118, which is consequential on the amendments that we are making to Clause 129. I originally intended to move this amendment as part of the group covering those amendments but have acceded to the request from the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that the amendments to this clause are taken separately from those concerning teachers' qualifications.

Once the changes have been made to Clause 129, the amendment effectively ensures that the amended legislation will require all qualified and unqualified teachers to be paid under the teachers' pay and conditions document (on different pay scales) while allowing the pay and conditions of teaching assistants to be determined locally—which, of course, is the position under the existing framework. I hope, therefore, that noble Lords will accept this amendment.

I turn to Amendment No. 298. The purpose of the existing Clause 118(3)(c) is to ensure that only directly-employed teachers are included under the pay and conditions provisions of Clause 118. By removing this, the amendment brings into national pay and conditions all teachers working in schools, including agency supply teachers.

Teachers employed by agencies are currently paid and work under conditions set by their employer—the agency. We believe that that is the right approach. We have no desire to change the position. Some teachers prefer to work in this way; they can choose the agency for which they wish to work. Therefore, to make them subject to national pay and conditions would, potentially, have damaging effects on the supply teacher market and the valuable service that agencies provide in quickly meeting schools' need for teachers. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. Can she tell me whether the EU directive covering agency workers will have any effect on the position? It is anticipated that the EU directive will come into operation fairly shortly. As a result, I believe that there will be some knock-on effects in relation to the very issue now under discussion; namely, that agency teachers working in a particular environment will have to be covered by conditions of employment similar to those that apply to other teachers.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I am not sure about the position regarding the EU proposal at this stage. However, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising the issue. Perhaps I may write to the noble Baroness and place a copy of that letter in the Library of the House. I shall also send a copy of the correspondence to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 299: Page 74, line 44, leave out "and (c)" and insert ", (c) and (d) On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 118, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 119 [Order under section 118: scope]:

Baroness Walmsley

moved Amendment No. 300: Page 76, line 12, leave out subsection (4). The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 301 and 302. The purpose of Amendment No. 300 is to prevent the Secretary of Sate from unilaterally removing pay and conditions provisions from the review body remit. This is yet another example of centralisation and bureaucratic control on the part of this Government, a tendency much regretted on these Benches.

The inclusion of Clause 119 in the Bill appears to be to overturn the NUT's High Court success in the year 2000. The point at issue here is the Government's obligations under the International Labour Organisation Convention. The provisions in the Bill offend against the ILO conventions, even more than the status quo.

The Bill allows even fewer safeguards for teachers than those provided by the School Teachers' Review Body machinery. At least the STRB provides some transparency, as it includes consultation of, and response from, teacher organisations and employers. Any provisions affecting statutory pay and conditions should be subject to those procedures, and not merely consultation by the Secretary of State.

The purpose of Amendment No. 301 is to ensure that, when the Secretary of State is proposing to designate an issue as "subsidiary", she has to consult, associations of local education authorities", and other appropriate organisations. In future, under these provisions, matters that could be considered "subsidiary" and, therefore, outwith the need for the due process of the STRB might be things such as the standards that the Secretary of State may set for different classes of teachers, such as advanced skills teachers or criteria for progression from one pay scale to another. The latter do not strike me as being subsidiary.

Although it may be reasonable to take out of the review body process those matters that are genuinely subsidiary and inappropriate for undergoing the full scrutiny of the body, there is no mechanism in the Bill for interested parties to be consulted about what constitutes a "subsidiary" matter. There may be cases where the Secretary of State considers a matter to be relatively minor while others may seriously disagree with that view.

The purpose of Amendment No. 302 is to make any guidance on how an order made under Clause 118 should be applied non-statutory, in keeping with current practice. Clause 123(3) specifies that the failure by an LEA or governing body to follow any guidance from the DfES on how an order made under this clause should be put into practice may be taken into account by a court or tribunal.

Under the current arrangements, guidance issued by the department on the provisions of the school teachers' pay and conditions document does not constitute "statutory guidance", and, therefore, failure to follow it would not necessarily be taken into account in a tribunal or court. It seems reasonable to suggest that orders made under Clause 118 should form the basis for the law, without any additional legal requirements being imposed on LEAs and governors through statutory guidance. It is unnecessary complication and has the potential for introducing confusion. I beg to move.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I shall begin by dealing with Amendment No. 300. It is our view that this proposal would not be to teachers' benefit, as it would remove existing flexibilities in the 1991 Act that work well and are necessary. I therefore resist the amendment.

It is important that certain matters that are not core professional duties or working time may be determined locally. Indeed, many conditions of teachers' employment are determined locally, and this will need to continue. Under existing provisions, a series of matters, including sick pay and maternity pay, are identified as not to be regarded as remuneration for this purpose. This takes them out of the remit of the Secretary of State, so they may be determined locally or nationally between the employers and the trade union. Most of these matters are agreed nationally and appear in the so-called "Burgundy Book".

Acceptance of this amendment would mean that all such matters would have to be determined by the Secretary of State, removing the area where employers and unions have scope to negotiate. In addition, the amendment would remove flexibility for one-off bonuses, such as "golden hellos", to be established quickly and efficiently without the need for STRB consultation. There is real merit in having arrangements in place to allow for rapid action to deal with particular circumstances that may arise. .I hope that Members of the Committee will agree that this amendment should not be pressed.

I turn to Amendment No. 301. The noble Baroness's honourable friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough raised the subject addressed by this amendment in debate in Standing Committee in another place, following which my honourable friend the Minister for School Standards agreed to reflect on the matter. As a result, we brought forward a government amendment on Report in the other place to secure the requirement to consult in circumstances where subsection (4)(a) is brought into play. It means that the Secretary of State must consult relevant parties before a matter is added to the list of subsidiary matters that do not require full STRB process.

The amendment would mean that:, in addition, there must be full consultation before a matter is to be removed from the list of subsidiary matters; in other words, if this were accepted, there would be a duty to consult before deciding that a matter should be returned to the full STRB process—a duty to consult before the matter returns to the full process, which would include consultation. That introduces a surplus layer of consultation. During the STRB process there will be full consultation on the detailed proposals.

It should surely be sufficient for such a measure to be subject only to the affirmative resolution procedure to which all Clause 121 orders will be subject. I therefore invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 302 to Clause 123 is unhelpful. The purpose of Clause 123 is to enable the Secretary of State to issue procedural guidance about the practical application of pay orders issued under Clause 118. The guidance which may be issued under Clause 123 is likely to cover more detailed matters which would be better placed outside the legal framework of pay orders and the pay document but which nevertheless LEAs and governing bodies need to follow in order to ensure the fair and effective operation of pay arrangements. The guidance may, for example, cover areas such as the detailed assessment arrangements for the threshold, advanced skill status, and so on.

Subsection (3) gives further clarification of the legal standing of the guidance. Since the matters in the guidance will have a direct bearing on how teachers are treated in the employment context, where the need for fair procedures is paramount, it is necessary to be clear. The key point is that subsection (3) assures them that legal action cannot be taken simply because of a failure to follow the guidance. The subsection makes it clear that if there were a substantive issue giving rise to legal challenge, a failure to follow guidance could be taken into account by a court or tribunal in other proceedings. That is so with guidance generally, but the provision makes it clear that we are not creating any new grounds for legal action.

The important protection for the teacher is that if an employer behaves so badly as to discriminate against, constructively dismiss or unfairly dismiss a teacher, or acts so irrationally as to give rise to a judicial review or industrial tribunal, any failure to follow guidance may form part of the evidence in support of the claim.

A key reason for the clause is to ensure that employers are not subjected to claims in respect of procedural errors which do not result in any of the serious consequences I mentioned. I hope that with those reassurances the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

The Minister said that Amendment No. 300 would reduce the Secretary of State's flexibility under the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991, which is working well. It is a perennial question, but why the re-enactment? If it is being re-enacted, there must be a reason. The Secretary of State's interference or intervention seems to be extended through the re-enactment, but it would be helpful to know why.

The Minister referred also to golden hellos, but I do not understand what prevents the Secretary of State from introducing such initiatives. We have witnessed the Secretary of State announcing almost without notice bursaries and student loan concessions for new teachers of particular subjects. I am not sure what the clause achieves that cannot be done under the present statute and what protection teachers lose or even gain by it.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

We are repealing the 1991 Act. In re-enacting this provision our purpose is to ensure that we lay out the role of the STRB in Clauses 115 to 126. The noble Baroness asked about golden hellos. It is important that the Secretary of State is in a position to respond quickly and effectively to issues—including, as the noble Baroness will know, making sure that we retain and recruit teachers. There are long-term strategies to do so, but we want to ensure flexibility. I hope that we are positioning the STRB correctly and that we have looked at the Secretary of State's role, given that flexibility to be used for the benefit of the teaching profession, and put that across in these clauses.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I do not understand the Minister's point about the 1991 Act. In response to Amendment No. 300, she said to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that she was rejecting the amendment because it would interfere with the Secretary of State's flexibility under the 1991 Act. When I asked her to explain, she said that the Government were repealing the 1991 Act. It does not make sense.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

We are indeed repealing the 1991 Act, but we are re-enacting the sections that have worked well that we wish to preserve: Clauses 115 to 126.

Baroness Blatch

I know this is tedious, but I return to my original question: if they are being re-enacted, what is the reason for the re-enactment? It is usually because there is a modification; if so, what is the modification?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

We are aiming to give the STRB the more strategic role it is looking for. We need to re-enact some of the subsidiary provisions in the 1991 Act. If I am not making myself clear, I will write to the noble Baroness and set the issue out properly and as clearly as possible.

Baroness Walmsley

I thank the Minister for her reply. The issues to which she referred were somewhat technical; therefore I look forward to reading her reply in Hansard before taking the matter further on Report. I am grateful for the response of her honourable friend in another place to the concerns of my honourable friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough on the issue of Amendment No. 301. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 119 agreed to.

Clauses 120 and 121 agreed to.

Clause 122 [Consultation by Secretary of State]:

[Amendment No. 301 not moved.]

Clause 122 agreed to.

Clause 123 [Guidance]:

[Amendment No. 302 not moved.]

Clause 123 agreed to.

Clauses 124 to 126 agreed to.

Clause 127 [Appraisal]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 303: Page 79, line 34, at end insert "otherwise than a function relating to remuneration". The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 303 and 304 seek to probe the Government's intentions on performance-related pay. Subsections (2)(a) and (3)(b) of Clause 127 would allow any member of the governing board of a school to have sight of an individual teacher's appraisal report. Subsequent guidance on the clause indicates that it would be limited to those members of the governing board on an appointments committee.

Such a procedure could put internal candidates at a disadvantage vis-â-vis external candidates at interview. At least, as Amendment No. 304 seeks, teachers should have the opportunity to say yes or no as to whether the appraisal statement can be seen.

What is the purpose of appraisal procedures? Are they, as they are theoretically supposed to be, a chance for the individual to have a heart to heart on an annual basis with his line manager in order to assess areas of strength and weakness and to suggest areas for professional development and training and to talk about possible career paths; or are they to be used internally as a tool for performance-related pay?

Amendment No. 303 seeks to separate the remuneration issues from others. Amendment No. 304 makes it clear that if appraisals are to be used in consideration of remuneration, they should be used only with the consent of the teacher. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I part company with the noble Baroness on this issue. I cannot imagine any employer, whether in education or outside, who would not consider performance in relation to remuneration. The idea of separating one from the other is incongruous.

I can think of occasions on which an unfair interpretation is put upon performance. There should be in place a robust appeals system and an opportunity for teachers to challenge any determination that is made of his performance and subsequent related remuneration. However, I could not support the idea of dislocating a judgment of performance when determining pay awards.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I do not recognise as a formal appraisal a heart-to-heart discussion. That is a different process.

It is important that the procedures for pay decisions are sound and fair and we want to ensure that those taking decisions about pay have access to the best possible information about a teacher's performance. Appraisal results are an obvious source of such information. There is already a requirement for a teacher's performance to have been reviewed under the terms of the school teachers' pay and conditions document before taking decisions on pay.

I am sure that the noble Baroness does not intend that when advising the governing body on recommendations for pay a head teacher should be put in a position of having to put out of his mind the contents of an appraisal statement to which he will already have had access and to draw on other less objective evidence to make a recommendation. But that would be the effect of the amendment. Decision-makers need a right of access to appraisal results in order that they have the opportunity to consider the reward of those teachers who have demonstrated sustained and high-quality performance.

I turn to Amendment No. 304. Through this clause, we are taking the opportunity to update and clarify the existing powers for the Secretary of State to make regulations for the appraisal of school teachers. The existing clause does not reflect the current management arrangements in schools and in particular we wanted to make explicit the power to make provisions for the results of appraisal to be taken into account in determining pay.

It is hard to see how it can be right for appraisals to be taken into account only when the teacher in question wishes that to occur. I would not wish to envisage a situation in which consent would be forthcoming only in the event of a glowing report or in respect of the glowing parts of the report. I therefore believe that decision makers need to have access to the full picture.

I hope that the explanation I have given will be sufficient to satisfy the noble Baroness and I hope that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for her reply. I was interested to note her view of appraisal procedures. When I was trained in appraisal at the University of Sussex, I stressed that we should not use it in relation to promotion or remuneration. It was an opportunity for line management to discuss career prospects, training and so forth. The two were firmly separated. However, in some education establishments, such procedures are not run quite in that way!

It is one thing to have an appraisal between a teacher and a head teacher. The head teacher is therefore privy to the contents of the report, which is fair enough, and both know it. However, at an appointments committee consisting of a group of governors, the appraisal report is put before the other governors. They may be parent governors and even other teacher governors and it is open to those people to see the report. In proposing the amendment, I was pointing out that that puts an internal candidate at a potential disadvantage as compared with an external candidate. As regards external candidates, I understand that these days written references are open and not confidential. The reference is open and the teacher knows what is said. However, as regards appraisal procedures, it is fair that the teacher should have an opportunity to consent.

I shall not press the amendment. We need to consider it further and possibly return to the matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 304 not moved.]

Clause 127 agreed to.

7.24 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving the Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before 8.25 p.m. Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.