Report (2nd Day) (Continued)
Education Bill
4:06 pm

Amendment 56

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

56: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause-

"Enforcement powers

(1) Part 7 of ASCLA 2009 (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) is amended as set out in subsections (2) to (6).

(2) In section 151 (power to give directions), for subsection (1) substitute-

"(1) Subsection (2) applies if it appears to Ofqual that a recognised body has failed or is likely to fail to comply with a condition to which the recognition is subject."

(3) After section 151 insert-

"151A Power to impose monetary penalties

(1) Subsection (2) applies if it appears to Ofqual that a recognised body has failed to comply with a condition to which the recognition is subject.

(2) Ofqual may impose a monetary penalty on the recognised body.

(3) A "monetary penalty" is a requirement to pay to Ofqual a penalty of an amount determined by Ofqual in accordance with section 151B.

(4) Before imposing a monetary penalty on a recognised body, Ofqual must give notice to the body of its intention to do so.

(5) The notice must-

(a) set out Ofqual's reasons for proposing to impose the penalty, and

(b) specify the period during which, and the way in which, the recognised body may make representations about the proposal.

(6) The period specified under subsection (5)(b) must not be less than 28 days beginning with the date on which the notice is received.

(7) Ofqual must have regard to any representations made by the recognised body during the period specified in the notice in deciding whether to impose a monetary penalty on the body.

(8) If Ofqual decides to impose a monetary penalty on the body, it must give the body a notice containing information as to-

(a) the grounds for imposing the penalty,

(b) how payment may be made,

(c) the period within which payment is required to be made (which must not be less than 28 days),

(d) rights of appeal,

(e) the period within which an appeal may be made, and

(f) the consequences of non-payment.

151B Monetary penalties: amount

(1) The amount of a monetary penalty imposed on a recognised body under section 151A must not exceed 10% of the body's turnover.

(2) The turnover of a body for the purposes of subsection (1) is to be determined in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State.

(3) Subject to subsection (1), the amount may be whatever Ofqual decides is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case.

151C Monetary penalties: appeals

(1) A recognised body may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against-

(a) a decision to impose a monetary penalty on the body under section 151A;

(b) a decision as to the amount of the penalty.

(2) An appeal under this section may be made on the grounds-

(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;

(b) that the decision was wrong in law;

(c) that the decision was unreasonable.

(3) The requirement to pay the penalty is suspended pending the determination of an appeal under this section.

(4) On an appeal under this section the Tribunal may-

(a) withdraw the requirement to pay the penalty;

(b) confirm that requirement;

(c) vary that requirement;

(d) take such steps as Ofqual could take in relation to the failure to comply giving rise to the decision to impose the requirement;

(e) remit the decision whether to confirm the requirement to pay the penalty, or any matter relating to that decision, to Ofqual.

151D Monetary penalties: interest and recovery

(1) This section applies if all or part of a monetary penalty imposed on a recognised body is unpaid at the end of the period ending on the applicable date.

(2) The applicable date is-

(a) the last date on which the recognised body may make an appeal under section 151C in respect of the penalty, if no such appeal is made;

(b) if an appeal under section 151C in respect of the penalty is made-

(i) the date on which the appeal is determined, or

(ii) if the appeal is withdrawn before being determined, the date on which the appeal is withdrawn.

(3) The unpaid amount of the penalty for the time being carries interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 (and does not also carry interest as a judgment debt under that section).

(4) The total amount of interest imposed under subsection (3) must not exceed the amount of the penalty.

(5) Ofqual may recover from the body, as a civil debt due to it, the unpaid amount of the penalty and any unpaid interest."

(4) In section 152 (power to withdraw recognition), for subsection (2) substitute-

"(2) Ofqual may withdraw recognition from the recognised body in respect of the award or authentication of-

(a) a specified qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the body is recognised, or

(b) every qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the body is recognised."

(5) After section 152 insert-

"152A Costs recovery

(1) Ofqual may, by notice, require a recognised body on which a sanction has been imposed to pay the costs incurred by Ofqual in relation to imposing the sanction, up to the time it is imposed.

(2) The references in subsection (1) to imposing a sanction are to-

(a) giving a direction under section 151;

(b) imposing a monetary penalty under section 151A;

(c) withdrawing recognition under section 152.

(3) "Costs" includes in particular-

(a) investigation costs;

(b) administration costs;

(c) costs of obtaining expert advice (including legal advice).

(4) A notice given to a recognised body under subsection (1) must contain information as to-

(a) the amount required to be paid,

(b) how payment may be made,

(c) the period within which payment is required to be made (which must not be less than 28 days),

(d) rights of appeal,

(e) the period within which an appeal may be made, and

(f) the consequences of non-payment.

(5) The body may require Ofqual to provide a detailed breakdown of the amount specified in the notice.

152B Costs recovery: appeals

(1) A recognised body may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against-

(a) a decision under section 152A(1) to require the body to pay costs;

(b) a decision as to the amount of those costs.

(2) An appeal under this section may be made on the grounds-

(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;

(b) that the decision was wrong in law;

(c) that the decision was unreasonable.

(3) The requirement to pay the costs is suspended pending the determination of an appeal under this section.

(4) On an appeal under this section the Tribunal may-

(a) withdraw the requirement to pay the costs;

(b) confirm that requirement;

(c) vary that requirement;

(d) take such steps as Ofqual could take in relation to the failure to comply giving rise to the decision to impose the requirement;

(e) remit the decision whether to confirm the requirement to pay the costs, or any matter relating to that decision, to Ofqual.

152C Costs: interest and recovery

(1) This section applies if all or part of an amount of costs that a recognised body is required to pay under section 152A(1) is unpaid at the end of the period ending on the applicable date.

(2) The applicable date is-

(a) the last date on which the recognised body may make an appeal under section 152B in respect of the costs, if no such appeal is made;

(b) if an appeal under section 152B in respect of the costs is made-

(i) the date on which the appeal is determined, or

(ii) if the appeal is withdrawn before being determined, the date on which the appeal is withdrawn.

(3) The unpaid amount of the costs for the time being carries interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 (and does not also carry interest as a judgment debt under that section).

(4) The total amount of interest imposed under subsection (3) must not exceed the amount of the costs.

(5) Ofqual may recover from the body, as a civil debt due to it, the unpaid amount of the costs and any unpaid interest."

(6) In section 153 (qualifications regulatory framework), in subsection (8)(e), for "152" substitute "152C".

(7) In section 262(6) of ASCLA 2009 (orders and regulations subject to affirmative resolution procedure), after paragraph (e) insert-

"(ea) an order under section 151B(2);"."

4:27 pm
Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)

My Lords, government Amendments 56 and 57 are a response to concerns first raised by my noble friend Lord Lingfield and echoed by others of my noble friends, the noble Lord, Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wall, about whether Ofqual has a full range of effective and proportionate powers that it can use to carry out its duties and responsibilities.

The context of the concerns expressed was the events of this summer, where we saw numerous errors in awarding bodies' exam papers; many of those appeared even after Ofqual had required awarding bodies to go back and check all their papers. We all know how hard most children work for their GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications. After all that work, they should not be let down by exam boards' mistakes; nor can we be sanguine about the credibility of our qualifications being brought into doubt.

The key point made by my noble friend Lord Lingfield and others in the Grand Committee debate on 13 July was that Ofqual currently has only two types of sanctions available to it: first, the power to direct an awarding body to comply with a condition; and, secondly, the ultimate-and rather nuclear-sanction of partial or full withdrawal of recognition, which in effect would prevent an awarding body from offering a qualification to maintained schools.

Obviously, those are strong powers. First, Ofqual can require awarding bodies to put things right by giving those bodies a direction; but that will often be only after they have gone wrong, so that is after the candidate has endured the two hours of stress that resulted from unsolvable problems in the paper they were sitting. Secondly, Ofqual can, in practice, strip an awarding body of the ability to offer its qualifications to the market. That certainly sounds like a strong incentive on awarding bodies not to make mistakes and to comply with Ofqual's conditions, but taking such a step could have a very disruptive impact on the whole system, as schools and colleges would have to switch providers and the courses they are teaching. Ofqual is under a duty to act appropriately and proportionately, so, given this impact, it would be able to do that in practice only if faced with an extremely serious or extremely persistent breach of a condition.

For breaches of conditions that are unlikely to trigger Ofqual's nuclear sanction of withdrawal of recognition-and the errors we saw from those awarding bodies in the summer are of that kind-there is little Ofqual can currently do to impose a serious consequence that would act as a deterrent or encourage compliance. That, in essence, is why we are introducing Amendment 56 and Amendment 57, which gives similar powers to Welsh Ministers who are the regulator of qualifications in Wales. The amendments give Ofqual the power to impose a variable monetary penalty on an awarding organisation that fails to comply with a recognition condition. I hope I can give reassurance to my noble friends Lady Sharp and Lady Brinton, who had some concerns about this that have also been raised by Pearson. As a multinational it is concerned-and I understand that concern-that Ofqual's fines could take a proportion of its global turnover, of which only a small proportion is generated from the provision of qualifications in this country.

As is the case for other regulatory bodies that have the power to impose a monetary penalty, the method of calculating the relevant turnover for these purposes will be determined in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State, which will be subject to the affirmative procedure. There will be a full 12-week consultation on these rules with interested parties, including the awarding organisations. I can also confirm that our intention is that the definition of turnover would be limited to just that turnover generated by activity that Ofqual regulates, and would not encompass turnover from unregulated international activity. Stating that there is a 10 per cent cap in the Bill is common to other regulators.

This new power to fine will help concentrate minds at the awarding bodies and send a clear signal to students and the wider public that the exam boards will face consequences where they get things wrong. The clauses include safeguards in line with regulatory best practice to ensure that this new power is used appropriately and proportionately, including a cap on the maximum amount; clear procedures for notification that must be followed; independent appeals arrangements; and the requirement for a full consultation by Ofqual before they can be implemented.

As the legislation currently stands, there are circumstances in which an awarding body may have breached one of Ofqual's conditions but Ofqual would not be able to use any of its enforcement powers. Parliament has given Ofqual a set of objectives that it requires Ofqual to secure. To secure these objectives, it has given Ofqual the ability to set conditions which it can require awarding bodies to meet and sanctions which in theory it can rely upon if awarding bodies are not complying. However, the legislation as drafted inadvertently means that Ofqual is not simply free to use its sanctions when a condition is breached as is the case with other similar regulators. Instead it also has to meet additional higher-level hurdles that are not in place for other regulators: namely, that the failure to comply prejudices, or is likely to prejudice, either the proper award of any qualification or learners seeking such a qualification.

Two brief examples illustrate the problems that this presents. Ofqual might, for example, require transparency of data on fee setting in order to secure its efficiency objective. However, an awarding body's failure to provide it would not prejudice the learner or the proper award, and hence Ofqual would be unable to enforce this requirement. Secondly, in situations where errors have been made that have affected students, Ofqual may think it valid to consider fining, or withdrawing recognition. However, an awarding body could argue that it has already taken measures such as adjusting the marking schemes to discount the part of the exam that was erroneous. Consequently, at the point when Ofqual might wish to impose a sanction, no prejudice would exist and Ofqual would be unable to act. As I have said, most other regulators do not have caveats on their ability to take action in relation to the objectives and duties that Parliament has set them. We believe that a qualification system will serve a useful purpose only if it is one in which educational organisations, employers and students have confidence. The amendment therefore removes these triggers so that Ofqual can take enforcement action if its conditions are breached. However, again, I should like to offer assurance that Ofqual will still have to demonstrate that it is acting proportionately and appropriately in any such circumstance.

Finally, Amendment 56 also gives Ofqual the power to require a recognised body on which a sanction has been imposed to pay the costs incurred by Ofqual in relation to imposing the sanction. The costs concerned would include the costs of carrying out an investigation, relevant administration costs and the costs of obtaining expert advice. New Section 152B makes provision for appeals against Ofqual's decision to seek to recover its costs and sets up the powers of the First-tier Tribunal when considering such an appeal. New Section 152C makes provision for the recovery of costs that go unpaid and for the imposition of interest on such unpaid amounts.

The main aim of the Bill is to improve standards in education, including in examinations. Having listened to the points made by noble Lords in Committee, we believe that Ofqual should have the powers to support this aim to prevent the kinds of errors that were too common this summer. It would provide Ofqual and Welsh Ministers with the flexible enforcement sanctions that are in line with other regulators, including those in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, which was thoroughly debated and scrutinised by Parliament and underwent extensive consultation. I beg to move.

Amendment 56A (to Amendment 56)

Moved by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

56A: After Clause 22, line 41, leave out "not exceed 10 per cent of the body's" and insert "only relate to a body's relevant"

4:30 pm
Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford

Baroness Sharp of Guildford (Liberal Democrat)

Amendments 56A and 56B are in my name and both are amendments to Amendment 56. I tabled them because we, and I suspect other noble Lords, have received a fair amount of correspondence about this provision. Two issues arise from it. One, which is the subject of my amendments, relates to a very narrow issue-the 10 per cent of turnover to which the fine should be related and the question of whether that is the total turnover of the organisation or just that part of the organisation's turnover that relates to its United Kingdom activities. As the Minister has made clear, the Government have effectively accepted these amendments, and I gather that the turnover will relate only to United Kingdom activities.

The other issue goes somewhat wider and relates to the whole process of consultation that took place. I understand that, as the Minister explained, the Government were anxious to get these powers on to the statute book because Ofqual had the choice of only either a fairly gentle reprimand or the nuclear option of withdrawing recognition of the examining board, and it wanted a further range of sanctions to apply, as is the case with other regulators. However, it is very unfortunate that the period of consultation was reduced to as little as 10 days and that the examination boards did not have a chance to respond to these proposals as fully as they would have liked. It is also unfortunate that a wider consultation with other people affected by the knock-on effects of this provision did not take place. Some of them may also have received a letter from the ASCL pointing out that a fine imposed on the examining boards is quite likely to be passed on to the schools, which pay considerable fees for their pupils to sit these examinations.

I recognise that we do not want our examining boards to make the serious errors in examinations that occurred this summer and that sanctions of some sort are not a bad idea. Nevertheless, the fact remains that an inquiry was set up to examine those errors and it is not going to report until the end of the year. Normally, one would expect to see some action taken after the inquiry reports, and I therefore ask the Minister whether it was really necessary to act as quickly as he did. Furthermore, I hope that full consultation will now take place with the examination boards. As the Government put flesh on the bones of the sanctions in this amendment, I hope that they will have proper discussions and consultations with all those concerned about how the sanctions should be imposed and implemented. This is not good practice and I hope that the coalition Government will not continue with the rapid pursuit of issues in the same way.

Photo of Lord Lingfield

Lord Lingfield (Conservative)

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister that, following my remarks, these clauses are to be inserted.

It is worth reminding noble Lords of the unedifying accounts in the newspapers a short time ago, when we saw complaints from parents, teachers and schools. A printing mistake by the AQA board led to some schools receiving GCSE maths papers, taken by 32,000 pupils, which included questions from a previous version of the examination. The OCR maths AS-level paper, with nearly 7,000 candidates, featured an impossible question worth a whole 11 per cent of the marks. OCR's Latin paper mixed up a passage by Cicero and attributed it to Tacitus, and two characters were mixed up. Edexcel's AS-level biology paper offered a selection of wrong answers to a multiple choice question, but the correct answer was not included. The OCR guide issued to staff marking the AS-level information communication and technology paper contained four errors-staff were required to mark down students who gave the correct answer. AQA's AS-level business studies examination, taken by 41,000 students, asked about a fictitious company's factory profits, but the adjoining profile information failed to show the profits, making the question completely unanswerable. Of course, there were other examples in earlier years. The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, who is in his place, carried out, as I am sure he will mention, a review that suggested that QCA was responsible for massive failures resulting in tens of thousands of children getting their SATs results late.

That is why I support these extra powers for Ofqual boards. I believe the penalties that are outlined seem a fair and useful way ahead, with the appropriate safeguards of notice and appeal that the Bill sets out. I hope that noble Lords will support them and they will lead to a diminution in the angst and difficulty caused earlier this year to pupils, parents and teachers after the examinations.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (Crossbench)

I warmly welcome the Government amendment, and not only for the reason it means that one's words do not always disappear into the ether forever, although it is nice to see a bit of thought being given to them. Examining boards do an extremely difficult and complex job. Over the years, we have built for them a system that requires too much, and too much complexity. We are now rolling back from this, and that is the right direction. However, examination boards which, for the most part, have done this very well, do fail from time to time. They fail in ways that are serious and, as we have heard, are deeply upsetting to schools and candidates. It is therefore right that Ofqual should have the capacity to assert some discipline over them.

As has been suggested, I have seen in great detail-more than I ever want to see again-the complexity of the procurement process for a national set of examinations. If Ofqual were committed to its only sanction being to reset the process in motion, we would have the wrong system. Under this amendment, Ofqual will have different alternatives. I say to my noble friend Lady Sharp that this should have been in the original powers of Ofqual rather than being put through at this stage. I welcome the amendments and hope that the House will support them.

4:45 pm
Photo of Baroness Hughes of Stretford

Baroness Hughes of Stretford (Labour)

My Lords, I do not object in principle to the proposals. They were consulted on in 2009 by my Government. We decided at that stage against moving in this direction. I agree that the impact on students when these errors occur is very bad. I agree, too, with measures in general to drive up performance, although it is interesting to contrast them with the approach of this Government to driving up performance in schools, which is to absolve them of every possible requirement, whereas in this instance further financial sanctions are being sought. It is a moot point whether Ofqual needs these powers or whether the existing powers that the Minister has referred to of withdrawing accreditation or giving a direction are both more appropriate and more effective. The Minister agreed that these are strong powers.

I will make three points and will be grateful if the Minister will respond to them. First, I echo some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about the rushed nature of this publication. It begs the question of whether the detail has been properly thought through, with only eight days for providers to have any kind of discussion with Ofqual about how it might work. Consequently, no information is available on a number of important questions. For example, in what circumstances will the financial penalties be imposed? What level of apparent errors will be the threshold for financial penalties to kick in? What will be the levels of penalties and how will they be determined? What will the maximum penalty be? What will be the mechanism for an independent appeals process for providers, and what safeguards will there be that it will be a fair and transparent process? Will the Government issue guidance to Ofqual on how it should conduct itself? The Minister may say that Ofqual will have a full consultation for 12 weeks on some of these questions, but as noble Lords are being asked to consider the measures now, it would have been helpful to have had some indication of the Government's view about how this will work.

My second question is: are financial penalties appropriate? We have heard that Pearson has replied with some comments, but I am more concerned with the majority of exam boards, which are charitable, not-for-profit organisations. Seventy-five per cent of all GCSEs and A-levels are delivered by not-for-profit organisations. There is already in the system a degree of potential financial instability for the exam boards, because government policy decisions, for instance on changing the structures of GCSEs, have an immediate financial impact on them. Therefore, there is a danger to the not-for-profit organisations that this may further jeopardise their financial stability. As we have heard, schools, too, are concerned that if the not-for-profit organisations take any financial penalty, ultimately they will have to pass it on to schools; they will not necessarily be able to absorb it.

Finally, I am concerned that there are clear parameters and guidance on how Ofqual must use the powers in ways that will protect it from having to respond to what will inevitably be media pressure and perhaps the appearance of political pressure concerning the way it implements these decisions and applies financial penalties. What safeguards does the Minister envisage to ensure that protection? One not-for-profit exam board has suggested that Ofqual should deal with these matters through a more distant complaints procedure, so that it will be clearly separate from government and shielded to some extent from the barrage of perhaps understandable media pressure that will accompany these issues.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Lingfield and Lady Sharp of Guildford, and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, for their broad welcome for the measures, and the recognition that this responds to a need.

On the speed of the consultation, referred to by my noble friend Lady Sharp and the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, we responded to the points that were raised in Grand Committee. A legislative opportunity presented itself with this Education Bill and we had before us the failures of this summer. I know that the previous Government consulted. Our case would be that, with the legislative opportunity there and the evidence of the failures that we had this summer, which the previous Government had not had, it was sensible to act while the opportunity presented itself, but I take my noble friend's point about the importance of consultation. Ofqual will consult on the detailed implementation of its powers, which will be a full 12-week consultation.

In response to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, Ofqual will publish a statement as part of its qualifications regulatory framework, which will set out how and in what circumstances its powers will be used. That will make clear Ofqual's expectations that only serious or persistent breaches could lead to a fine.

On the question of appeals, there will be an appeal to the independent First-tier Tribunal, in line with other regulators. I know that concerns were raised about fines being passed on to schools, effectively. Ofqual will have powers to cap those fees if it thinks that it is necessary to do so. I understand the point that obviously some of the big awarding bodies are charities, but some of them are charities with very large tens of millions or hundreds of millions of pounds of turnover. Our basic point is that a pupil or student on the wrong end of a duff examination paper is not too bothered whether that paper has been set by a charity or a commercial organisation. That is why we think that it is appropriate to give this extra power. The noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, is right that there are two powers but we feel that in essence they are not sufficiently nuanced. Giving this additional power we hope will lead not to large amounts of fining but to better and more accurate examination papers.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford

Baroness Sharp of Guildford (Liberal Democrat)

I thank the Minister for that explanation. I am reassured that there will be extensive consultation with the boards concerned on the implementation of these things. I just want to reiterate my general feeling that it is important for consultation to take place before rather than after legislation as a general principle. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 56A (to Amendment 56A) withdrawn.

Amendment 56B (to Amendment 56A) not moved.

Amendment 56 agreed.

Amendment 57

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

57: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause-

"Enforcement powers of Welsh Ministers

(1) Chapter 2 of Part 5 of EA 1997 (functions of Welsh Ministers: qualifications and the school curriculum) is amended as set out in subsections (2) to (6).

(2) In section 32A (power to give directions), for subsections (1) and (2) substitute-

"(1) Subsection (1A) applies if it appears to the Welsh Ministers that a recognised person has failed or is likely to fail to comply with a condition subject to which the recognition has effect.

(1A) The Welsh Ministers may direct the recognised person to take or refrain from taking specified steps with a view to securing compliance with the conditions subject to which the recognition has effect.

(2) Subsection (2A) applies if it appears to the Welsh Ministers that a recognised person who awards or authenticates a qualification accredited by them has failed or is likely to fail to comply with a condition subject to which the accreditation has effect.

(2A) The Welsh Ministers may direct the recognised person to take or refrain from taking specified steps with a view to securing compliance with the conditions subject to which the accreditation has effect."

(3) In section 32A(5), for "32B and" substitute "32AA to".

(4) After section 32A insert-

"32AA Power of Welsh Ministers to impose monetary penalties

(1) Subsection (2) applies if it appears to the Welsh Ministers that a recognised person has failed to comply with a condition subject to which the recognition has effect.

(2) The Welsh Ministers may impose a monetary penalty on the recognised person.

(3) Subsection (4) applies if it appears to the Welsh Ministers that a recognised person who awards or authenticates a qualification accredited by them has failed to comply with a condition subject to which the accreditation has effect.

(4) The Welsh Ministers may impose a monetary penalty on the recognised person.

(5) A "monetary penalty" is a requirement to pay to the Welsh Ministers a penalty of an amount determined by them in accordance with section 32AB.

(6) Before imposing a monetary penalty on a recognised person, the Welsh Ministers must give notice to the person of their intention to do so.

(7) The notice must-

(a) set out their reasons for proposing to impose the penalty, and

(b) specify the period during which, and the way in which, the recognised person may make representations about the proposal.

(8) The period specified under subsection (7)(b) must not be less than 28 days beginning with the date on which the notice is received.

(9) The Welsh Ministers must have regard to any representations made by the recognised person during the period specified in the notice in deciding whether to impose a monetary penalty on the person.

(10) If the Welsh Ministers decide to impose a monetary penalty on the person, they must give the person a notice containing information as to-

(a) the grounds for imposing the penalty,

(b) how payment may be made,

(c) the period within which payment is required to be made (which must not be less than 28 days),

(d) rights of appeal,

(e) the period within which an appeal may be made, and

(f) the consequences of non-payment.

32AB Monetary penalties: amount

(1) The amount of a monetary penalty imposed on a recognised person under section 32AA must not exceed 10% of the person's turnover.

(2) The turnover of a person for the purposes of subsection (1) is to be determined in accordance with an order made by the Welsh Ministers.

(3) Subject to subsection (1), the amount may be whatever the Welsh Ministers decide is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case.

32AC Monetary penalties: appeals

(1) A recognised person may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against-

(a) a decision to impose a monetary penalty on the person under section 32AA;

(b) a decision as to the amount of the penalty.

(2) An appeal under this section may be made on the grounds-

(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;

(b) that the decision was wrong in law;

(c) that the decision was unreasonable.

(3) The requirement to pay the penalty is suspended pending the determination of an appeal under this section.

(4) On an appeal under this section the Tribunal may-

(a) withdraw the requirement to pay the penalty;

(b) confirm that requirement;

(c) vary that requirement;

(d) take such steps as the Welsh Ministers could take in relation to the failure to comply giving rise to the decision to impose the requirement;

(e) remit the decision whether to confirm the requirement to pay the penalty, or any matter relating to that decision, to the Welsh Ministers.

32AD Monetary penalties: interest and recovery

(1) This section applies if all or part of a monetary penalty imposed on a recognised person is unpaid at the end of the period ending on the applicable date.

(2) The applicable date is-

(a) the last date on which the recognised person may make an appeal under section 32AC in respect of the penalty, if no such appeal is made;

(b) if an appeal under section 32AC in respect of the penalty is made-

(i) the date on which the appeal is determined, or

(ii) if the appeal is withdrawn before being determined, the date on which the appeal is withdrawn.

(3) The unpaid amount of the penalty for the time being carries interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 (and does not also carry interest as a judgment debt under that section).

(4) The total amount of interest imposed under subsection (3) must not exceed the amount of the penalty.

(5) The Welsh Ministers may recover from the person, as a civil debt due to them, the unpaid amount of the penalty and any unpaid interest."

(5) In section 32B (power to withdraw recognition)-

(a) for subsection (2) substitute-

"(2) The Welsh Ministers may withdraw recognition from the recognised person in respect of the award or authentication of-

(a) a specified qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the person is recognised, or

(b) every qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the person is recognised.";

(b) for subsection (4) substitute-

"(4) The Welsh Ministers may withdraw recognition from the recognised person in respect of the award or authentication of-

(a) the qualification or a specified description of qualification in respect of which the person is recognised, or

(b) every qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the person is recognised."

(6) After section 32B insert-

"32BA Costs recovery

(1) The Welsh Ministers may, by notice, require a recognised person on whom a sanction has been imposed to pay the costs incurred by the Welsh Ministers in relation to imposing the sanction, up to the time it is imposed.

(2) The references in subsection (1) to imposing a sanction are to-

(a) giving a direction under section 32A;

(b) imposing a monetary penalty under section 32AA;

(c) withdrawing recognition under section 32B.

(3) "Costs" includes in particular-

(a) investigation costs;

(b) administration costs;

(c) costs of obtaining expert advice (including legal advice).

(4) A notice given to a recognised person under subsection (1) must contain information as to-

(a) the amount required to be paid,

(b) how payment may be made,

(c) the period within which payment is required to be made (which must not be less than 28 days),

(d) rights of appeal,

(e) the period within which an appeal may be made, and

(f) the consequences of non-payment.

(5) The person may require the Welsh Ministers to provide a detailed breakdown of the amount specified in the notice.

32BB Costs recovery: appeals

(1) A recognised person may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against-

(a) a decision under section 32BA(1) to require the person to pay costs;

(b) a decision as to the amount of those costs.

(2) An appeal under this section may be made on the grounds-

(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;

(b) that the decision was wrong in law;

(c) that the decision was unreasonable.

(3) The requirement to pay the costs is suspended pending the determination of an appeal under this section.

(4) On an appeal under this section the Tribunal may-

(a) withdraw the requirement to pay the costs;

(b) confirm that requirement;

(c) vary that requirement;

(d) take such steps as the Welsh Ministers could take in relation to the failure to comply giving rise to the decision to impose the requirement;

(e) remit the decision whether to confirm the requirement to pay the costs, or any matter relating to that decision, to the Welsh Ministers.

32BC Costs: interest and recovery

(1) This section applies if all or part of an amount of costs that a recognised person is required to pay under section 32BA(1) is unpaid at the end of the period ending on the applicable date.

(2) The applicable date is-

(a) the last date on which the recognised person may make an appeal under section 32BB in respect of the costs, if no such appeal is made;

(b) if an appeal under section 32BB in respect of the costs is made-

(i) the date on which the appeal is determined, or

(ii) if the appeal is withdrawn before being determined, the date on which the appeal is withdrawn.

(3) The unpaid amount of the costs for the time being carries interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 (and does not also carry interest as a judgment debt under that section).

(4) The total amount of interest imposed under subsection (3) must not exceed the amount of the costs.

(5) The Welsh Ministers may recover from the person, as a civil debt due to them, the unpaid amount of the costs and any unpaid interest."

(7) In section 54 of EA 1997 (orders and regulations)-

(a) in subsection (2), after "section" insert "32AB(2) or";

(b) after subsection (2) insert-

"(2A) A statutory instrument which contains (whether alone or with other provision) an order under section 32AB(2) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the National Assembly for Wales.""

Amendment 57 agreed.

Clause 24 : Abolition of the QCDA: consequential amendments

Amendments 57A and 57B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 27 : Careers guidance in schools in England

Amendment 57C

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

57C: Clause 27, page 28, line 8, leave out "during the relevant phase of their education" and insert "from the beginning of the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil's class attain the age of 14"

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour)

My Lords, the amendments in this group aim to improve the careers advice to which young people would be entitled in the classroom. They cover different aspects of the provision that we think pupils have a right to expect. While each of our amendments has validity in its own right, they have also been consolidated into Amendment 57CA.

The Government's proposals in Clause 27 amend the Education Act 1997 so that in the future maintained schools and pupil referral units would be required to secure independent, impartial careers advice for pupils aged 13 to 16. However, schools will be free to decide how best to fulfil this duty based on the needs of their pupils and as the Bill stands there is no guarantee that the advice would be from a trained professional, nor that it would be face to face. Our amendments would ensure that all pupils receive face-to-face careers advice from year 8 onwards. This is the year that the majority of pupils turn 14 and start to make decisions about their study options for GCSE, and it is vital that they understand the implications of those choices for their future careers.

Our amendments also require that advice is provided by a qualified provider, not a teacher to whom the responsibility has been given as an afterthought or someone employed by an accredited service provider who is none the less not personally qualified. This is vital to ensure a consistent quality of careers advice throughout the education system. We had an excellent debate on this subject in Grand Committee and noble Lords from all sides of the House recognised the need to drive up standards in careers advice for young people, and the need to influence them early enough to make wise choices about their course of study.

I acknowledge receipt, rather belatedly, of the Minister's letter of 20 July, in which he tried to address those concerns. Regretfully, I do not think the letter goes far enough and I do not believe that his proposal of guidance to schools will give sufficient guarantees to young people who should have a right to these services. I do not believe that measuring outcomes via the destination of pupils or relying on a future Ofsted report, both of which would take time, gives pupils and parents sufficient reassurance about the provision that will take place now.

We all understand that careers decisions for young people are very complex these days, more so than when many of us were making our first career choices some time ago. There is increased competition for higher education places, a greater range of opportunities, including apprenticeships, and an awareness nowadays that jobs are less often jobs for life. Young people may need to equip themselves for a range of jobs and a degree of flexibility in their career plans. They also have to factor in the higher costs of staying on in education, which has not been made any easier by the cutting of EMA and the increase in tuition fees. Evidence shows that lack of information about the choices available is seen by young people as one of the main barriers to their participation post-16 and an even greater number see this lack of information as having placed constraints on their choices post-16. They need expert help and guidance on a regular basis to help them achieve their ambitions.

The Government believe it is sufficient to offer careers guidance by phone or online to the vast majority of pupils but we fundamentally disagree. Where a young person has access to a wide network of family and friends with a variety of careers, phone and internet advice might be helpful. Where a young person's family is able to arrange internships and job trials for them, it might be helpful. However, phone or internet advice might be helpful but it is not enough. It does not meet the challenge of ensuring that young people get nuanced guidance, tailored to their talents, drive and ambitions. Of course, this is particularly true for young people who do not have access to a social network of people in a variety of jobs or who do not have role models in different careers, and even more so for young people from families where there is intergenerational worklessness.

However, it is not just a certain category of young people who need face-to-face advice, and I do not accept the Minister's proposal that disadvantaged pupils and those deemed to be at risk should be singled out for some kind of special personal service. Having studied the Minister's letter, I do not see any guarantee that even disadvantaged children will be given this special help. All young people should have access to someone who can talk through their skills and aptitudes and encourage them to aim high. With the best will in the world, I do not know how a computer would be able to do this. There is particular skill in drawing out young people and getting them to talk about their ambitions. This applies equally to middle-class children, as anyone who has attempted to talk to their own teenage children, or those of friends, will know.

Without high-quality careers advice for all young people, think of the waste to them and our society. If young people's ambitions and talents are not nurtured, so that they can go on to be the best that they can be, and pursue the careers in which they might flourish, think of the lost potential. Good careers advice can make a big difference in driving social mobility, in expanding pupils' horizons, and in helping them to see themselves working in different environments. If Britain is going to be successful in an increasingly competitive world, we need young people to lead the charge.

Instead, at the moment youth unemployment is at record levels, and college enrolment rates have fallen for the first time in 12 years. Interestingly, they went into decline shortly after the EMA was cut, but that is an issue for another day. It is more important than ever, therefore, that young people get high quality careers advice, so that they can go on to fulfil their potential, and we can avoid a further increase in NEETs.

I mentioned earlier the need for those providing careers advice to be qualified. I believe this to be essential. In his letter, the Minister talked about the Careers Profession Alliance creating a register of professional members. That is fine, but what is not clear is whether everyone involved in giving advice to young people therefore has to be qualified-perhaps the Minister could clarify this. In the mean time, our Amendments 59B and 59D would require the Government to issue guidance specifying the qualifications that would be necessary for every individual providing that independent careers advice.

In Grand Committee we discussed the appalling waste of Connexions centres, which are closing around the country. There are already thousands of skilled careers practitioners losing their jobs at a time when young people are facing some of the biggest challenges of a generation. If the future is to be schools-based, we should be utilising the skills that already exist, as the core of a new generation of careers professionals able to go into schools and help our young people make the right choices. This would have the added advantage that the advice would be guaranteed to be impartial, rather than subordinated to the self-interest of the school, which might be the outcome if the decisions are delegated purely to schools alone.

This should not just be an optional provision in schools: it should be a right, set out not in guidance, but in the Bill. I therefore draw your Lordships' attention in particular to our Amendment 57CA, which summarises our position, with Amendment 59D being a consequential amendment. I also give advance notice that we would like to withdraw Amendment 59A in favour of Amendment 58, the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, on professional qualifications. I beg to move.

5:00 pm
Photo of Baroness Brinton

Baroness Brinton (Liberal Democrat)

I shall speak to Amendments 58, 59, 60 and 61. I welcome the Minister's letter of 20 October, which has given some helpful answers, but there are some further queries that I wish to raise in today's debate.

With regard to Amendment 58, the letter from the Minister makes it clear that there will be robust standards and quality assurance-for that, we are pleased-through the Careers Profession Alliance and its proposed online register, which will also recognise those who have achieved a level 6 standard. This is very welcome, but I wish to ask the Minister for confirmation that statutory guidance will make it clear to schools that they must use this standard when commissioning.

Amendment 59 addresses the thorny issue of face-to-face advice, which we discussed at considerable length in Committee. In a perfect world, all schools would ensure that all pupils get at least one face-to-face interview, but the Minister's letter makes it clear that that is not what the Government are looking for. Our amendment seeks to ensure that the most disadvantaged-the ones who were caught by the original inverted pyramid of the Connexions service proposals-would get face-to-fact advice because it is extremely important that they do so. Let me explain why.

The Association of Colleges has recently surveyed pupils considering options for post-16, and while 64 per cent of young people considering their options know about A-levels, only a shocking 7 per cent can name apprenticeships as a qualification, just a quarter know about NVQs, and 19 per cent are able to name BTECs. Those pupils for whom A-levels are not the correct route will not know what they do not know. We have often talked about that in this House as a "Donald Rumsfeld moment". On these Benches we remain very concerned that asking them to go on to a website and rootle around to find what might be appropriate for them is not going to be enough.

Schools will need to ensure that those most likely not to take A-levels or follow an academic route, some of whom may be at risk of becoming NEETs, should have access to face-to-face advice. Our amendment makes it clear that face-to-face advice must be offered to the disadvantaged. We have kept it as a fairly broad phrase, but for the avoidance of doubt we have included free school meals and those with SEN. But it is broadly inclusive so a school can look at its pupils and make its decision about where to draw those lines.

Amendments 60 and 61 cover the issue of when high-quality careers advice should start and end. I am grateful to the Minister for the discussions we have had outside the Chamber about whether a 14 year-old, as stated in the Bill, is actually a rising 14. Our amendment would make it clear that young people should be getting advice when they are beginning to consider their options for years 10 and 11 at school. If it starts later than that, after they have chosen their options, whether they want to follow an academic or a vocational route, they could compromise their future pathway. That seems wrong to us, so I ask the Minister to be clear that this is for rising 14s; that is, that those in year 9 who start the year as 13 year-olds and probably end it as 14 years-olds will be covered.

We also want to ensure that some provision is made for post-16 advice, principally again-I repeat the point-for those who may not be taking an automatic route into A-levels at school and then on to university. An enormous breadth of vocational training is available, along with an enormous number of qualifications. I know from my own experience that when, as the chair of a learning and skills council, we tried to map out the vocational pathways in our county area alone, it was almost impossible to do so. How on earth we expect 15 and 16 year-olds to make headway on their own is, I think, unhelpful.

Finally, I welcome the Minister's affirmation in his letter of 20 October that local authorities that are currently letting their careers staff go are continuing to deliver their responsibilities as regards careers advice until schools take this over next year. In particular, I welcome his comment that if local authorities prove not to be doing that at the moment, the Department for Education will take them to task.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (Crossbench)

My Lords, I rise to support these amendments, in particular those mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. The whole business of giving advice to children early is, frankly, crucial-and it is not just advice, but a rather wider range of intelligence about the world in which they are going to emerge. I recall my experience in the early days at the Equal Opportunities Commission when girls' schools were not very good at giving the full range of possibilities, not least the range of likely earnings in particular careers. I think that some degree of inheritance remains that probably needs coping with. I would particularly want to target girls' schools in this respect. I notice that they have not really been mentioned in any of the briefings.

The country's need for skills at a particular time needs stressing. After all, those are the areas where you are likely to get jobs, although, frankly, it is not going to be easy in these economic conditions, whatever your age is. I have another worry about this whole area. Although I appreciate this business of wanting to give as much discretion as possible to local government in how it distributes its resources, it is important to see that some degree of uniformity is continued. Yet UNISON, having done its research, says that, of the 144 local authorities, only 15 are likely to maintain substantially what they are doing at the moment. There seem to be cutbacks everywhere. I, too, welcome the letter from the Minister of 20 October, in which he set out very clearly the Government's aims, particularly for those with special needs, for whom there must be a very early introduction to the kind of possibilities that are available. Indeed, a great deal of encouragement still needs to be given to employers to provide the flexibility that is going to be required in many of the job and skills opportunities for the future.

I think that is enough from me, but I certainly think that we are going in the right direction in many of the amendments that have already been tabled and accepted by the Minister.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Yardley

Baroness Morris of Yardley (Labour)

My Lords, I, too, support the amendments put forward by my noble friend Lady Jones and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. I think there is agreement across the House about the importance of the careers advice and guidance service. It has always been important, but never more so than now, when the world is very complicated. The more you give young people choice, the more you have an obligation to assist them in making effective choices. That is just the world in which we live.

A lot has been said about giving impartial information and advice. I agree entirely. I know that, certainly in the past, some schools and colleges who had a vested interest in keeping young people have not acted as professionally as they ought to have done in that matter. I am absolutely on board about that. However, we have spoken less about how young people make decisions. For me, that is one of the most important things. My experience tells me that giving young people accurate information does not mean that they will make a wise decision. I accept, in this age, and especially with young people and their ability to deal online with information, that we could indeed get a system where the facts of the case-accurate information about the options available to them- could be effectively delivered online. What you cannot do online is work with a young person to make the appropriate decision for them. That bringing together of their attributes, their aspirations, their strengths and their weaknesses and matching them to the information that you have is the essence of guidance and of counselling. I do not see that in either the legislation or the extra information that the Minister has offered.

If truth be told, I do not think that the careers guidance service has ever been as strong as it ought to be. I think it has always struggled to have its voice heard alongside the voice of quite powerful and strong heads over many years. It has always struggled to get in there with schools and hold its own. When I was a teacher, I remember very many caring teachers who did their best and acted professionally to work with young people and help them reach the right conclusion for themselves. To be truthful, when the careers guidance officers came into school and worked face-to-face with these young people, the quality of work that was done was seismically different from what was done with even the best teachers. Working with people, not just to give them information but to help them reach an effective decision, is a skilled job. I do not see how it can be done other than face-to-face, and I worry about it being done by someone without an appropriate qualification. For those reasons, I support the amendments.

5:15 pm
Photo of Lord Morris of Handsworth

Lord Morris of Handsworth (Labour)

My Lords, I add my name to those supporting the group of amendments spoken to by my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I do so because the current provision for face-to-face careers advice preceded one of the dates mentioned in this debate. If I am right, it goes back to the Education Act 1973. It was more than just a passing of an intent; it placed a duty on the local authority to provide support designed to match the needs of the individual student. One of the problems with the Bill in respect of the provision of careers advice is that this statutory right has been downgraded significantly to access, basically, in respect of needs. There is no real provision for quality or indeed quantity assurances. It is a one-size-fits-all provision, based in some instances on an online system.

I see some difficulties in future years. As I understand it, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is also promoting an all-age service of advice and career guidance. Again, though, it is faceless and has no interaction because it is online. It is predicated on a one-size-fits-all culture. The current system is tried, tested and respected. It enthuses and inspires confidence and provides a two-way interaction; it is a critical friend that challenges and motivates. That is as it should be. It is a system that extends parental support to the student who needs that sort of guidance, particularly in circumstances of a one-parent family. That is crucial.

I want to raise a point about the transition. As I understand it, the arrangements currently provided by Connexions end in March 2012 and the new provisions being canvassed in the Bill would not come into force until September 2012. So my question is an obvious one: how will the gap be filled?

We have heard much about social mobility. The only way to ensure that all young people have opportunities to raise their aspirations is for them to receive a first-rate education that enables them to achieve academically and to have access to independent, impartial careers advice and guidance that supports them to make the best decisions and helps them to apply for appropriate post-16 learning opportunities. It is for those reasons that I add my name to the group of the amendments so ably spoken to by my noble friend.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)

My Lords, I am grateful for this chance to return to the issue of careers guidance and the Government's proposal to give schools greater responsibility for securing appropriate support, based on the needs and circumstances of pupils. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, we had a good and extensive debate on this in Committee, and I am grateful to noble Lords, particularly to my noble friends Lady Brinton and Lady Sharp of Guildford, for meeting me and my honourable friend John Hayes recently to discuss some of the areas of their concern.

Perhaps I may briefly set out the context in which we are implementing changes to the delivery of careers guidance. We know that the single most important factor in making sure that young people carry on and prosper in post-16 education-which is what we all want to encourage-is that they do well before they are 16. Only one in 40 students who get five good GCSEs is NEET at any point after the age of 16, compared to one in six of those who do not get five good GCSEs. Without that bedrock of achievement, the potential of adding to that, even with the best advice and guidance in the world, is quite limited. That is why our focus is on what goes on in schools.

I say that to demonstrate why we have chosen to focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning in our schools, and on introducing the pupil premium to help improve the attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, about whom we have already spoken. At a time of economic difficulty, we are moving away from centrally-directed services and have protected school budgets as much as we can. We have given schools greater autonomy and the flexibility to determine the best use of resources for every pupil.

We disagree with the party opposite in seeking to move the focus away from-in the jargon-inputs to outcomes, because we think that it is more important to know how a school or college does by its students than to know precisely what it does. That is the thinking behind the development of new destinations measures. We think that these will show parents and pupils how well a school or college does in helping its students on to positive destinations, whether it is in further education, higher education, apprenticeships or work. We think that those will act as a powerful tool to help those institutions to make sure they look at everything that leads to positive outcomes, from education through to, and including, careers guidance.

A number of amendments in this group touch upon the important issue of the quality of careers guidance and how we can help to ensure that what is available to schools is good quality. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, about the importance of that. There is no disagreement between us. Careers guidance should be of the highest standard and offered free from the influence of any particular organisation. That is a point that was raised by a number of noble Lords who, I know, have been concerned that sometimes schools have steered children in a particular direction and not towards apprenticeships or other rival institutions.

The national careers service will be required to meet a robust, high quality standard and all providers involved in the service will be expected to be accredited to the standard by April 2013. It was recently announced that this quality standard would be the revised matrix standard, and that will assist schools in making well informed decisions about which providers they want to work with.

Alongside this, the Careers Profession Alliance is taking forward work to increase the professionalism of the careers workforce in response to the recommendations of the Careers Profession Task Force. An online register for members who have reached a level 6 qualification, have agreed to uphold a code of ethics and have demonstrated a strong commitment to continuing professional development, is expected to be introduced in April 2012.

We spoke in Committee of the need to reduce generally the burden of guidance from the centre. There were previously 169 pages of guidance on careers for schools, and we want to reduce that. However, having listened to contributions in Committee, I recognise that it is sensible to allow scope for focused guidance to be issued to schools to support them in fulfilling their new duty. After considering the concerns raised by my noble friends Lady Sharp of Guildford and Lady Brinton at a recent meeting, I want to go further and ensure that the statutory guidance highlights to schools how they can be confident that the external support they are buying in is of the desired quality. The guidance will contain a clear description of the quality standard for careers guidance for schools in commissioning independent advice and support for their pupils. I will certainly commit to consulting on that guidance.

Photo of Baroness Brinton

Baroness Brinton (Liberal Democrat)

Is the Minister talking about statutory guidance here? He did not use the phrase "statutory guidance" at the beginning of the debate on this clause.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)

Yes, it is statutory guidance. I thought I had used the phrase; forgive me. I welcome the views of my noble friends and other noble Lords, who I know feel strongly about this issue. We have also confirmed that a thematic review of careers guidance will take place following the commencement of these provisions. That will look carefully at the quality of provision and the extent to which this has an effect on pupils' understanding of the options available to them as they progress through school.

The second main area of debate has been the question of how careers guidance is delivered. While recognising that young people receive advice from many different sources, and the fact that many young people say that they prefer to get information online, I accept the case made this afternoon by my noble friends and noble Lords opposite, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. Pupils can benefit enormously from support offered in person that raises their aspirations and guides them on to a successful path. This is particularly true of those young people who are disadvantaged and may not have access to a social network of people in a range of jobs, who come from a background of intergenerational unemployment, as has been mentioned, or who have special needs or are learners with learning difficulties or disabilities.

Given that, I am also happy to commit to highlighting this issue in statutory guidance and making it clear to schools that young people have much to gain from a face-to-face exploration of their skills, abilities and interests, which can help them think through the learning and career options available to them. I understand the point that was made about apprenticeships in particular, and the lack of knowledge about them. We are all keen, on all sides of this House, to encourage take-up of apprenticeships. We will place a clear expectation on schools that they should secure face-to-face careers guidance where it is the most suitable support, in particular for disadvantaged children and those who have special needs or are learners with learning difficulties and disabilities. These messages in the guidance will be further strengthened by the sharing of effective practice and evidence about what works. Underpinning both the quality assurance of careers guidance and our statutory guidance to schools will be a clear, outcome-based measure of the effectiveness of schools in meeting their new duty. Those are the destinations measures that I talked about earlier, which will provide a powerful incentive to provide high-quality advice.

We have also talked about the age range, which is important. Clause 27 requires schools to secure access to independent careers guidance for their pupils from the start of the academic year in which they turn 14- year 9-to the end of the year in which they turn 16, year 11. The case has been made by a number of noble Lords on all sides of the House that we should extend this age range upwards to include young people studying in school sixth forms and colleges. It has also been suggested that we should extend the age range down to year 8. There is a clear case for independent careers guidance for 16 to 18 year-olds in schools and the further education sector, particularly as we move towards the raising of the participation age. We have committed to consulting on extending the age range upwards. We can make that change through secondary legislation once the consultation is complete.

Similarly, I accept that an argument can be made for commencing the duty from year 8, when the first major decisions relating to post-14 options are taken. Again, I make it clear that we will consult fully on this issue and we will be able to make changes through secondary legislation once that consultation is complete. Just to be clear, that consultation will be complete in time to extend the age range of the duty by regulations from September 2012.

As regards the important point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, we are working with local authorities and others on the transitional arrangements. It is clear that we want them to carry on with those until the new duty is put in place in September 2012.

I know that I will not be able to convince all noble Lords about the course of action that the Government are taking, but I hope that I have reassured them about some of the steps we have taken to respond to those concerns. With that, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, may feel able to withdraw the amendment.

5:30 pm
Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (Crossbench)

Before the noble Lord sits down, will he address the point I made that careers advice for girls should be as wide-ranging as possible?

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)

My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will forgive me for not responding to that point. We clearly want to see high-quality careers guidance for girls as well as for boys. We expect schools to want to do that. The noble Baroness's particular concern may be to make sure that some of the career options that schools have not traditionally thought of as being suitable for girls get full consideration. I agree with her that one would very much want to see that.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour)

My Lords, once again we have had a very good debate on careers. I think that noble Lords from around the House have recognised the need for us to provide an improved careers service for young people, particularly in the current economic climate. However, we have some disagreements that the Minister has not fully addressed. The case was very well made about the great advantages of face-to-face counselling for young people. As my noble friend Lady Morris so ably said, that is very different from providing information, which you can, of course, do online. Guidance and counselling need to be done on a face-to-face basis. Regrettably, the Minister did not sufficiently address that issue. We argue that it is a fundamental right for all young people. It is very hard to differentiate and start picking out categories of those who are disadvantaged or at risk as being the only categories who are entitled to that face-to-face counselling, which is such a big issue in terms of young people's future prospects. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said that in a perfect world we would all have face-to-face provision. I do not think that we need to talk about a perfect world here; it is too big a fundamental right for young people. It seems to us that it is reasonable and necessary rather than something to which we are foolishly aspiring.

As regards qualifications, the case has been that the provision of careers advice should be regarded as a skilled job. I accept what the Minister has said about organisations being accredited in the future. However, he did not address the point that I made about the people employed by those organisations. If we do not require everyone who is providing the face-to-face careers advice to have a qualification, I very much fear that, as I said, this task will be tagged on to the duties of teachers or will be carried out by people employed at short notice or who are on temporary contracts, although the organisations which employ them are accredited. Again, I argue that the Minister has not addressed the fundamental issue of qualifications.

As regards the guidance to schools, the Minister has, as we have said, written to us about the advice that he is going to send out. He has said that he will consult on that. However, the letter asks schools to consider providing face-to-face guidance for pupils who are disadvantaged and talks about,

"working with local authorities to identify young people who are at risk".

To my mind, that does not provide any guarantees for any of those categories. We are being asked to jump blindly into a careers guidance provision on which we do not have sufficient guarantees and which is not sufficiently robust.

There is too much at stake here. We feel that we have had too few guarantees. There is too much reliance on research and on data about how the new careers advice service will be monitored in the future, but young people need a provision and guarantees now. They need guarantees that they will have access to someone on a personalised basis and that they will be given advice by a qualified practitioner. We do not accept that the Minister has given sufficient guarantees. I wish to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 57C.

Division on Amendment 57C

Contents 169; Not-Contents 233.

Amendment 57C disagreed.

Division number 1

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Amendments 57CA and 57D not moved.

Amendment 58

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

58: Clause 27, page 28, line 25, after "apprenticeships," insert-

"( ) is provided by a person who attends the premises, and has a relevant qualification in careers guidance who meets such quality assurance standards as the Secretary of State shall require,"

5:49 pm
Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour)

My Lords, notwithstanding the fact that my noble friend Lady Brinton is not moving this amendment, I should like to do so in her place. The amendment raises fundamental issues, which we debated previously, about the need for someone to be on the premises and to have a relevant qualification in careers guidance. We believe that those are both fundamental features and should be provided. I therefore wish to test the opinion of the House.

Division on Amendment 58

Contents 161; Not-Contents 225.

Amendment 58 disagreed.

Division number 2

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Amendments 59 to 61 not moved.

Amendment 61A

Moved by Lord Avebury

61A: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause-

"Collective worship

(1) Section 70 of SSFA 1998 (requirements relating to collective worship) is amended as follows.

(2) For subsection (1) substitute-

"(1) Subject to section 71-

(a) each pupil in attendance at a foundation or voluntary school of a religious character shall on each school day attend an act of collective worship;

(b) community, foundation or voluntary schools which are not of a religious character and Academies that are not religiously designated may hold acts of collective worship at the discretion of the governors.

(1A) Governors should be under an obligation to consider representations made to them by pupils and the parents of pupils as to whether or not schools or Academies hold acts of collective worship under subsection (1)(b)."

(3) In subsection (2) for "community, foundation or voluntary school" substitute "foundation or voluntary school of a religious character".

(4) In subsection (3) for "required" substitute "permitted".

(5) In paragraphs 1 to 4 of Schedule 20 to SSFA 1998 (collective worship) for "required" substitute "permitted"."

6:04 pm
Photo of Lord Avebury

Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat)

I declare an interest as an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, to which I am greatly indebted for its advice on the amendments. First, I must thank the Minister and the Bill team for the time and efforts that they have devoted to correspondence and meetings on the collective worship issue since we discussed it in Committee three months ago-although there has been no meeting of minds since we began this process.

The Minister's main argument for the retention of this provision is that it is a long-standing school tradition. That is indeed so. It goes back at least as long as the Education Act 1944 and, as far as I know, even further than that. That underlines the fact that England is a very different society today from what it was towards the end of the Second World War. Eighteen per cent of the population now reports having no religion. Of the 72 per cent who identify themselves as Christians, fewer than one-third say that they actively practice their religion; that falls to just over one in five among those aged 16 to 29. The number of people who attend church at least once a month has declined every year from 2004 onwards. Even more telling, the number of confirmations has slumped from 140,000 in 1950 to 25,000 in 2009.

It is time for the long-standing tradition which no longer reflects the beliefs of more than a tiny fraction of the people to be jettisoned. The Minister goes on to say that the act of collective worship makes a valuable contribution to the spiritual and moral development of all young people and that that view is shared by many parents who still expect their children to understand the meaning of worship. That children should learn the moral and ethical standards which are common to mankind is unarguable, but that they should be linked to particular rituals based on obeisance to a supernatural being for which there is no scientific evidence lessens the respect and credibility of the standards themselves.

Humankind should have advanced to the stage where moral principles should be seen as essential in themselves, without the need to be reinforced by threats or rewards from above. We need kindness, compassion, toleration, right speech, action and livelihood so that we can live in harmony with each other and mitigate the unsatisfactoriness of the human condition. The ills that we suffer are the consequences of neglecting those truths, not because we have failed to pay respect to God or Allah.

That is not to say that if a majority of parents still want to have an act of worship at the beginning of the school day, their wishes should be ignored, but the converse is also true. If the majority would prefer that morals be taught without an accompanying religious ritual, they should be allowed to have their way.

In a poll commissioned by the BBC in September, 64 per cent of parents questioned said that their children did not attend daily worship and 70 per cent of them said that they were not in favour of enforcing the law which prescribes that act. The most recent Ofsted report on collective worship eight years ago found that 40 per cent of the schools inspected did not comply with the legal requirements and that in the remainder there were tensions and difficulties. It states that few secondary schools met fully the legal requirements for collective worship. Indeed, detailed examination of the evidence from 96 full inspections revealed that not a single school complied fully with the letter of the law. Revealingly, one school in Greater London was highlighted where, instead of having to exercise their legal right to withdraw their children from worship, parents were asked to opt in, resulting in 800 of the 900 pupils withdrawing from collective worship.

It is no wonder that Ofsted has not returned to the subject since then. It was already embarrassing enough to have to reveal such widespread non-compliance with the law, and if a similar inquiry was conducted today, no doubt the finding would be even more remarkable. In 2004, David Bell, then head of Ofsted, abandoned asking inspectors to take provision for worship into account in their reports after running into what he called a firestorm of protest from schools over the issue. He claimed that 76 per cent of secondary schools were failing to provide the daily worship. The Minister said that where schools' non-compliance with a statutory duty is considered to be having a negative impact on pupils' spiritual or moral, social and cultural development, inspectors will reflect this in their assessment of the school. The fact that none has done so in the last eight years must indicate that inspectors are unanimous in concluding that the absence of worship has not had a negative effect on pupils' development.

An analysis of SACRE reports undertaken by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in 2004 similarly found that compliance with legal requirements for the daily act of collective worship was "a significant problem" for secondary schools. They reported a sense of impotence, as there appeared to be neither any way of ensuring compliance nor of changing the law. There was a common concern that having unworkable statutory requirements puts schools in an impossible position.

We have ignored this situation for too long. As far back as 1994, a National Association of Head Teachers survey of 2,346 schools found that seven out of 10 heads said that they were unable to satisfy a requirement to hold a daily act of Christian worship in their schools. The NAHT stated that,

"schools cannot be expected to accept responsibility for promoting daily religious observance when parents themselves do not practise it" .

A member of the association's executive went further, saying:

"The law is being flouted. We are living a lie and the nation is living a lie".

Without the ability to opt out of worship head teachers, acting in the best interests of their pupils, are being forced to act outside the law. Despite this, obviously there has been a high level of non-compliance, particularly in community secondary schools, for the best part of 20 years.

Such widespread flouting of these outdated and discriminatory obligations brings the law itself into disrepute. The first of these amendments proposes therefore that governors should be free not to hold acts of collective worship, taking into account representations made to them on the matter by pupils and their parents. This will enable us to comply with the spirit of both Article 18 ICCPR and Article 9 ECHR on freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which are violated by ramming worship down the throats of non-deist pupils in community schools.

There would still be acts of collective worship in schools where the majority of parents and pupils want them. And the second amendment-Amendment 61B-makes these acts optional so that the minority of pupils who do not believe in worship are not forced to attend them. The legal requirement for pupils to take part in collective worship on every school day is a clear breach of young people's rights under not only the ICCPR and the ECHR but also under Article 14.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. If my noble friend cannot defend the imposition of religious behaviour on a child who disagrees with it, he has no option but to accept this amendment.

The third amendment, Amendment 61C, is an alternative to the second, and less satisfactory in that it extends the opt-out from collective worship available to sixth-form pupils at mainstream schools and maintained special schools only to pupils with sufficient maturity, understanding and intelligence to make an informed decision about whether to withdraw themselves. That was the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights which pointed out that the UK is under an obligation to assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting him or her and to give those views due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

This obligation finds expression in UK law in the concept of Gillick competence, according to which a child should be treated as legally competent to make their own decisions if they have "sufficient maturity and intelligence" to understand the nature and implications of their decision.

I do not imagine for a moment that the Minister will be able to accept any of these amendments, knowing from our correspondence that he is not prepared to give an inch. In any case he will be on a tight rein from the Secretary of State, who showed his colours when he wrote in the Catholic Heraldthat Catholic schools should avoid "unsympathetic meddling" by secularists if they converted to academies. So even if he was convinced by the arguments, my noble friend could not make the smallest concession. Recognising this, but respecting my noble friend as someone who is fair-minded and rational, I ask him to seek the views of teachers, parents and pupils on the reforms that we are debating today, and to come back with amendments of his own at Third Reading if he finds that my arguments are overwhelmingly endorsed by those who are being forced to take part in rituals they do not agree with.

By all means continue the valuable tradition that assembly is a time for considering the moral and ethical values of our civilisation-and for emphasising in particular the values of inclusion, tolerance and respect mentioned by my noble friend in his letter. Let us do that in a way that is itself inclusive and not one that requires children and teachers to participate in behaviour that excludes many of them at the beginning of the school day. I beg to move.

6:15 pm
Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden

Baroness Turner of Camden (Labour)

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Avebury in the amendment he has just moved. As he has pointed out, the law as it stands is the legacy of a society unrecognisable from the pluralistic Britain today where citizens hold a wide variety of religious beliefs-including no religious belief. This Bill presents an opportunity to reform an outdated and overly prescriptive law. The amendments, which I think are reasonable and moderate, are intended to offer greater freedom and choice in regard to worship in schools.

While parents have the right to withdraw their child from collective worship, for many parents this is not a satisfactory option as they feel it is unfair to exclude and separate their children from classmates; children often do not realise while they are being excluded, so it is not always a very good solution. Children themselves have a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion under both Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 14.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is not for the state to impose worship on children, regardless of whether the school they are attending has a religious ethos or not-particularly if it does not have a religious ethos. The amendments would at least ensure that conducting an act of worship was made optional for schools without a religious designation. Amendment 61B would make the attendance at worship optional for children.

Amendment 61C would lower the age at which pupils may withdraw themselves from collective worship-from the sixth form as it is now to a default age of 15. That would at least bring the law closer to the advice of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Our arguments for older pupils' self-withdrawal were accepted in principle by the previous Government, but they set the age limit at sixth-form pupils. The amendment uses age 15 as a default age, but does allow this to be overridden in exceptional cases. That seems to me to be a more reasonable age than sticking to the sixth form as provided for in current legislation.

Particularly in multicultural areas, the holding of any kind of religious activity is bound to upset someone. We have been informed of at least one head teacher who resigned because of being unable to reconcile the demands of the parents of many religions on the one hand and the law on the other. The amendments would not impinge on schools of a religious character. We are simply seeking in the amendments of the noble Lord to try to ensure that there is in future a proper and reasonable choice in regard to worship in schools. I commend these amendments to the House.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington

Baroness Trumpington (Conservative)

My Lords, I was married to the headmaster of a Methodist boarding school for many years, including during the 1960s, which was not exactly an easy time for any teacher to be associated with boys-or girls for that matter. There was daily chapel for all the pupils and I remember that, following a governors meeting, to which of course I was not invited, some of the governors came up to me and asked whether I favoured having non-compulsory chapel every day. I replied-and I have not changed my view since-that it did not matter if pupils were bored, did not like going to chapel or were not interested in religious matters at the age of 15, 16 or perhaps even 17. That daily event gave each pupil a background to which they could return in later life. It was very important to have that little base of knowledge of which they could make use when they had really grown up, and I hold that view today.

Photo of The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds (Bishop)

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, for their characteristic clarity in putting their arguments. However, as someone who frequently attends collective worship in both religious foundations and community schools, I have to say that the picture they have presented of our education system today is simply not one that I recognise.

These amendments, were we to pass them, would create a rift between schools with a religious foundation and those which do not have such a foundation, and that is inimical to the whole way in which the maintained education system in this country has been established. Indeed, proposed new subsection (2) in Amendment 61A seems to withdraw the right of parents to remove their children from worship within a school with a religious background, and I would deeply regret the withdrawal of that right. I believe that there should be a right to withdraw pupils from collective worship and, if that right were removed, Church of England schools might be less able to encourage local community integration-something on which I believe they have a very good record.

The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, spoke about how our society has become much more multicultural over the last generation. One way in which that has been encouraged and supported has been through the work of faith schools. Many Church of England schools have significant numbers of Muslim pupils. Indeed, in hundreds of them more than 80 per cent of the pupils are Muslim. Through the constructive and positive use of the law as it stands, they have been able to integrate those pupils with pupils from Christian backgrounds and pupils from families with no faith background. The danger is that, if we split community schools from those with a religious foundation, we shall create a more segregated system within our country. Most Church of England schools are not in any way segregated; they are primary schools which work with their local village. The fact that a very small number of children are withdrawn from worship seems to indicate that parents, including those who do not themselves take part in Christian worship or worship in the tradition of other faiths, are willing for their children to be present at worship. They see it as being important to the life, development and growth of their children.

So far as worship in community schools is concerned, Ofsted reports high levels of compliance with the law and high levels of quality of worship, particularly in the primary sector. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, that is less the case in the secondary sector, and the Church of England stands ready to provide whatever help it can to improve the quality of acts of worship within that sector. There is a good deal of excellent practice that can be pointed to, although it is certainly true that secondary schools find the situation more difficult than do primary schools.

We do not want to marginalise worship or spirituality within the life of our schools. We recognise the need for, and place of, worship within our own proceedings at the beginning of each day here in this House. When the nation faces a time of crisis or indeed of joy and delight, it tends to do so in terms of prayer. Children need to know what prayer is about, and one of the best ways for that to happen is through the worship that takes place in both church schools and community schools.

I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that Amendment 61C was undesirable. It seems to speak of an extraordinary decision which someone has to take regarding whether a 15 year-old has the maturity to decide whether he or she should attend worship. That seems to be completely unworkable and we should certainly not go in that direction.

Photo of Lord Avebury

Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat)

I am sorry to interrupt the right reverend Prelate. I said that Amendment 61C was less preferable than Amendment 61B but the reason for tabling it was that it was in accordance with the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Photo of The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds (Bishop)

I still think that the amendment is undesirable and I think that the noble Lord does so, too.

The main point is that within the maintained sector we have a dual system in a country where more than 70 per cent of people describe themselves as Christian, and it serves very well the duality of purpose in terms of the whole development of the child. It is a system that has led to significant degrees of integration within our communities, and much of that has been led by faith schools. I hope that we shall reject these amendments and that we shall do so in the cause of community integration.

Photo of Baroness Flather

Baroness Flather (Conservative)

My Lords, I should like to make a few points on this subject. I think that we should turn the issue round a bit and ask ourselves what the 15 year-old derives from morning collective worship. I heard what the right reverend Prelate said about primary schools. It is much more likely that children at primary school will accept whatever is said to them, but these days in secondary school children are open to a lot of experiences, which was not the case, say, 20 or 30 years ago. I think that we need to see whether morning collective worship is still relevant to children. The question regarding these amendments is: are they relevant to young people? They are of course relevant to a Christian country but at the moment the practice of Christianity in this country is not really in your face. Falling levels of church attendance and so on is happening all around us.

From my days at school I remember that we always met for assembly in the morning. Everyone had to go. We did not have worship. We had something that taught us about life, behaviour, ethics, and right and wrong, but it was not geared to a particular faith. I still believe it would be far more useful if all the young people in a secondary school came together and discussed issues that are relevant to their everyday life, not something that is many steps away from them.

I have also always felt that the teaching or nurturing of faith is the job not of the school but of the church or of the home. I think we are now the only country that has collective worship in schools. As far as faith schools are concerned, obviously one cannot say to them "Do not have collective worship", and I would be the last person to say that to a faith school. However, where the school is not a faith school but a state-funded, normal school, it is time to take account of what the children need to learn in terms of their lives, how they are going to lead their lives and what they should or should not be doing. They should have examples, with people coming in from outside to tell them about it. I would like to see prisoners come into schools at collective assembly-not collective worship-to tell them about their experiences and why it would be a bad thing to end up like them. If my children went to something like that, they would derive far more from it than from a standard faith-type assembly.

I support at least that part of the amendment that would provide that, in state schools with no faith, there should be not collective worship but collective assemblies with guidance on how to live your life.

6:30 pm
Photo of Lord Touhig

Lord Touhig (Labour)

My Lords, we seem to be repeating the arguments we had in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has taken the argument a little further. His description of forcing worship down throats was exaggerated and perhaps, on reflection, the noble Lord might think it was not worthy of him.

Currently, it is a legal requirement that all schools should have a collective act of broadly Christian worship. Parents who wish to withdraw their children from this collective act of worship have a legal right to do so if they wish. I can speak only from the perspective of Catholic schools in this country. Thirty per cent of pupils in Catholic schools are not Catholic, yet only 0.05 per cent of the parents of these children ask for them to be withdrawn from the collective act of worship in school.

I remember at Committee stage saying that the collective act of worship was a visual recognition of the Christian heritage of this country. It enables children, whether of faith or not, to engage and understand the history of this country because, whatever we might say, the history of this country is very much connected with our Christian heritage. That is a fact whether you are a Christian or not. England remains a multifaith, mainly Christian, country. Imposing a secularised approach to assemblies would mean a minority would now decide on these matters. With great respect to the noble Lord, who told us at Committee that he is a confirmed secularist, we all have to co-exist-those of faith and those not of faith. It seems to me that the best way to do that is to allow the existing law to continue, and people who do not wish their children to take part in the collective act of worship need not let them do so.

The right reverend Prelate made a point in his speech about the fact that in this House we have an act of worship-we had one at 2.30 pm. If it is good enough for Members of this House to take part in a collective act of worship, why should the children of this country not take part in a collective act of worship? The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also said that no one should be forced to take part in rituals they do not agree with. We had two new Members introduced to the House this afternoon. Afterwards I heard a few comments from people who said, "Isn't that awful? Shouldn't we get rid of this old ritual?". Yet we all take part in that ritual in order to get into this House. We have to maintain our standards here. If a collective act of worship, from which you can absent yourself if you wish, is acceptable for Members of your Lordships' House, then it is certainly acceptable for schoolchildren in this country.

Photo of Lord Cormack

Lord Cormack (Conservative)

My Lords, I would like briefly to support what the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, just said. We had a very interesting debate in this House last week on the teaching of history in schools. There were divergent views, but there was a general consensus that we owe it to our children to ensure that they have a reasonable grasp of the history of their country. We also owe it to our children that they should have a reasonable grasp of the literature of their country and the civilisation of their country. Ours is a Christian civilisation, which has moulded so much of our literature and our art and which is, indeed, the very fabric of the soul of the nation. In the 2001 census, over 70 per cent of people in the country said that they considered themselves to be Christian, whereas fewer than 20,000 said that they were atheists.

We do have a duty to expose our young people to what I consider to be the truths of the Christian religion but what we must all consider to be the bedrock of our civilisation. If when they leave school they choose to reject that, that is, of course, entirely up to them. They can do so on the basis of mature judgment and of knowledge; one cannot make a decision on the basis of mature judgment and ignorance. Therefore, it is crucial that we give our children the opportunity to know what living in a Christian country is like-a Christian country, the hallmark of which is, and always must be, tolerance and understanding of others who take a different point of view.

We would be moving in a very dangerous direction if we were to accept the amendments, which were so mellifluously moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for whom I have considerable respect, as I have for the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. Lord Touhig made a point about our own act of worship. What was interesting, when we briefly debated this a few months ago, was that sitting by me was one of our Members who is a Hindu, and he particularly said that he felt this was a most important part of the parliamentary day.

I do not like to take the name of a Member who is not present, but there is no more staunch defender of the establishment in this country than the Chief Rabbi, the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who on many occasions has put it on record that he believes that the maintenance of the Church of England and the established church is very important to this country. He believes, as I do, that the teaching of certain truths, certain values, certain issues, is of equal importance. We would be taking a wrong step if we were to be seduced by the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker

Baroness Whitaker (Labour)

My Lords, while I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, I cannot think that in state-funded schools to have a collective act of worship of one faith is the way to implement that. It seems wrong that, again in state-funded schools, the collective assembly should be so devised that some children will be excluded. Worship is not inclusive: it is different for different faiths. Morality can be inclusive. Ethics can be inclusive. As the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, said, the way we live our lives must be included and must reach all children. It seems to me wrong that we should have arrangements that automatically exclude some children. Therefore I support the noble Lord's amendments.

Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside

Lord Hughes of Woodside (Labour)

My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships' House for not being here at the beginning of the debate. I want to make a few remarks in response to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack.

No one is suggesting that the teaching of Christianity should be banned from school. That is not the point at all. The question is whether people should be required to take part in worship. It is all very well for the right reverend Prelate to say that pupils can be excluded, but being excluded puts them aside, apart from everyone else, and makes them feel outcasts. That surely cannot be the intention. One final point is that all sorts of things are taught in school-Greek mythology for example-but nobody expects people to believe it.

Photo of Lord Northbourne

Lord Northbourne (Crossbench)

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, can help me. In his speech he mentioned the universal values that are common to mankind, and also the moral values of our civilisation. Can he tell me where I can find those values set down clearly? This is a very relevant issue. The various revealed religions of the world set out a set of values, whether you like them or not. I have been trying to find a clear definition of the responsibilities of parenthood. I cannot find it.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Labour)

My Lords, I, too, apologise for arriving late through inadvertence. I adopt everything that my noble friend Lord Touhig and the right reverend Prelate said. I say to my noble friend Lady Whitaker that it is not the teaching of one faith but of the faith that has run like a thread through our history, literature and language. To deprive our children of what may be their only opportunity to learn about that faith-

Photo of Baroness Whitaker

Baroness Whitaker (Labour)

I agree with everything that my noble friend says. I have nothing against the teaching of faith. My remarks were directed solely at an act of worship.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Labour)

Perhaps I misunderstood my noble friend. I thought I heard her refer to the teaching of "one faith" as if it were just one among many. Surely the key point is that it is essential for us as British people to learn about our civilisation and history and about the intertwining of the religion that has been sometimes a cause of internecine conflict but always of late something that promotes tolerance and makes us perhaps among the most tolerant peoples in the world. I hope that it will be recognised by the House that if children were to be deprived of what may be their only opportunity to learn an essential part of their history and of their very being as British people, it would be a very sad day.

Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside

Lord Hughes of Woodside (Labour)

I do not know why my noble friend repeats the story that we are trying to stop people understanding the background, history and traditions of this country. Nothing is further from the truth. We are saying that of course one should be able to teach all faiths at any time; we have no problem with that. However, we should not insist on collective worship from which some people are excluded.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal

Baroness Garden of Frognal (Liberal Democrat)

Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of the rules on Report. Members may speak only once to an amendment.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss

Baroness Butler-Sloss (Crossbench)

My Lords, I will say one thing briefly. It is important that we all remember that the Church of England is the established church of this country. That is why we have the Prayers that we have every day. It is appropriate that that should be recognised in schools.

Photo of Lord Lucas

Lord Lucas (Conservative)

My Lords, surely those who regard religion as an infectious and dangerous condition should, in the modern idiom, wish to immunise their children with the mildest possible form of the disease.

Photo of Lord Elton

Lord Elton (Conservative)

My Lords, I will intervene briefly. I, too, apologise for arriving late. I was bending my energies to limit and eventually, I hope, rub out the use of cluster munitions-of which by far the greatest number of victims are children of the age we are talking about, so it was very germane. I understand that the amendment is not designed to stop the teaching of religion but to stop the demonstration of religion as part of the organisation of an institution; namely, the school in which the children are. That is a very valuable practice. The development of habit in early life can be enormously important in later life. I was carried through the most difficult patch of my life by the habit of going to church every Sunday. The impetus of that was enormously valuable. The institution of regular corporate worship, properly conducted, is enormously beneficial to the young. I deplore any attempt either to discontinue it or, as some of these amendments would do, make it impractical.

Noble Lords:

No.

6:45 pm
Photo of Baroness Paisley of St George's

Baroness Paisley of St George's (DUP)

My Lords, there are thousands of parents in our country today who do not have a Bible in their homes and who do not read it to their children. School is the only place where these children are given any light at all into the word of God. This is the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James version of the Holy Bible in the English language. We are Christian country and it is our duty and responsibility to see that the word of God is placed in schools for the benefit of the children. The Psalmist David said:

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path".

If people want proper guidelines for life, they are to be found in the word of God. I leave that with your Lordships tonight.

Photo of The Bishop of Chester

The Bishop of Chester (Bishop)

My Lords, I will clarify one point if I may. I have not spoken before. We on the Bishops' Benches sometimes look alike; I promise that it goes no further. There is a very clear distinction between collective and corporate worship. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to corporate worship. That is not what is provided in schools. The act of collective worship is appropriate to the collection of people who are there. It needs to be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character. In practice, schools with significant numbers of members of other faith communities have managed to work within the degree of flexibility that the law allows, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds suggested. It is very important to realise that this is not ramming worship down people's throats. That is not what school worship is like. It is part of an educational experience and preparation for life. You never know when you will go to a Remembrance Day service, a wedding or to many other places. When the regiment based in Chester came back from Afghanistan for the presentation of medals, the soldiers wanted an act of worship. It was collective worship in the context of the Armed Forces. There are many contexts in life where some experience of collective worship earlier in life is an important preparation.

My second point is that the amendments are too tarred with secularist intent. Probably there is a case at some point for a cool, considered look at the provisions of collective worship. However, it must be done in a way that enhances the spiritual experience of education. This goes much further than religious experience, but religious experience is part of it. The amendments push too quickly in a particular direction. There is a case for a proper review and full consultation in due course. However, let us not be misled. Collective worship is exactly that: worship appropriate to the collection of people who are present.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)

My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Avebury and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, for coming to see me and talk about this and other issues that we will come to later on Report. I thank my noble friend also for setting out the issues and his position with his customary clarity and from a position that we all recognise is one of high principle. He knows from the conversation that we had where the Government stand on these issues, which is pretty much where the previous Government stood. As has been said by a number of noble Lords, our starting point is that the requirement is long-standing. It is difficult to dissociate that from the history of the country and the role that the church has played over a long period in individual schools and also collectively in society.

The Government believe that the experience of collective worship makes a contribution to the spiritual and moral development of young people, not just for those who attend religious schools. Collective worship in schools is different from the worship people choose to attend in a church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship. The purpose of this requirement is not to force pupils or school staff to worship a deity, but rather to understand and experience the benefits that joining together, inspired by the positive values found in Christianity and other religions, can bring to the individual and to the community. The guiding principle is that these arrangements should be flexible and fair to pupils and parents, as well as manageable for schools.

It is a matter of historical fact, as argued by the noble Lords, Lord Touhig and Lord Anderson of Swansea, and by my noble friend Lord Cormack, that the Christian traditions of our country have influenced and underpin our systems of law, justice and democracy. It is true, as has been said, that they have inspired and supported a tolerant and inclusive culture that welcomes and celebrates diversity. In the British Household Survey of 2010, more than 70 per cent of people said that their religion was Christian, and we think it right, therefore, that these values should underpin the ethos of our schools.

The law requires schools to provide collective worship that is relevant to all pupils, no matter what their background or beliefs, which should ensure that collective worship is presented in a way that benefits the spiritual, moral and cultural development of all children and young people. The requirement is for "broadly Christian" provision. It does not preclude the inclusion of other religions or consideration of the values that inform the practice of worship, which are common to many religions, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, rightly pointed out. Schools have the freedom, under the Education Act 1996, to apply for a determination from the local authority if they judge that it is not appropriate for the requirement for collective worship to be of a broadly Christian nature to apply to their school. That safeguard is in place. The Government respect the right of parents-

Photo of Lord Avebury

Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat)

I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend but can he confirm that there cannot be a determination to have no act of collective worship at all where the majority of parents would wish to have that?

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Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)

It is the case. I probably will not get the precise words right but my noble friend Lord Avebury accurately sums up the clause; they could make arrangements for provision to encompass a different religious belief. Parents can withdraw their children-

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Lord Anderson of Swansea (Labour)

Are there precedents for a majority of parents asking that there be no collective act of worship?

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Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)

I am afraid that I do not know specific figures. I understand that overall there appear to be few cases of parents triggering such a thing. If we have better particulars I will send them to the noble Lord.

Parents can withdraw their children from collective worship if they wish to do so. Sixth-form pupils, as we have discussed, have this right. We think that the balance in allowing sixth-formers to decide for themselves whether to attend in line with their increasing maturity and independence is about right. We think that parents should be able to exercise those rights on behalf of children of compulsory school age. We would expect that, in exercising this right, parents would take their child's views into account.

It is a sensitive area in which schools have to balance the rights of parents to have their children educated according to their religious or philosophical belief and those of children who have the right to manifest their own religious belief. They also have the right to express their views on matters that affect them. In practice, we think that schools are able to balance those competing rights and we would expect both parents and schools to take account of the views of children in making such decisions. We believe that schools can and do use the current system for collective worship to make provision for a variety of different perspectives. The situation we have arrived at, which I recognise is unsatisfactory to my noble friend Lord Avebury, is one that successive Governments have considered fair and flexible, and this Government continue to take that view. With that, I hope that my noble friend Lord Avebury will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, it would be quite impossible to do justice to the extensive discussion that we have just been having, but it would be remiss of me not to thank all noble Lords who have taken part, particularly, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, with whom we had a similar discussion in Committee. Noble Lords have raised many different questions related to the collective worship issue, which has enabled us to make it clear that we are not talking about teaching about religions and the knowledge that children should have of the history of this country and the Christian background that we all share. That is part of religious education and we are not arguing that that should not be continued in the same way as it always has been and that it should not be underlined as part of the heritage of this country.

We are talking about a specific issue: whether people should be asked to pray to or worship a particular god at the time of the assembly that takes place at the beginning of the school day. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I would say that most schools-probably a majority-already have discussions on moral and ethical issues at assembly that do not involve prayer or worship. They are breaking the law and do so in a way that conforms to the spirit of the legislation in that children can imbibe knowledge of the background of moral and ethical issues that underline our civilisation. I shall not give a sermon on what those moral and ethical issues are but it is fairly obvious that they include tolerance, kindness, compassion, respect for others and inclusiveness. By imposing the act of worship on children who do not believe in God or who do not wish to take part, we are not being inclusive but are deliberately excluding all those pupils who have a conscientious objection to acts of subjection to a supreme being.

I know that we have not reached the end of this discussion but we are at an intermediate stage when it would be proper for me to ask to test the opinion of the House on this subject. I beg to move.

Division on Amendment 61A called. Division called off after three minutes due to lack of support for the Contents when the Question was put a second time.

Amendment 61A disagreed.

Amendments 61B and 61C not moved.

Amendment 61D

Moved by Lord Willis of Knaresborough

61D: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause-

"Technology in schools

(1) The Secretary of State shall publish a plan detailing the delivery of the use of technology to aid teaching across all subjects in the curriculum, for pupils of all ages, in all maintained schools and Academies.

(2) The plan must be published and laid before Parliament by July 2012."

7:01 pm
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Lord Willis of Knaresborough (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I thought we were voting. I wish to speak to Amendment 61D standing in my name and the names of the noble Lords, Lord Puttnam and Lord Knight.

It is rather odd that we have just had a debate about an issue that has divided opinion since the establishment of early state education with the Forster's Act of 1870 and we still have an enormous amount of confusion as to whether the debate on this amendment is beginning.

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Baroness Garden of Frognal (Liberal Democrat)

For the sake of clarification, the last vote was nullified because no one called "Content" at the three-minute point, and the Not Contents have it. We are now moving on to Amendment 61D, which my noble friend Lord Willis is moving.

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Lord Willis of Knaresborough (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, the history of moving amendments on technology is fraught with danger. It seems rather odd in your Lordships' House that we can have an hour-long debate about whether we should have collective worship and yet in the most technologically advanced nation on earth we cannot decide whether we have had a vote. Nevertheless, we will move on.

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Baroness Garden of Frognal (Liberal Democrat)

I apologise again to my noble friend, but there is so much noise in the Chamber that it is quite difficult to hear what he is saying. I invite noble Lords either to come in and listen to the debate or perhaps to leave quietly so that we can continue with Amendment 61D.

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Lord Willis of Knaresborough (Liberal Democrat)

I am very grateful to my noble friend. The fact that the House is so packed to hear this amendment on technology brightens my soul.

When the noble Lords, Lord Puttnam and Lord Knight, and I raised this amendment in Committee, we were hopeful that the Minister would reflect on the issues raised and the importance of technology in our schools, and bring back government amendments on Report that indicated that this Government listened to one of the most important technologies driving our education system, our society and our economy. However, there is not a word in this piece of legislation about how we empower our young people to go to a technological society where they can take full advantage of all that pertains.

In responding to the debate in Committee, my noble friend the Minister said:

"We are talking to a number of interested parties-school leaders, professional bodies, educational charities, industry, academics and other experts-about how the department should take forward its thinking about technology".-[Official Report, 13/7/11; col. GC 306.]

Sadly we have not had a single word about where those discussions have led. We have not had a single idea from the Government as to whether technology has a place in a modern UK education system in the 21st century. It is enormously disappointing that we still have from the Government a view that technology, particularly information communications technology, is a distraction from the central aim of raising standards. It is absolutely essential to the raising of standards to have proper technology and technology policies in our schools.

We are not promoting the case for ICT as an alternative to conventional subject matter or pedagogy but as an integral part of delivering a world class, 21st century curriculum. Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, recently reminded us that,

"Lewis Carroll didn't just write one of the classic fairytales of all time. He was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford. James Clerk Maxwell was described by Einstein as among the best physicists since Newton-but was also a published poet".

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who sadly died very recently, said:

"The Macintosh turned out so well because the people working on it were musicians, artists, poets and historians who also happened to be excellent computer scientists".

This amendment is about digital inclusion. It is about encouraging schools to meet their responsibilities to generations of young people who access ICT as both a tool and a discipline, and not to disadvantage themselves-or indeed the nation-as they move forward. However, it is so much more than just a pious and well-meaning amendment. All the evidence from studies from the Royal Society, the EPSRC, the Times Educational Supplement, the Government's own department, major corporations, and charities such as futurelab and the e-Learning Foundation, of which the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and I are privileged to be the respective chairs, emphasise the link between the use of ICT, educational motivation and achievement and future economic success and well-being. Not a single reputable study points to our young people or our society being disadvantaged as a result of access to high-quality ICT. You have to go to parts of the United States to get that view.

However, some 4 million people in Britain today are not online and are usually the most disadvantaged. Forty-nine per cent of those without access come from the lowest socioeconomic groups, and 70 per cent are in social housing. Thirty-eight per cent of those who are currently unemployed are not online, despite the fact that 70 per cent of all jobs are advertised on line. That is a very cruel deception. Ministers must understand that the majority of those households will have children, who, without our support, will be part of tomorrow's statistics.

One million children in our schools today cannot get online at home. Yet so much of the work they are being set in schools, and so many of the projects which they are being asked to complete, rely upon them being able to get online and do their work in that way. By encouraging schools to be proactive-particularly in recognising that an IT policy must extend into the home, where often the greatest disparity exists-the Government can make children and their schools part of a solution to support a wide range of government objectives.

This amendment is not a plea for special funding. I have not mentioned funding once, and nor have my noble friends. Encouraging schools to use their pupil premium would go a long way to meet both school and home access requirements. However, it requires the statutory authority of this amendment to say to schools, "Technology should be at the heart of what you do, and you need to report every year on that to the Secretary of State, as well as to your pupils' parents and to your governors".

Finally, this amendment would also address one of the real challenges facing our schools and colleges: that of addressing the shortfall in the number of students studying computing across the UK. According to the current Royal Society study, from 2006 to 2009 we saw a fall of 33 per cent in the number of students studying ICT at GCSE level. There has been a similar fall since 2003 of one-third of students studying ICT at A2-level. We have also seen a 57 per cent reduction in A2 level students studying computer science. Such dramatic falls in numbers of students going into our universities to study computer science are having a seriously detrimental effect on our ability to produce the sort of graduates we need for our modern economy. That alone is a reason for us to put ICT and technology at the heart of delivering the 21st century curriculum.

I hope that, as this will not cost the Minister anything but will win him friends throughout the nation, this is one amendment about which the Minister can simply say to the House, "I accept the wisdom of your words". I beg to move.

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Lord Puttnam (Labour)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for keeping this ball on the park. Like many other Members of your Lordships' House, I have a number of interests in the education sector, all of which appear in the register of interests.

The omission of a clause such as this in the completed Bill in my judgment-and I put this to the Minister-would be literally mind-blowing: not a small omission, not something that has just slipped by, but a truly mind-blowing omission. That is why I support what I think is a very modest, simple and very easily deliverable objective, as laid out marvellously by the noble Lord, Lord Willis.

My contribution will concern the very serious issue of employability, possibly pre-empting one or two debates that will come up later on Report about jobs. During the summer break, I read a book by Jim Clifton, the chair of Gallup, entitled The Coming Jobs War. It is drawn from the largest survey Gallup had ever undertaken in its history. The view expressed in the book, and the conclusion that Mr Clifton comes to, is that the relationship between ICT skills and jobs in the developed world is absolutely everything. There will be winners and losers, and unless this Government -this was to an extent true of the Government previously-get a real grip on this issue, we can only be among the losers in the next 10 to 20 years.

I would like to offer a few statistics that may alarm the Government. If they have different statistics, I would be very happy to hear from the Minister. Only 9 per cent of ICT classes in this country are taught by teachers with any relevant qualifications. That means that 91 per cent of young people in this country are being taught so-called ICT by teachers with no qualifications whatever in the subject. I am not sure what other subjects fall into this category. I cannot believe that there are very many, and I cannot believe that a civilised nation would let this go on for very long when it knows that its entire employability framework for the next 10 to 20 years is reliant upon success in this area.

I also want to explain exactly what ICT is. If one does not understand the key component of it-that is, code-then ICT, taught badly, is nothing more than typing. It is the equivalent of teaching someone 30 years ago to change a typewriter ribbon and use a bit of Tipp-Ex. The key to ICT is to understand coding, and everything that goes into the creation of what appears on a computer screen. If we do not know how to do that, we cannot compete, and we cannot offer any alternative opportunities to develop the kind of companies that the United States has successfully developed, and other parts of the developing world are racing past us in developing.

The important point, which I must get across, is that coding can be taught only through and by the use of technology. That is what makes the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, so very important; there is no way of teaching this other than through technology.

I will give an example of developments that are taking place-in a sense, this is the good news. One website alone, the Times Educational Supplement website, now has 1.6 million registered members. It is growing at the rate of 50,000 registered members per month. Fifty per cent of those registered members are in the UK. The rest are spread across another 190 countries. This is stimulating 6.3 million downloads per month by teachers in this country and overseas. At present, roughly 10,000 to 12,000 lesson plans are being posted on to the web through this one site alone. It is estimated that at the end of the school year that figure will be at least 20,000 per month-from one site.

Why have I dwelt on all these figures? I feel that during the time that I worked for the noble Baroness, Lady Morris-and I was at the department for a number of years-we always sought solutions to improve teaching and learning that could be delivered at scale. That is what bedevilled us; it was not a lack of initiatives, or a lack of good ideas, or this school or that, or groups of schools doing well. We could not find access to scale the type of changes we were desperately keen to make. I would argue that now, through technology, we at last have it in our grasp. We have teachers helping teachers-the online equivalent of subject-specific organisations that thrived until 20 years ago. Those subject-specific organisations were the protectors and supporters of standards. When they died, we had no way-and at present still have none-of supporting and guaranteeing standards. Through ICT within schools, we can have that ability all over again.

I will make one last point. Over the summer I read a remarkable book, called Now You See It, by Cathy Davidson. She is a professor in education at Duke University in the United States. She makes an unarguable case for using recent knowledge in brain science in order, as she puts it, to,

"transform the way we live, work and learn"-

most particularly, the way we learn. This country is brilliantly gifted with scientists. We have always been at the cutting edge of change. Why on earth are we allowing this complete revolution in the way that young people learn to pass us by? I strongly support this amendment.

7:15 pm
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Baroness Butler-Sloss (Crossbench)

My Lords, I very strongly support this amendment. I have a six year-old American grandson, and I have read his kindergarten report. He was making good progress with the computer and the iPad when he was not yet six. We have to keep in touch, and we have to be there. It is very important that this amendment should be supported.

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Lord Knight of Weymouth (Labour)

My Lords, I support this amendment. In doing so, I refer noble Lords to my entry in the register of interests, as I have a number of clients who work in this area.

We are world leaders in this country in the use of technology in education. That is why more than 70 education Ministers from around the world come to the largest conference of education Ministers that happens annually anywhere in the world, held in London, alongside the BETT fair. It is hugely important that we sustain that position, as others are catching up, and are catching up very fast.

I welcome some of the comments made recently by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, around technology, in particular what he said about iTunes U and the Khan Academy and how they are, in his words, transforming what is going on in the classroom. That is welcome because over the past year or so, those working in the field of technology in education have been worried that the Government have taken their eye off the ball and want to see some leadership. What this amendment is calling for in respect of a plan from the Secretary of State will give, not a formal direction but a lead, to schools about how they use the money that has now devolved to them in this area.

As we have heard, ICT is hugely important. We managed to justify the £300 million the Treasury needed to part with on the country's behalf for programmes such as the Home Access Programme that I was responsible for in government by using data from, for example, the Institute for Fiscal Studies. That showed that access to a computer at home increases performance in science GCSEs by two grades. PISA did some analysis on the use of technology which shows that over time it has increased maths scores in countries around the world. As a result of the Home Access Programme and the evaluation that the department quietly published a few months ago, we have seen the impact in terms of extended learning at home. By having access to technology at home, people are spending longer on their homework and find doing their homework more engaging. I would point noble Lords who are interested in this towards the example of the Essa Academy in Bolton, which has now got every child an iPod Touch and is rolling out more iPads. The learning that is going on in that academy has led to its results over the two years it has been in place for five GCSEs at A* to C rise from around 40 per cent to 100 per cent, and if you include English and Maths, from 28 per cent to 56 per cent. So some significant gains have been delivered in part thanks to technology. The academy certainly attributes technology to its success.

It is important that the Government should continue to extend their activities around the training of teachers and leaders because we know that if they are not in place, any investment in technology does not get you anywhere. You absolutely have to have them in place. The development of resources, home access and how best practice and next practice are spread are also important. Currently, we have a vacuum. Very early on, Michael Gove decided to abolish Becta, the agenda that provided a lead in this area in securing significant savings. That is his prerogative and fine if he wants to do it. But it meant that there was a hiatus in which people felt that there was no leadership in the area, although we may be beginning to see it now. At the same time, the role of local authorities has diminished and their funding to provide a lead on this locally has also fallen. Authorities have largely let all their IT specialists go, which means that they have now all become self-employed IT consultants. A profusion of people are knocking on headteachers' doors offering advice, but often with vested interests around particular technology solutions. It is difficult for heads to get through the confusion that follows, and certainly to secure the procurement savings that Becta was able to deliver.

A plan is also necessary not just to fill that vacuum, but to point us towards the potential new ways of working which technology has delivered efficiently in so many different industries. In a challenging fiscal environment, if we can deliver more efficiencies in education, I am sure that that is to be welcomed. Assessment takes up a significant part of any school's budget, and all sorts of innovations in this area can be secured through technology. As I mentioned, in procurement we are seeing the expansion of digital educational publishing. That can be encouraged or not, depending on whether we see some leadership. My noble friend Lord Puttnam talked about resources that are freely available through the TSL Education site, and there are other sources too. A rapid explosion is taking place that is rooted in this country. We are exporting our education around the world, but we really need to take advantage of it here.

There are all sorts of things that can be done in terms of school system improvement on the supply side, and that is what the Government feel comfortable with because that is what they control, but we can also stimulate much more self-sustaining school improvement through a demand-side set of reforms. It is not just about choice and the decision about which school your child will go to, made once or twice in their school career, it is also about giving parents a voice. You do that by giving them information and data that keep them in touch in real time with what is going on in the school. That can only be done on a viable basis using technology, and if that technology is fairly distributed with inclusion across the range of homes.

In respect of new ways of working, we are at the tipping point on this in schools. We can move away from IT suites and trolleys of laptops and towards people bringing in personal devices that their parents are already buying them. A recent Ofcom study showed that 100 per cent of teenagers, who they defined as 12 to 15 year-olds, had access to a computer somewhere, although as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, told us, many do not have access at home. We are also seeing a rapid rise in the ownership of smartphones, while 10 per cent have tablets, and those figures are changing all the time. There will come a point when we embrace these personal devices, even if it means mobile phones with rules about how they are used. That is because in children's hands, they are very powerful computers which can aid learning. In turn, it means that schools will spend less on IT, less on recharging devices overnight, less on paper and less on textbooks. They can deliver an educational case around the use of data for performance and differentiation of learning, delivering more learning at home, delivering the softer skills of collaboration and communication that employers need, and the pupil engagement between home and school that we know is so important.

I strongly endorse what my noble friend Lord Puttnam said in respect of the economic case. If noble Lords are interested in how it might work, I recommend that they look at Apps for Good that CDI Europe has been delivering in schools and which young people find hugely engaging. That engages them in the world of work as well as in the world of technology. I also endorse what my noble friend said about coding and the need for more programming being learnt earlier on in school. I tried that, against a lot of push from officials. I even had to write it into the galley proofs before they were sent to the printers and they were not looking. I tried to get ICT as a basic skill at the primary level so that we could make sure that children were plug-in-and-play ready when they started secondary school. They should be able to use technology across the curriculum. Unfortunately, while the Rose review did deliver on what that might look like, it was pulled during the wash-up between Administrations. We never managed to get that shift of IT learning into the primary sector, which I think would have been extremely valuable. There are challenges in this. It will need an evolving pedagogy. It will need someone, ideally the Government, to offer guidance around the interoperability of devices in classrooms, along with procurement advice and possibly the curriculum changes that I have talked about. But the prize is a great one.

The noble Lord, Lord Willis, mentioned the death of Steve Jobs. I ask noble Lords to think about what a Steve Jobs school would have looked like. For the staff, certainly it would have been one with a hero head model, someone solidly leading the school and not delivering what the children wanted, but what they needed. There would probably be a fairly flat staffing structure, but to the world outside it would not be the Steve Jobs school, it would be an Apple school: beautifully designed and one in which people just wanted to learn. It probably would not even have school rules, just as the iPad does not have any instructions, because it would be so engaging. That is what technology can give us: really engaging education that sucks learners in and makes them want to find out more and educate themselves more rather than just the flat, didactic one-way learning that is the tradition which some would like to see revived. I think it belongs in the Dark Ages.

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Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (Crossbench)

My Lords, I also declare an interest in that I work with a Malaysian company, YTL, in a plan to take ICT provision into every Malaysian school. That background gives me a little insight into what is happening here. Their Ministers and senior civil servants wanted to come here to see what we were doing. I can assure the noble Lord that his officials were very helpful in showing what Britain can and does do in this area. I cannot match their eloquence, but I stress one point that I think has not been stressed sufficiently. This is not simply enabling people to look something up in Wikipedia or whatever and get a few quotes for their essays. This transforms schools completely.

I took these Malaysian visitors-Secretaries of State and so on-to schools here in Britain to see what was happening. It transformed whole schools, not simply the teaching patterns, but all the relationships-with the parents, with the governing body, between the pupils and between the pupils and the teachers. It changed discipline. It took a failing school to one now where there are five applicants for every place. There were other factors, but the headmistress-am I allowed to say that these days?-or the lady who is in charge of the school, the principal, told us that ICT, properly used, was one of the key ingredients. So I think it is important that the Government have a policy that becomes a strategy.

7:30 pm
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Lord Lucas (Conservative)

My Lords, I am enormously supportive of everything that has been said so far. I am greatly encouraged by what the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said about the TES. Government after Government have tried to find ways of spreading good practice in education. I was looking at an example the other day-the Harkness table, which is a way of teaching. It started in America in 1930. It is still trickling into schools over here, because information and experience do not move until teachers move between schools, and it is a very slow process. ICT has made it possible to do this better and at a greater speed, but I have not seen it happening yet. I did not know it was happening in the TES and I am very pleased to hear it. It ought to be the sort of thing that the Government are grabbing at ways of supporting.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, about personal devices. An element of this Bill is about enabling schools to ban them more effectively. Actually, as the noble Lord, Lord Knight, said, they ought to be finding ways of using them more effectively, of incorporating them and of enabling those children who do not have access to a good enough device to participate. That takes the kind of transformation that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, has seen in only a few schools, but they have done it, they have done it successfully, and it shows what is possible. Clearly this is going to challenge the whole way of teaching. Everybody can now have the best teacher in the world, or at least for a substantial part of the time. The transformation of teachers from people who are supposed to know everything, however inadequate they are, to people who are going to be good guides and really do know everything, is one to which I look forward with great excitement. It is going to take some getting right. I am looking forward to a very supportive speech from my noble friend on the Front Bench because I am a great supporter of what this Government are doing.

In the bits of the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Knight, with which I did not agree, he was celebrating his role as a great frog sitting in the middle of the department, croaking while everybody else listened to his croaks. Now we have ponds all over England full of tadpoles and no great frog. The noble Lord, Lord Knight, may claim to be the father of the tadpoles, but this Government have liberated education and have made things possible that, under the Stalinist bureaucracy of the QCA and its successors, was never possible. All the changes that the noble Lord, Lord Knight, is looking for would not have been possible under his way of doing things because the centre insisted on having things done its way and reaching its own decisions before it allowed other people to take action. That has been done away with. I meet people who used to work for Becta who are out there now doing wonderful things. They no longer have to wait for Becta to take decisions. They are out there spreading the word individually and making businesses and lives out of it. I think it is part of the transformation that the noble Lord, Lord Knight, celebrates that we have been through a period when there has been a dispersal of ideas. Now, instead of one great oak, we have a lot of acorns sprouting, and I think that is the right place to be when it comes to technology.

I celebrate the particular acorn that this Government have allowed me to sprout, something called Behind the Screen, which, to my great surprise, was adopted as government policy with the help of David Willetts, who must have briefly reincarnated himself as the Minister for Education. The idea is to take computing-in particular, coding-back into school in a serious way, to work with industry in doing that and to work on real-world projects with real-world software. The aim is to have no limits as to how wide it goes, to be able to invade other bits of the curriculum, to have no limits as to how far it goes, indeed to be able to involve oneself in university-distance learning, if that is where a particular idea takes you, to work collaboratively within and between schools, to research, to problem-solve, and for teachers and their partners in industry to be pupils' guides rather than their instructors. Furthermore, it should get going immediately; the first projects start in November. We are going to write the whole curriculum-to the extent that you can write a curriculum for something that changes every six months-around the schools and industries involved. The whole thing is being generated from the grass roots and not from the middle. The way to tackle technology in education is to let all that expertise and interest and involvement, which is out there around the country, be the source of enlightenment for those of us who sit in the middle.

The noble Lord, Lord Knight, celebrates Apple. I curse my iPad every day for its limitations and for the rules that have been imposed on it from the centre. It will not get Flash. I try and do things with the iPad and it kills me half way through because the website has chosen to do something in Flash and Mr Jobs has said no. I do not want that to happen. I do not want monopolies to spring up and one voice to be the controlling voice when it comes to getting technology into schools. I want diversity. I want lots of different people to try to do it, and I want to see who does it best. That is the way that I think we will come through to a successful technology education system.

So I celebrate what this Government are doing for me and for many others. I celebrate, too, Nick Gibb in the middle of that. This may not be his natural style but he knows that, at the end of the day, anything I do has to come up to his standards. That is an Olympic-level challenge and I welcome it. Where you are allowing a lot of different systems to compete to see which is best, the important role for the Government is to be in the middle making sure that what you have is rigour and quality and is not subservient to fashion and ideas of the moment. I know that I can rely on my honourable friend for that.

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Baroness Paisley of St George's (DUP)

My Lords, I, too, support this amendment. I had two wonderful experiences recently. One was on board a ship that was visiting Belfast. On a tour of that ship we were shown an operating theatre. The captain said to us, "There is the theatre". It was a beautiful operating theatre, and the captain explained, "There is a computer in the wall, and in mid-ocean we can perform life-saving operations on board this ship directed from shore hundreds of miles away". I thought it was wonderful to see how technology had advanced to this degree. In other times this could not have happened.

The other experience I had was in my own family. My great-grandson, who is two and a half, went to the computer, put in a DVD and waited until it came up on the screen. He knew which buttons to push to fast-forward it to pass the adverts to the part that he wanted to see, and of course he knew how to reverse it back if he missed something. If a two and a half year-old is able to do that, I think there is great hope for the future for technology and I support this amendment.

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Baroness Sharp of Guildford (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Willis and those who have spoken in favour of this amendment. There are two issues that are important. One is that this is not just about access to hardware. Yes, we are going to move to a situation where you no longer have a suite of computers within a classroom but instead young people have iPads and technology that is mobile around the classroom and around the whole school, and that will make for a much more flexible atmosphere within the school. Access to the technology is important. I think it was my noble friend Lord Willis, or it may have been the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who made the point that many of the disadvantaged do not currently have access to broadband or to mobile technologies, both of which are quite expensive. For those existing on a weekly jobseeker's allowance of £90, it is one of the items that they have to forgo. It is vital, therefore, that our public libraries are open and available to such people so that they can have access through the public library system.

My second point is that, as the noble Lord, Lord Knight, mentioned, the pedagogy is changing rapidly. The technology is interactive and when you use this interaction, because the learner can respond, you get a different and much more motivational form of learning. It is vital that our teachers are trained to use this pedagogy, recognise its development and move forward with it.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour)

My Lords, we had a very good debate on this issue in Grand Committee, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and my noble friends Lord Puttnam and Lord Knight for distilling our earlier debates into what we might label a call for action that can be included in the Bill and would ensure that the Government took some of these important issues forward.

Before I go on, though, I have to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. He is completely wrong on the previous Government's record on this. A lot of the groundwork and preparation for what now gives us a launching pad was laid down by the previous Government. We have been given mixed messages so far by the current Government: they do not have technology or ICT in the English Bacc or in their plans for the core curriculum. I understand that Michael Gove has been saying some warm words on the issue, but the gauntlet has now been thrown down to the Government to actually follow this up and act upon it.

My noble friend Lord Puttnam has faced us with the challenge of employability for the next generation if we do not get this right, while both he and my noble friend Lord Knight have once again inspired us with what is possible in terms of revolutionising teaching if we do get it right. The fact is that some schools are already way ahead of the game, and our challenge is to make sure that every child has access to the advantages that technology can bring to the classroom. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, who said in Committee that,

"to deliver a 21st century curriculum we have to have 21st century methodology and 21st century equipment".-[Official Report, 11/7/11; col. GC236.]

There is a massive range of benefits. The most obvious one is that if you have sophisticated equipment as a teaching aid, children's knowledge of technology applications is enhanced. However, it goes much further than that. Children's research skills are improved and their access to information multiplied. Homework becomes easier and quicker. They no longer have to rely on the availability of often scarce books in the library. As we have heard, it is transformative, engaging and enthusing. Even the most isolated schools can be linked up with others to share learning experience and to interact. Teachers can be linked together to share best practice, swap teaching modules and experiment with and improve materials. As my noble friend Lord Puttnam rightly pointed out, this change can be delivered at scale across the sector.

When we last debated this, and indeed in the debate we have had today, the importance of computer access for all was a strong theme, and I am sure that we can all agree with that. There is still a worryingly high percentage of families that do not have access to a computer at home and are therefore becoming more isolated and excluded. It is also true that we need to address the training of technology teachers if we are to reap the potential benefits that could come from all this.

There is a tendency to look at this problem in terms of narrow unit cost, whereas we should really apply a much broader cost-benefit analysis that compares the advantages of providing high-quality technology in the classroom and in the home with the damage done if a generation of young people is outsmarted in the global information and communication race. I very much support the amendment and hope that the Minister is able to give the simple commitment to delivering the technology plan by 2012 that the amendment requests.

7:45 pm
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Baroness Garden of Frognal (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Willis for raising this important issue. We agree entirely with him, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate that the effective use of technology is critical to education in the 21st century and indeed to employment.

In his speech to the Royal Society on 29 June, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State outlined the importance of technological innovation in supporting good teaching and how successful ideas need to spread rapidly through the system. The role of Government in this area is to encourage schools to take better advantage of opportunities presented by digital technologies to engage pupils, improve teaching and deliver education more effectively and efficiently-and, from the messages in this debate, more excitingly as well. The Secretary of State will say more on this later in the year and I cannot pre-empt what he plans to say in that speech.

We know that many schools and teachers are already making excellent use of technology to help deliver their educational aims, and we need to learn from them. As noble Lords have set out so eloquently today, though, there is room for more widespread and innovative use across the system. Some teachers also need more knowledge about how to use technology effectively to support their practice, and we heard from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Baroness, Lady Paisley, how the very young are often far more proficient in technology than their teachers, parents or, dare I say, grandparents.

However, we should not seek to dictate how schools use technology or seek to plan this centrally. We should allow schools to innovate, working in partnership with industry and other experts. Schools need to respond to these opportunities, making informed decisions about whether and how to adopt new approaches in the best interests of their pupils.

We have spoken to many interested parties including school leaders, professional bodies, educational charities, industry, academics and other experts about technology in schools. The department is also taking forward work to help ensure that schools can get best value when purchasing technology-the noble Lord, Lord Knight, mentioned procurement as one of the issues here-and we are working with industry to agree data standards for educational systems. It is at this level that we feel the department should be involved in supporting schools to make best use of technology.

There is no doubt that the effective use of technology can support good teaching and help to raise standards. We welcome the noble Lord's commitment to the potential of technology to improve education and are grateful for all the ideas that have come forward in this debate and in previous ones.

Photo of Lord Puttnam

Lord Puttnam (Labour)

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but I have a question before she sits down. Do the Government conceive it possible that a school might be considered successful that was unsuccessfully delivering ICT, coding and all the other things that this debate has thrown up as being fundamental? Again, my experience of education, having worked in the department, is that heads will react and respond to what they consider will win them brownie points, and the ultimate brownie point is to be deemed a successful school. Could she possibly give us a firm commitment that schools that fail in this area could not be deemed successful?

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Baroness Garden of Frognal (Liberal Democrat)

It would be almost impossible to deliver the curriculum successfully in a 21st-century school without the effective use of technology. I would have to come back to him on chapter and verse, but I cannot think that it would be possible for a school to deliver the curriculum successfully without a good use of technology.

The ideas in today's debate and previous debates will be passed back to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. As I said, later this year he is planning to say more about technology in schools and the role and work of Government in this area. We have had a typically constructive and diverse debate today that has taken in acorns, tadpoles and apples. These issues are under active consideration and I hope, in the light of this, that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Willis of Knaresborough

Lord Willis of Knaresborough (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I am enormously grateful for the contributions of noble Lords on all sides of the House in what has been a fascinating 45-minute debate on a subject which your Lordships clearly feel incredibly strongly about. In his question to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, put his finger on the pulse of this issue: can a school be successful if it does not have ICT and technology at the heart of delivering a 21st century curriculum? The Minister was generous enough to admit that she did not believe that it was possible. In spite of all the research that she might do, she will not be able to point to a single school in the whole of the United Kingdom that is successful without using technology to deliver its curriculum.

I was interested in the short speech of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. It was telling. She said that her grandson was making good progress with his computer and iPad. Sadly, a million children do not have access to either an iPad or a computer, and they are the ones who are the most disadvantaged. The great sadness about the Minister's response to this debate is that these children will remain disadvantaged unless a benevolent head teacher in a benevolent school decides that ICT is going to be a priority for that school. Unless it is part of the league table culture it will not be part of it at all.

I am not worried about whether or not it is part of the English baccalaureate. I am much more interested in ICT being the electricity-the energy-that delivers, motivates and turns youngsters on to a high-performing education system.

I leave the House with three comments. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, quite rightly talked about employability and I mentioned that most jobs are advertised on line, yet those that need them most cannot access them online. The educational case was made strongly by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Knight, and by my noble friend Lord Lucas, whose passion for technology and ICT knows no bounds. I loved his description of the noble Lord, Lord Knight, sitting on a toadstool somewhere, with frogs all around him spawning. It was a wonderful analogy.

However, my noble friend was fundamentally wrong when he talked about there being only two ideologies: Stalinist or laissez-faire. There is another way and this amendment was neither Stalinist nor laissez-faire. It says to the Secretary of State, "Please take your duties seriously about creating the sorts of framework that allow schools to operate and on which we will judge you".

This has been an interesting debate. I believe that we will not get much further on this occasion. We have been told that the Secretary of State will make an announcement from on high later. Perhaps he will become the Steve Jobs of government. Or perhaps he will become part of the Amish sect. We will see. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 61D withdrawn.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.53 pm.