Education and Inspections Bill

– in the House of Lords at 3:10 pm on 24th October 2006.

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Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

moved Amendment No. 91A:

Before Clause 71, insert the following new clause-

"FOUNDATION SUBJECT FOR FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD KEY STAGES

In section 84 of EA 2002 (curriculum requirements for first, second and third key stages), after subsection (3)(g) insert-

"(h) personal, social and health education.""

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 91A and to speak to Amendment No. 91B and Amendment No. 92, which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne.

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Crossbench

My Lords, the Companion to the Standing Orders states that noble Lords should leave the Chamber quietly after Question Time.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Countess, Lady Mar.

In Committee, the Minister assured us that all secondary schools must provide sex and relationship education as part of the basic science curriculum—it is therefore a statutory requirement. He repeated that statement in the letter that he sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton, on 11 October. In that letter, he also raised concerns that, if PSHE were to be made a statutory part of the curriculum, it would raise intense debate and controversy among other subject champions who want their subjects to be made statutory and compulsory up to 16.

Danger of an intense debate is not a good reason not to do the right thing. However, the Minister was right that there is an intense debate, not least in yesterday's newspapers, and there was an intense debate in your Lordships' House, in which this argument was supported by Peers from all sides of the Chamber. Today's amendments, which were so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton, on that occasion, are supported by the Advisory Centre for Education, Barnardo's, the British Medical Association, the Family Planning Association, Brook, the Drug Education Forum, the National AIDS Trust, the National Union of Students, the NSPCC, UNICEF UK, Parentline Plus, Tacade, the Terence Higgins Trust, Womankind and the YWCA, to mention just a few in the long list of supporters. Only yesterday, the IPPR published a new report based on detailed research, the conclusion of which was that PSHE, including sex and relationship education, should become a statutory subject in all primary and secondary schools in England and Wales. It also called for more information on parenting and childcare to be offered at all extended schools, and I agree with it on that.

The evidence for concluding that the status quo, in which the subject is non-statutory, is failing comes from a number of facts. First, Britain has the highest rate of births to teenagers in Europe; the rate here is nearly one-fifth higher than that in Latvia, which is the second country in the list. The Government's claim that the rate is falling refers to only a very tiny fall. Secondly, one in three 15 year-olds did not use a condom during their last sexual intercourse. Thirdly, levels of genital diseases—chlamydia, genital herpes and syphilis—among British teenagers have increased greatly in the past 10 years. Fourthly, over the past50 years, the average age of first sexual intercourse fell from 20 for men and 21 for women in the 1950s to16 by the mid-1990s. The proportion of young people who are sexually active before the age of consent rose from less than 1 per cent to 25 per cent in the same period. Fifthly, in 2001-02, 38 per cent of the UK's15 year-olds had sexual intercourse—that is the highest incidence in Europe, as far as we can tell.

Julia Margo, who is a senior research fellow at the IPPR concluded:

"our education system must respond and start teaching children about the risks involved in sex before they even consider taking those risks".

PSHE is not just about sex education; it is about a great deal more than that. The QCA describes it as,

"giving children and young people the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to lead confident, healthy and independent lives. It aims to help them understand how they are developing personally and socially and how to develop the skills and positive attitudes needed to tackle many of the moral, social and cultural issues that are part of growing up".

So I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that it is about a great deal more than sex—it is about life skills. In a nutshell, that is what he is concerned about. But no doubt we will hear more in a moment.

Research and surveys have shown that children and their parents want PSHE taught in schools. The Government have made it clear that they believe that emotional and social skills are fundamental to school improvement, improving behaviour and attendance at school. So why will they not show that commitment by making PSHE compulsory? PSHE provides the right vehicle for delivering the Government's agenda—the Every Child Matters outcomes for children. Typically, it has been seen to be driven by problems such as teenage pregnancy, substance misuse, smoking or obesity, which need to be solved.

At best PSHE is well co-ordinated in the school, but at worst it can be a number of topics that jostle with one another for time in the curriculum. That is not surprising, because the aspects of learning and development in PSHE are not joined up at national level. Currently, we have SEAL, or social and emotional aspects of learning, for primary schools, with SEBS, or social, emotional and behavioural skills, being piloted in secondary schools. The DfES delivers those. Some elements of drug education come from the Home Office and the healthy schools initiative comes from the Department of Health.

If PSHE were used as a framework through which these different initiatives were delivered, it would provide coherence for schools. Currently, the Government acknowledge that PSHE needs improvements but do not accept that making it statutory would make schools and teacher/trainers take it more seriously. Instead, they have chosen various levers that they hope will drive up standards. I have a number of questions for the Minister about these.

Through the new inspection arrangements, the Government believe that PSHE will be better inspected and that that will drive up standards. But the new inspection regime is very short and, unless the Government are explicit that PSHE is the main vehicle for achieving the Every Child Matters outcomes, it is unlikely that inspection will have much impact. In addition, few Ofsted inspectors are PSHE specialists. Those schools that are good academically will get a good Ofsted report anyway, even if their PSHE is diabolical. Will the Minister commit to commissioning Ofsted to deliver a special thematic report on PSHE?

Secondly, PSHE is now in the initial teacher training curriculum. However, the curriculum is so packed that I understand that in some cases only an hour is dedicated to the subject. Therefore, training has to come through continued professional development. The continuous professional development programme aims to train only 2,000 teachers and nurses a year in PSHE. As there are over 20,000 schools, it will take many years before every school has at least one trained teacher. Will the DfES work with the Training and Development Agency for Schools and others to improve the training of newly qualified teachers in PSHE?

The QCA produced good end of key stage statements in 2005. It is currently reviewing the whole curriculum, including PSHE. Will the Minister consider asking the QCA to develop PSHE within the framework of the five outcomes for children so that it is the main vehicle for their delivery by schools?

All schools should be healthy schools by 2008—I believe that that is the target. However, there are still many thousands of schools which are still to convert to that status. Making PSHE statutory would help to ensure that all schools become healthy schools sooner. What sanctions will apply or, preferably, support be given to schools with poor PSHE provision, regardless of the academic attainment of the pupils, so that they can all become healthy schools sooner?

Finally, I challenge the Government's basic premise that aspects of PSHE, such as sex and drug education, are already statutory because they are covered in biology or science lessons. As a former biology teacher and form tutor delivering PSHE, I tell the Minister that the ethos of a biology lesson, where there is a curriculum to be examined in a public examination, and the ethos of a PSHE lesson, where young people are encouraged to discuss and explore difficult issues, are totally different. It is not possible to work on the important relationship aspects of the subject in science lessons.

PSHE is vital alongside the more factual work. We need both and we need every child to receive both. PSHE covers the emotional and social aspects, enabling children to move beyond the facts to develop lifelong skills and positive attitudes. That being so important, if the Government still resist the call of so many in this Chamber and beyond to ensure that all children receive good-quality PSHE as of right, how will the department evaluate the use of the levers, which I have just described, that they propose to use and over what period will that be done? Will we still be in the terrible position described by the list of statistics that I gave earlier, which were published by the IPPR only this weekend? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Northbourne Lord Northbourne Crossbench 3:15 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I support Amendments Nos. 91A and 91B and shall speak to Amendment No. 92. Unfortunately, I was unable to be in my place when the noble Baroness moved her amendment in Committee, as I was chairing a conference on the implementation of the Every Child Matters programme in my county of Kent. In spirit, I supported the amendment; I wrote to the Minister about it and received a very helpful reply, for which I am most grateful.

I have carefully read the Official Report of the debate. Somehow, it seems to have been entirely hijacked by sex education and health education. I admit that sex education and health education are probably much more fun than what I am going to talk about, which I believe to be another very important aspect of personal, social and health education.

When she opened the debate in Committee, the noble Baroness pointed out that the non-compulsory elements of PSHE are being crowded out of the curriculum by other compulsory subjects—especially, of course, those that will improve the school's position in the dreaded league tables. I remember—was it 10 or 12 years ago?—with what high hopes we fought to get PSHE into the syllabus. It is sad that it is still not being well delivered in schools. I strongly support the government policy to train more PSHE teachers, but that will not solve the problem if the non-compulsory elements of PSHE are crowded out of the work programme, especially in the most vulnerable schools.

If, on reflection, the Minister is prepared to accept Amendments Nos. 91A and 91B, I shall be very content. If not, perhaps my amendment, Amendment No. 92, may suggest a basis for compromise or a different way to look at the problem. If accepted, it would ensure that personal and social life skills would have to be taught and learnt in all schools, at least in key stage 4. I must admit that it would be better still if they had to be learnt in all key stages, because those skills should start to be learnt early and developed throughout the child's life at school—and before. I am sorry that I did not frame my amendment to give effect to that; I may do so at the next stage of the Bill if that becomes relevant.

Personal and social life skills and education are important because they are essential in the workplace and in the family. In short, social education is about the skills that one needs to get on with other people, and personal education is about the skills that one needs to get on with oneself. A child's ability to be comfortable in their own skin is fundamental to success in school and in later life. It is vital to develop enough self-esteem and communication skills to be able to listen, to express oneself, to negotiate, to resolve conflict, and to establish and sustain effective and positive relationships with adults and within peer groups, as these are the most crucial skills of all in life, whether in the workplace, the family or elsewhere. Most children start to learn these skills very early on in the family but, for those who are not so lucky, it is crucial that the school is ready to move in and fill the gap.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has given several examples of what is going on at present. Research shows that, in most disadvantaged families today, verbal and social ability has deteriorated since 1999—a statistic that the noble Baroness did not give us. In her studies on child health, Professor Stewart-Brown has shown that relationships in the home during childhood are a determinant of mental and physical health in childhood and in adult life, and that this effect is independent of socio-economic factors. That also applies to relationships at school. The National Autistic Society has told me that it surveyed 35,000 parents, almost all of whom put better teaching in personal and social education first in meeting the needs of autistic children.

Family breakdown, domestic violence, anti-social behaviour, school failure and bullying at school can be traced back in many cases to poor communication and negotiation skills. It is at least arguable that, for the most disadvantaged children in our society, better interpersonal and communication skills are the key that could unlock the prison of exclusion, frustration and hopelessness.

In his amendment to Clause 6, the Minister has introduced a duty on local authorities to provide or procure out-of-school activities for all young people. I welcome this proposal. Out-of-school activities are an excellent way of developing self-confidence and teaching personal and social skills, but they should be additional to, not instead of, an obligation on all schools to provide effective PSHE, especially to the most disadvantaged. Unless someone is obliged to deliver this subject, some of the most vulnerable children will fall through the net.

Photo of Baroness Gould of Potternewton Baroness Gould of Potternewton Labour

My Lords, I support Amendments Nos. 91A and 91B on the need to make PSHE statutory in the national curriculum. I have lobbied the Minister from the first day he arrived in your Lordships' House. I appreciate his commitment to the subject, as well as the developments that have been made since this matter has been his responsibility. Those developments include the Teacher's handbook, the guidelines for the 12 subjects that make up PSHE, and the establishment of the first PSHE subject association—an association for teachers of PSHE to share examples of good practice and to promote PSHE through the healthy schools initiative. We should also appreciate that 5,000 teachers have benefited from the PSHE certification programme, although, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, that is nowhere near enough.

Teachers must have far more understanding of the importance of PSHE teaching. I cite one example to justify that point. I recently asked a headmaster of a boys' school in London about the PSHE programme in his school. He replied that the school did not need PSHE teaching because it was a boys' school. I do not understand that logic, but the idea is all too prevalent that subjects such as this mean that we are talking only about girls, but of course we are not; we are talking about the need for boys, too, to have that training.

I want to give three definitions from government documents that support the case that we are all making. I make no apology for quoting back to the Government some of the things that they have said. The Teacher's handbook defines PSHE as,

"a planned programme of teaching and learning that promotes pupils' personal and social development, their health and well-being. It helps to give children and young people the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to lead confident, healthy and independent lives. It ... helps them understand how they are developing personally and socially, tackling many of the moral, social and cultural issues that are part of growing up".

On the national curriculum, the Government state that the aim of the school curriculum is to,

"promote pupils' spiritual, moral social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life".

Finally, the Teacher's handbook also states:

"Effective sex and relationship education is essential"—

I repeat, "essential"—

"if young people are to make responsible and well informed decisions about their lives. A successful programme will help young people learn to respect themselves and others, and move confidently from childhood though adolescence and into adulthood".

If we were to take those words as they are written, there would be no need for this argument, because the Government have presented their own case for making the subject statutory. If those aspirations had become reality, we would see better pupil behaviour, attendance and attainment, a reduction in bullying, improved levels of physical and mental health, a greater ability to stay safe, a decrease in early sex and a reduction in teenage pregnancy, which are all values to which the Government are committed.

This morning, I spoke at a conference on teenage pregnancy. There was a speaker from Gateshead, where the level of teenage pregnancy has declined quite substantially. The speaker said that one of the main reasons for its decline was that children are taught PSHE and SRE in their schools. Again, there is no better case for the argument that we are making.

In Committee, the Minister said that many aspects of PSHE are already statutory, such as SRE and drug guidance, and that a number of requirements on schools support PSHE, such as policies on bullying and child protection. I follow the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and say politely to my noble friend that that is a rather disingenuous argument: only elements of SRE and drug education are a part of the statutory science curriculum. The teaching is too biological and infrequent and it completely ignores the relationships and emotions that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, so clearly identified. I refer again to the teenage pregnancy argument from the "deep dive" activity, which confirmed that in all those areas where there is effective teaching there is a reduction in the level of teenage pregnancy. Similarly, evidence from Stonewall shows that the answer to homophobic bullying in schools is effective and statutory PSHE in all our schools, thus enabling young people to discuss the different relationships and families that are reflective of the world in which we live.

My noble friend also said in Committee that this is not a straightforward issue, which is true. The current complexity means that there is confusion and nervousness among teachers on what they can legitimately teach, what is statutory and what is optional. I hope that my noble friend will agree that, surely, the answer is to make PSHE in its entirety a statutory subject; if that is done, you get over that complexity and confusion.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, cited a number of organisations that have supported this demand. I should like to mention one or two more: the Catholic Education Service, the Church of England Board of Education, Mencap, the Methodist Church, the Mothers' Union, the Parenting Forum, Relate, the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy and the organisation that I chair, the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV.

I understand that there are many other demands to make subjects statutory, which of course must cause a dilemma for the Government. But I challenge my noble friend to identify any other subject where the demand is greater and the breadth of the organisations making that demand is as wide as it is on this subject. I do not believe that the Government's argument is sufficient. I sincerely believe that while PSHE remains a non-statutory part of the curriculum and while there is an inadequate number of trained staff—be it teachers or school nurses—the teaching of PSHE will remain patchy, with a continuation of bullying and risky behaviour, and a lack of respect of pupils to one another, so that the best intentions of the Government will be lost.

Finally, we need to learn from the experience of European countries that have overcome many of the problems that we face. The difference is that those countries are characterised by an open attitude towards discussing sex and relationships; they have comprehensive sex and relationship education in all their schools and there is easy access to the sexual health services and advice that are required. A part of what I have quoted has come from a government document about learning from Europe. I quote the Government's words back to them and ask: when is it all going to happen?

Photo of Lord Fowler Lord Fowler Conservative 3:30 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I support AmendmentNo. 91A and agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has said. I declare an interest as a trustee of the Terrence Higgins Trust and as an ambassador for the National AIDS Trust.

Twenty years ago I launched a campaign on HIV/AIDS. Our message was basically, "Don't die of ignorance". We used television advertising, posters and we sent a leaflet to every household in the country. Among some it was regarded as controversial. I remember meeting the Chief Rabbi, who complimented me on the urgency of the campaign but set out no fewer than 14 different reasons why he opposed it. One of his arguments was that it encouraged promiscuity by introducing children and young people to ideas of sex entirely unknown to them. I did not agree with that argument. Indeed, I think effective prevention is—or should be—one of the goals of any Government. As it happened, we were not flooded with a vast number of complaints after the campaign—in fact we had very few indeed—but the figures showed that knowledge increased very radically and infection went down at the same time, not only HIV/AIDS infection but sexually transmitted diseases generally.

However, 20 years on, I am concerned by just how much those lessons have been forgotten. If you ran a commercial company and conducted a major advertising campaign, and then went off the air for the next 20 years, everyone would think you were fairly eccentric. But that is exactly what has happened; there has been no effective follow-up. Because of medical advances, young people may not now be dying of ignorance, but certainly they are continuing to suffer in increasing numbers because of ignorance. That is basically why I support the amendment.

The degree of ignorance in this country is of enormous concern to anyone who has looked at this issue. The European survey carried out for the European Commission, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred, showed startling ignorance about how HIV/AIDS is spread and a startling avoidance of some of the most obvious methods of preventing it. It is a sad truth that for most young people today television, the media, playground gossip and rumours are their primary source of important information about issues such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and HIV. And yet countless surveys in this country have shown that young people would like to see taught—and better taught than it is—much more sex and relationship education. As we have been told, some aspects of sex and relationship education are currently taught as part of the biology curriculum, but we also know that maintaining good sexual health involves far more than an understanding of basic biology.

Currently, I think that provision is extraordinarily patchy. Some schools teach good-quality sex and relationship education, in others it is poor quality and some do not teach it at all. It should not be left to individual schools to make the decision or to make the case for it. It is quite a difficult case to make locally, where it does not necessarily come at the top of people's priorities. Therefore, it is a responsibility directly upon Government to make that case nationally and locally. I should like to see the Government—this one or whichever one follows—face up to the challenge.

There is an excellent document on the website of the Department for International Development entitled Talking about Health, Sex and Pregnancy. It sets out the department's approach to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights in developing countries, and says:

"People need the knowledge and skills to make choices and safe decisions about their sex lives. Sex education does not increase the number of sexual partners among young people. In fact, it helps them make safer choices, including delaying first sex, and reducing the number of sexual partners they have".

To support and fund good-quality personal, social and health education around the world, as it clearly helps young people to make sensible, safer choices to protect their own well-being, is an eminently sensible approach. It seems reasonable to ask the Government to show the same concern for young people in the United Kingdom and to ensure that all our young people get high-quality personal, social and health education as part of the national curriculum.

This is a vastly important subject; it is right that it should be raised at this stage, and I very much hope that as a result of the Bill, we can at long last do something about it.

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour

My Lords, I support the amendments. There have already been many excellent speeches so I shall not take long.

I can see no good reason why citizenship should be statutory and PSHE should not be when there is so much overlap in relation to personal and social skills. I have seen the impact of PSHE in schools. I was a senior teacher in charge of health education, as it was then, in a school in south London, and I am now a governor of a school with a strong programme of PSHE. In both cases, the programmes have undoubtedly affected the ethos and behaviour in the schools. My noble friend Lady Gould referred to bullying; I have seen bullying tackled and strong personal and social skills developed in schools where there is a programme.

Every school should be enabled to have a strong and consistent programme of PSHE at every stage of the curriculum. The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, correctly pointed out that people forget, and we need to repeat messages if young people are to retain those which are important for their health and well-being.

In my experience, five things are needed for such a programme and they may happen in all schools only if a subject is statutory. The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, talked about the patchiness of the provision. This is a difficult issue because although some schools put the subject high on the agenda, others do not. The first thing that is needed is strong support from the head teacher and senior staff. Secondly, there should be a designated teacher in charge of co-ordinating PSHE. Thirdly, teacher training must be high on the agenda: teachers cannot just go into a PSHE lesson using formal methods and hope that they will succeed in instructing people how to behave. You cannot teach people how to make decisions; they have to learn how to do it themselves. Fourthly, schools need good resources to teach PSHE—again, some schools have them and make their own, some do not. Finally, there needs to be information to parents about the programme. Some schools do these things brilliantly, including the school where I am a governor. But many do not and will not until PSHE is statutory and there is a policy for it in every school.

I, too, support the formation of a teachers' association for PSHE—it is an excellent idea. I have always strongly supported the national healthy schools standard programme. It, too, has achieved a great deal. However, it is mainly about health and not about relationships, which are part of decision-making for good health and valuable in helping young people to learn how to make decisions for their own benefit. A comprehensive approach to PSHE is required, and I strongly support it being a statutory programme in schools.

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Crossbench 3:45 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that to her five admirable requirements should be added a sixth which we appear not to dare name; that is, the absence of the religious lobby, which has prevented the matter being properly taught, as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, said, over the past 20 years?

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, I have listened to the admirable speeches that have been made on this subject and, even if I had not been persuaded by this whole debate, I certainly am now. I hope that the Minister will be, too.

As some of your Lordships will know, I was appreciative of citizenship being made a statutory part of the curriculum. I remember our debating how important it would be to teach parenting—not just how you got on with your own parents, but what your thoughts were when you became a parent and what you reckoned your responsibilities were, as well as the enjoyment you were going to get out of it. There seems to be no reason why all these subjects, which are very important in today's world, are not clearly joined up and made a compulsory part of the curriculum. Far more importantly, they should be taught together so that they are not spread about in other parts of other people's lessons, thereby preventing the message coming across. I agreed with my noble friend Lord Northbourne when he said that children should emerge from the education process feeling comfortable with themselves. That will be important in how they negotiate their way through the world.

However, they will learn so much within their own community about how they can be a more effective part of it and how they can be tolerant of what happens in their own groupings. Bullying was mentioned. It is horrifying to hear how often people who are involved in such activities as caring for disabled, disadvantaged or drug-ridden parents get bullied because they are not in attendance the whole time or for whatever reason they are picked on.

I hope that the Minister will give strong consideration to all three of these amendments. All three of them are important. I remember the time when the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, acted on the HIV/AIDS scare. For the first time, you could see action being taken—it had a very good effect indeed. In other areas, the same preventive measures were not taken, and we know what happened.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, we have heard several eloquent speeches in favour of the first two amendments. I shall support the third amendment, Amendment No. 92, in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbourne. He was right to emphasise pupils' self-esteem. There are surely ways of achieving it. If children can excel at something or other in the course of their school lives, there is hope that they will emerge as confident adults. Amendment No. 92 is not in any way in competition with the other two amendments in the group. It is parallel and supports them at a different level in the scheme of the curriculum.

Unless individuals acquire self-esteem, they will be continually subject to bullying and will feel obliged, quite often, to prove their own virility, perhaps by fathering unwanted children, and will have continuing problems through the rest of their lives. What we should aim for is self-respect and individuals taking responsibility not only for their health but for their relationships. I hope that Amendment No. 92 will commend itself to the Government.

Photo of Baroness Howarth of Breckland Baroness Howarth of Breckland Crossbench

My Lords, I support Amendments Nos. 91A and 91B and, very briefly, want to add another dimension. I support it because I think it is what the children need. I say that having listened and talked to hundreds of children during my time at Childline and having read case notes.

If the Minister looked at the lists in the Childline report, he would find that many children call about relationship problems across the whole spectrum. Some of the answers that they come up with themselves—I was reminded of this by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler—they have gleaned from the media or television and are frankly sometimes bizarre. I would much rather that they had that information from a good PSHE teacher, could discuss those issues with their peer group and could be given answers with greater clarity than some of the bizarre answers about sex, social life, relationships and other families that I have heard from children down the years.

I do not want to say more than that. I should like to know what the argument is for not making PSHE teaching compulsory in schools.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, I shall first deal with Amendment No. 92, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, which would make personal and social skills a foundation subject at key stage 4. While we agree that personal and social skills can and should be developed across the school curriculum, they are usually taught discretely through personal, social and health education. We are discussing that issue under Amendments Nos. 91A and 91B. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will allow me to address my remarks to PSHE, as I see the two amendments as being in competition with each other in that sense.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and my noble friends said, we have had a non-statutory framework for PSHE in place since 2000. We believe that the right course is to strengthen the teaching of PSHE and not to create a new statutory subject. On the strengthening of PSHE, we absolutely share the commitment set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, and my noble friends. The issue is not whether we should strengthen PSHE significantly, because we are doing that—and I shall set out in a moment how we are. I take it for granted that we should strengthen the subject and I simply echo all the remarks that have been made about its importance. The issue under the amendments is, rather, whether at this stage it would be desirable to make it a statutory subject—or, perhaps I should say, a more statutory subject than it is at the moment because, as I said in my remarks in Committee, many aspects of PSHE are already statutory elements of the curriculum, including sex and drugs education. There are also statutory provisions relating to careers guidance and a number of statutory requirements on schools that support PSHE, such as the need for policies on bullying, promoting race equality and child protection.

To make PSHE statutory would be a complicated business of unpicking existing statutory provisions to replace them with a new one. But there is another aspect—and I shall be frank on this matter. Later we shall discuss making science in a different way statutory and compulsory. We have had debates about modern languages in that regard. This is not the only subject about which there is an intense debate on making it statutory and compulsory; it applies to many other subjects. If we were to take this step, I am sure that we would face an equivalent argument that we should follow exactly the same course in respect of a number of other subjects. That would get us into a further set of very prescriptive requirements on schools from the centre of a kind which in other contexts noble Lords have argued against throughout our debates on the Bill. We need to balance the steps that it is right to take to improve the take-up of PSHE in schools with the specific issue of whether at this stage it is right to make it a further statutory requirement on schools.

In respect of what we are doing to promote PSHE—

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Crossbench

My Lords, will the Minister clarify what he meant by "the other subjects" for which, as I took it, equal argument could be made? It is a very important statement. I am sure that he has a list of subjects and that he will be able to measure the Government's case by looking at the strength of those which he thinks are as strong as this one.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, we shall debate next the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, on science. The noble Lord may wave his hand but he asked me a question which I seek to answer. On the previous day of Report, amendments on modern foreign languages were discussed. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, whom I am glad to see is present, is considering that issue. There is strong support from a wide spectrum for a more prescriptive regime. Every time I meet my colleagues representing the history and geography communities there are calls, including in debates in this House, for those to be statutory and compulsory subjects up to age 16. While I completely understand the strength of the argument for PSHE and I do not seek to reduce its force, it is fair to say that those representing many other subjects make strong and pressing cases for—

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Crossbench

My Lords, I asked the Minister which were the subjects for which an equally forceful argument could be made in the interests of children. I am thinking of the interests of the child.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I remind noble Lords that we are on Report. Noble Lords had a good chance to speak before the Minister answered.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, other noble Lords have argued that the case for other subjects is equally strong. The noble Lord may not form that view, but strong views on those subjects are held.

We have actively sought to improve PSHE. My noble friend Lady Gould mentioned the healthy school standard, as did my noble friend Lady Massey. Our target is that over half of schools should have achieved the healthy school standard by the end of this year. Some 48 per cent have already achieved it. I believe that we shall exceed the target of over half achieving it by the end of this year. More than 75 per cent of schools are engaged in the programme. To achieve the healthy school standard—in which weare investing more than £12 million this year, up from £5 million in 2003-04—the first criterion is evidence of how the school delivers personal, social and health education, including sex and relationship education and education on drugs, including alcohol, tobacco and volatile substance abuse. The healthy school status guide is made available to all schools. As I say, 48 per cent of schools have achieved the healthy school standard and many others are coming through. All the opening sections of the guide relate to PSHE. It states that a healthy school:

"1. uses the PSHE framework to deliver a planned programme of PSHE, in line with DfES/Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) guidance;

2. monitors and evaluates PSHE provision to ensure the quality of teaching and learning;

3. assesses pupils' progress and achievement in line with QCA guidance:

4"— this relates to a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley— has a named member of staff responsible for PSHE provision with status, training and appropriate senior management support within the school. A Healthy School ... involves professionals from appropriate external agencies to create specialist teams to support PSHE delivery and to improve skills and knowledge, such as a school nurse, sexual health outreach workers and drug education advisers".

The noble Baroness will know that we have a target of every cluster of schools having a school nurse in place by 2010. A healthy school also,

"ensures provision of appropriate PSHE professional development opportunities for staff ... has mechanisms in place to ensure all pupils' views are reflected in curriculum planning, teaching and learning, and the whole school environment, including those with special educational needs and specific health conditions, as well as disaffected pupils, young carers and teenage parents".

So the child should be at the absolute centre of how a healthy school plans its PSHE activities.

We also have training in place for PSHE teachers. The noble Baroness said that we have further to go, and I accept that, but we have 5,000 teachers in place at the moment. We have 2,000 enrolled in the programme, we are continuing to sustain training at that level, and the certificate is at present entirely free. We are building up a larger body of PSHE-trained teachers. We are also establishing, as my noble friend Lady Gould mentioned, a PSHE subject association to provide a network of support for PSHE teachers and to increase their confidence.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked about the role of Ofsted. At the moment, it is reviewing the delivery of PSHE in schools. It will be issuing a report on PSHE by the end of the year, and we will look carefully at its findings. I would not wish to rule out further statutory underpinning for PSHE in the future; it needs to be kept under review. It is a vital area of education in schools, and in due course it may well be appropriate to bring in a statutory framework. However, at this stage the priority is to continue to make real improvements on the ground and to invest in training, support and incentives for PSHE rather than to seek statutory changes that will be seen as nationally prescriptive and run against our desire to have fewer, not more, statutory burdens on schools. For those reasons, while we wish to see much stronger support for PSHE in schools, the Government do not support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills 4:00 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply and all other noble Lords for their supportive remarks. The picture that I painted through the statistics that I listed in my remarks is one of ignorance, with major serious consequences for the lives of many young people in this country. It affects not just individuals but the country as a whole. We need to take the long view and use, at this point, the lever of compulsion, because none of the other levers has worked. I am afraid that the Minister has not convinced me that the levers that he is proposing will work.

He painted a very confusing picture of how schools are delivering elements of PSHE and how they will do so in the future. I welcome what the Government are doing to strengthen the teaching, but making the subject compulsory would give more power and impetus to that programme. On the question of other subjects, I do not believe that any other subject has the same claim to have such an effect on young people's lives as PSHE. This is about a child's right to information.

If there is one thing our education system must do, it is to prepare our children for real life, and PSHE does that. It helps people to make the right decisions every day of their lives. I do not make decisions about quadratic equations every day of my life; people do not make decisions about the lifestyle of the frog or how much coffee is grown in Brazil every day of their lives. But the majority of citizens of this country make decisions every single day of their lives—large decisions and small decisions—which could be affected by good-quality PSHE education in our schools. They have a right to that. I would like to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment(No. 91A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 173.

Division number 1

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 71 [Curriculum requirements for the fourth key stage]:

[Amendment No. 91B not moved.]

Photo of Lord Northbourne Lord Northbourne Crossbench 4:15 pm, 24th October 2006

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 92:

Page 52, line 12, at end insert-

"(za) personal and social life skills,"

Photo of Lord Northbourne Lord Northbourne Crossbench

My Lords, I do not intend to move this amendment but perhaps I may meet the Minister to see whether it is possible to craft an amendment that would help to bring more certainty about the teaching of relationships and communication skills.

[Amendment No. 92 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 93 and 94 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Education

moved Amendment No. 95:

Page 52, line 22, at end insert-

"( ) A pupil in the fourth key stage is entitled, if he so elects, to follow a course of study in science that leads to separate qualifications in-

(a) biology, (b) chemistry, and (c) physics."

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Education

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 96 and 97. I am pleased that we begin our debate on the curriculum today with the two most important groups of amendments tabled for your Lordships' consideration: the group before us now, which will give all children the right to study three separate science subjects until the age of 16; and the second group, which will give all maintained schools the right to offer the rigorous IGCSE as an alternative to the current option.

Taken together or separately, the first cluster of amendments would reform science teaching in our schools. Amendments Nos. 96 and 97 seek to confirm the policy pledges of the Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his science and investment framework initiative from this year's Budget. Amendment No. 96 attaches an entitlement to study the three sciences as separate subjects to those who attain level 6 at key stage 3. Amendment No. 97 goes further and ensures that all specialist science schools would provide that entitlement. Her Majesty's Government have already pledged to achieve those aims by 2008 in line with our amendments, so I hope that the Minister will not shy away from the opportunity to cement that pledge in the Bill. To me, Amendment No. 95 is of the utmost importance. It will allow all pupils to study the three sciences as separate subjects until the age of 16.

Noble Lords will be extremely familiar with this debate. I was hugely encouraged by the support for this topic from all Benches in Committee and I have followed the recent media interest in giving an entitlement to study the three sciences with great interest, not least because I am so pleased that it has been given a place in the national debate that it deserves. We are at the pinnacle of that debate today. We have an opportunity to make a difference to our children's future opportunities and to our children's future place in the world economy.

We face a threat to the future of science in this country. The problem is not a new one, but it is acute. We live in a world where our competitors will stride far ahead of us. The Economist recently ran a 15-page special report on the "The Search for Talent: Why it's getting harder to find". It tells us of the problems facing a world that is not educating its scientists adequately; and it tells of a world where our competitors in Shanghai have established a human talent market and where a Singaporean statesman, Lee Kuan Yew, recognises that,

"trained talent is the yeast that transforms a society and makes it rise".

Yet our teaching of the most important subjects outside numeracy and literacy has been demoted—it is the privilege of those who must prove their achievement at a young age.

It is not acceptable to segregate children from a proper science education should they seek one, purely because they do not get the grades when they are 14 years old. Whatever a child's ability, the children whom we are educating for the future need to have the option to undertake a rigorous course of study—a course that teaches the learning of hard, empirical fact, that teaches how to analyse that fact, that teaches how to formulate an argument based on that analysis and, what is more, that teaches young adults how to assess rigorously the success or otherwise of that process of learning, application and analysis.

The relative merits—or lack thereof—of this new single science course are widely publicised. The narrowing of the curriculum is patronising at best, and incredibly damaging at worst. The rector of Imperial College London, Sir Richard Sykes, stated on BBC news that,

"for those who really want to go on and study a subject in depth, and particularly go to a good university like Imperial, then they'll never get there unless they study the individual subjects and take A-levels in these individual subjects".

Noble Lords will forgive me if I do not today analyse the virtues of studying a module entitled "You and your genes". It sounds rather like a fashion module that has found its way on to the science curriculum. I was appalled to read the words of Andrew Hunt, who has personal overall responsibility for developing the new so-called Twenty First Century Science curriculum, including the single science course. He stated in a public e-mail:

"What Twenty First Century Science also offers in 'Science' is an engaging course for students who will not take their Science further".

I do not accept that the amendment will incur a spending commitment. The study of the three sciences will take up a maximum of 10 per cent extra curriculum time over and above the 20 per cent taken up by the dual award, or the new single-plus additional science syllabus. I do not see why an extra science could not be chosen in lieu of another subject. Furthermore, in answer to the Minister's concern about teacher numbers, I accept that there is a dearth of science teachers today, and applaud the creation of new incentives. However, all schools offer the dual science awards now. There is much that can now be achieved on the available resources.

We know from an Answer in another place over a year ago that Her Majesty's Government expect that at least 80 per cent of students should do at least two science GCSEs. That is to say that, at the very least, 20 per cent of pupils will study the single sciences course. This is a course whose own creator has acknowledged it to be is useless outside the classroom; it will do nothing to prepare our children for the realities or facts of a world that will demand far more scientific attention on the environment and energy provision than ever before.

Aldous Huxley got it right when he said:

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored".

Let us not ignore the facts today. I hope that the Minister can act in the spirit of consensus with noble Lords from all Benches, and allow this important entitlement into the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

My Lords, we are minded to support this amendment. We accept that it does not make all three sciences compulsory, but it gives children a choice in how to study science.

I am afraid that we do not agree with comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, about the Twenty First Century Science curriculum. It is a perfectly appropriate option for some young people. We are, however, concerned about the drop in the number of young people choosing science at A-level. For certain young people, studying separate sciences would be preferable. While the new science curriculum is so young and new, it would be dangerous to get rid of the three sciences—not allowing young people to make that choice—as it is evaluated.

There may be some practical difficulties. Not every school currently has people suitably qualified to teach the three separate sciences. However, if the Government are serious about encouraging schools to work together in federations, in groups within a trust and with colleges in the local environment, I see no reason why the separate sciences should not be offered by that group of schools to a young person who wants to take them. He may not be able to study each under a qualified teacher in his own school, but I am sure that, by working together in the sorts of ways that the Government have already envisaged, schools would be able to do it. They do so already, with their sixth-form provision; schools often offer subjects in the sixth form by working together so that some subjects are delivered in one school and some by the school down the road. That could also be done at key stage 4.

What we really should do is train more properly qualified science teachers, but will we achieve that by taking away the option to study the three separate sciences? I am not convinced about that. In the early stages of the Twenty First Century Science curriculum, until we are sure that it will increase the number of young people taking separate sciences at A-level, which they will need if they are going to go on to science careers, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. That is why we are minded to support this amendment.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

My Lords, I apologise to the House because this is the first time I have addressed it on the Education and Inspections Bill. Noble Lords who were in the Chamber earlier will realise that I do so with a particular interest in the new science syllabus, Twenty First Century Science.

I have taken the Times for all my adult life, although I try to read other papers as well. I think some of its front-page headlines have become pretty silly, but when I read its headline on Wednesday, 11 October—"Science elite rejects new GCSE as 'fit for the pub'"—I exploded. I thought of cancelling my subscription, but my wife said she enjoys other parts of the newspaper.

Twenty First Century Science has been a long time in gestation. It fits admirably with the chapter about science education in the report of the Science and Technology Select Committee, Science and Society. I chaired the sub-committee, and we did not initially intend to have a chapter about education. However, we received so much evidence from all sides that much of the problem of the alienation of the public from science starts in the schools that we decided that we needed to address the subject as part of our wider study. I am very glad we did, because the people who devised this new syllabus—they were working independently from us—told me very early on that they applauded us for addressing the subject. We agreed that, as the new syllabus emerged, it would closely reflect the philosophy of the Select Committee.

My noble friend Lady Buscombe—who let me know five minutes before Questions that she does not agree with me on this—praised Sir Richard Sykes for his view. I have enormous respect for Sir Richard, and I had two long meetings with him in the past week. In the end, he agreed that we are fundamentally trying to achieve the same objective. However, not for the first time, Sir Richard is a bit out on a limb. When the Times reported that the science elite opposes this syllabus, it seemed to ignore that the Royal Society—its former president, the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, took part in Questions—the Institute of Physics, the Royal Institute of Chemistry, the Institute of Biology and the British Association for the Advancement of Science have all roundly supported the new syllabus as a valuable step in the right direction.

My noble friend suggested to me that the new syllabus fails because it does not meet the need for pupils to study the three sciences separately. I must say to my noble friend, with the greatest of respect—as they sometimes say in the courts—she has misdirected herself. I have a note from the Nuffield Foundation, which with the University of York has been the main intellectual powerhouse behind the new syllabus. It states clearly:

"Science education in schools has two jobs to do: to provide a worthwhile education for all preparing them for adult and working life", and,

"to lay the foundations for more advanced study in science".

It goes on:

"Twenty First Century Science does both in ways that is attracting international interest—not least because the approach is based on a ten year programme of research and development backed up with trials and evaluation".

Those promoting the syllabus have engaged the scientific community right from the start—names that are nationally known and others who are specialists in their special subject and may not be so well known. They have been a source—

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Education 4:30 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I want to intervene briefly, as my noble friend has suggested that I am wrong. I hope that I made it clear in Starred Questions earlier this afternoon that, in relation to the Twenty First Century Science syllabus, the separate sciences will be offered only to high achievers from 2008. I am asking this afternoon that we give all children, whatever their academic ability, the entitlement to learn the three separate sciences up to GCSE. I do not think that I can make myself clearer.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

My Lords, I do not think that there is much difference between my noble friend and me on that. What I say from my study of this subject is that for many pupils the academic study of three separate sciences would be difficult.

The Nuffield Foundation writes:

"Alongside our scientific literacy GCSE we are offering two versions of additional science to prepare for more advanced study. One is more academic—the other more applied and work related. The applied science GCSE has turned out to be very successful in many schools—including schools in 'deprived' areas. In London there are a lot of schools in Hackney, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets that have adopted the programme. Haggerston School in Hackney was a particularly successful pilot school.

A very important point is that by offering a separate, academic science GCSE we have been able to make it more conceptually coherent and intellectually challenging"—

I stress the words "intellectually challenging"—

"than the National Curriculum that has just been replaced.

Within the programme"— and this is where perhaps my noble friend has not fully understood the nature of the new syllabus—

"biology, chemistry and physics are presented distinctly and the option of taking three separate science GCSEs is available".

Who can quarrel with that? It seems an immensely sensible approach. My noble friend shakes her head. You cannot teach the rigours of the separate sciences unless pupils are motivated to take them and understand how they will fit into their lives. That is the principal benefit of this new syllabus and it relates to why so many of us have shared concerns about the reduction in the number of pupils taking science A-levels and those going to university, and the decline in the number of university courses available. We have all been concerned about this and, as we pointed out in the Science and Society report, the disenchantment starts in the schools because the syllabus has not encouraged children to understand the nature of science.

The new syllabus does that and it should be roundly supported. I do not disagree with my noble friend's second amendment, Amendment No. 96, which seems to express it perfectly. It states:

"a pupil in the fourth key stage who attained at least level six in assessments in science for the purposes of the National Curriculum at the end of the third key stage shall be entitled to follow a course of study in science which leads to separate qualifications in the three sciences".

That sounds very sensible. We certainly need the rigour—the hard graft—necessary in physics, chemistry and biology if we are to create the next generation of scientists to take over from those who are currently carrying the load.

That syllabus has a great deal to commend it. I was grateful for the support of the Minister and from all parts of the House this afternoon at Question Time, because this is a notable advance. If I may say so, it is not presented in a way more suitable for the pub than the classroom. Unfortunately, that was a sound bite that the press found themselves totally unable to resist, so it was repeated in a great many newspapers and other media sources, but it is not true. The new syllabus simply would not have the support of so many eminent scientists and scientific bodies if that were all it was. It is much better than that and it deserves our support.

Photo of Baroness Warnock Baroness Warnock Crossbench

My Lords, I very much support the amendment. I find myself extremely confused. In the letter just read out from the people at Nuffield, the word "alongside" was used—alongside the new syllabus, as I understand it, there will be two further grades: one that is more applied and one that is more academic. As I understand the letter, all of those will be offered at GCSE alongside one another. What does "alongside" mean? Does it mean that people may choose whether to take the syllabus intended to make them scientifically literate but not scientists or take either a more practical application of science or the full, rigorous, three separate subject academic and experimental science to which we are accustomed? Or is it that, in some schools, it will be legitimate to offer only the scientific literacy syllabus, which seems to be more a matter of discussion than laboratory work?

I need that cleared up straight away before I can decide whether to vote with the noble Baroness.

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench

My Lords, I confess that I lack any expertise in this area and my mind is rather transfixed on modern foreign languages right now, but I was involved in this matter when I was chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. I have great sympathy with the concern of the noble Baroness to develop our capability in sciences at the highest level. I should like to clear my mind on some points.

Reference has been made to A-levels. One can take the individual sciences at A-level. The three amendments concern key stage 4. They state that if a pupil has reached level 6 at key stage 4, he or she may have the option of pursuing not general science but the individual sciences. My understanding is that the only duty of the school in relation to key stage 4 science is that the pupil should have followed the programme of study in the 21st century science curriculum. There is no obligation to take the GCSE in it, but they must cover the programme of study. The expectation is that they will do the single-science paper, but they can take any other single science they wish at GCSE. They can, for example, take a single science as an additional science, which can be in an individual science.

If the pupil chooses at the end of key stage 3 to study the individual sciences, as I understand it, there is nothing to stop that pupil taking the GCSE in all three sciences, provided that he or she has covered the syllabus of the 21st-century science. In doing those three sciences, apart from some geology and astronomy, he or she will have done so. It therefore seems that the opportunity is there for the pupil to do an individual science, and I am keen that there should be that opportunity.

When I was chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, I used to knock respectfully at the door of the Royal Society and ask about the individual sciences. There is such a gap between general science at A-level and individual sciences that we are not getting the through put to A-level from the other sciences. The Royal Society used to tell me that it was so important for pupils to have a general understanding of science and that it was worried that, if individual sciences were offered, girls would choose biology and not do physics or chemistry. I used to leave abashed and defeated and say that I could not contest against the Royal Society. I understand that the situation has changed since then and that the only obligation now is to have covered the syllabus for the general science—the 21st-century science. Provided the pupil does that, they can do all three sciences or take the syllabus for the general science for one and do one or two of the others. There are many options.

There is nothing between my objectives and those of the noble Baroness, who says that the cut-off point should be whether the child has reached level 6 at the end of key stage 3. That is a bit above average, but nothing spectacular. When I was revising the national curriculum, there were 10 levels. I recommended reducing it to eight levels, because the high levels were covered by the GCSE. The noble Baroness proposes level 6. As I say, that is above average, but nothing spectacular. I think I agree with the noble Lord that a general understanding of science is the important part of education. I would regret it if level 6 was regarded as adequate.

My main point—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong; indeed, I am watching the officials' eyes and mouths to see whether I am getting it all wrong—is that there are opportunities to pursue the individual sciences. I cannot contest with the noble Lord or comment on the value of 21st-century science, but I take his word for it. I wanted to clarify what I believe to be the reality of the options.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, there are clearly educational needs for at least two kinds of course in this area. One is to provide an understanding of science for those who will not become specialist scientists. There is a desperate need for that in our culture. Many of the issues on which voters will vote in the next election and in subsequent elections have a scientific content that requires a basic understanding, for example, of where we go on GM crops or nuclear power—I could list the issues. There is a great need for such education. Equally, there is a need for education in specialist science areas. The question is how we reconcile the two. As ever, my noble friend Lord Dearing is right—we are not divided over the objectives; the question is how we get there.

My worry is that the amendment would in effect compel the school to provide, in so far as it entitles the child. The alternative, of course, is to compel the child by loading up the core curriculum, which is what we used to do. What this amendment proposes would create the same problem that affects modern languages. We want to persuade people to opt for these courses, and the way to do that is not to compel the school to provide them but to ensure that teaching is improved and is of the highest quality. I have to say that the statistics given earlier about the recruitment of science teachers are very important. My feeling is that we tackle the issue in the wrong way by compelling schools to provide. We should look at ways to improve the quality of science education so that it becomes attractive.

Photo of Lord Lewis of Newnham Lord Lewis of Newnham Crossbench 4:45 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I should like to add one or two points. I agree with quite a lot of the discussion that has been put forward today. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, that we need the type of course being suggested. Having looked into this—not in detail, I must admit—and having spent the past 40 years involved in syllabus corrections and curricula dealings in chemistry, I can look at it with a degree of objectivity.

One problem is quite simple: we have two different sections of the community, as we have heard. We need to recognise that there is a need within the public to understand science. However, my experience has been that the correlation between that course and the A-level is a big step. A big difficulty that we face is that if we are to do this course as well, we should reconsider the A-level. This cannot be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion. In response to a question earlier from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, the Minister said that a larger number of people are taking AS-level, but those people do not necessarily go on to take A-level. They are encouraged to take AS- level because, say, chemistry attracts them. When they start AS-level or A-level chemistry, they find that it is not the same animal at all and that it is a much more difficult animal to deal with, so they very often drop it like a hot potato at that stage.

We cannot consider the curricula in bits, as we do. There is a continuum that must go from GCSE to AS-level to A-level and, perhaps I may dare say, to universities. In many ways, universities are the culprits in this because they set the standards of entry. Very often, they set the standards by saying, "We want the old A-level type of result" and do not recognisethe problems which have now become inherent in the whole concept of modern day society; namely, that we must educate people in a general way and then allow for specialisation to come forward. I have great sympathy with the suggestion being made. I believe that the only way we will deal with the present AS/A-level is by having specialisation at earlier stages. In my mind, the correct answer is to look now at the AS and the A-level.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, I should like to put a question to the Minister. I was a schoolboy science enthusiast and had my first chemistry set at the age of eight or nine. I have been stimulated by this tremendously important debate. Conducive to the ends of this debate, what is being done to enable pupils to have access to science laboratories during the school day and after school so that we can motivate and engage them to go into further and higher levels of study? It was valuable for me to be able to go to my science lab to conduct experiments at break time all through my schooldays. I hope that that question is helpful.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, this has been an immensely useful debate. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, whose speech I greatly appreciated, that if every time I saw a tendentious front page of a newspaper I cancelled my subscription to it, I would be reduced now to reading House of Lords Hansard. Important as that publication is, one probably needs a slightly larger diet in order to survive from day to day. But the point that he made about the misreporting of the new science syllabus was correct: it was very poorly reported in the publication to which the noble Lord referred.

I was delighted to hear the support that has come from all sides of the House for the science syllabus. We believe, as do Nuffield, Wellcome and others, that it could play a very substantial role in boosting interest in science among young people and in making it more interesting and exciting to teach. Motivation is all when seeking to engage young people in an interest for new subjects, in the way that the noble Earl described. We stand by that syllabus, which has been well received in the schools.

I am able to offer a correction to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. It is the first time in my life it has ever happened and I simply cannot resist doing so. I have received advice from the Box that although it is true that schools are obliged to ensure that students follow the programme of study, there is also a statutory duty on schools to put pupils in for public examinations for which they have been prepared. Therefore there is a duty on schools to put pupils in for at least the first of the science GCSEs. Wherever possible—which will be in the great majority of cases—we wish pupils to be put in also for the second general science GCSE. Indeed, we are about to introduce a performance indicator from next year which will publicly identify, school by school, the proportion of pupils who are entered for the two science GCSEs. This is in response to concerns that the take-up of the second science GCSE needed to be improved.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but we need a little clarification on these Benches which will be quite crucial to the decision that we make. Did I understand the Minister to say that students who have taken the Nuffield science course—for which, I repeat, we have enormous respect—cannot take separate sciences at GCSE?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

No, my Lords, absolutely not. I shall come to the issue of the three individual sciences in a moment. Pupils have an entitlement to the two new science GCSEs and the programme of study that goes with it.

As to the issue of the three individual sciences, which the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, is seeking to promote, there is a great deal of unity of purpose across the Chamber. I need to describe our policy because it accurately reflects what both the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and the noble Lord, Lord Lewis of Newnham, set out in their criteria for how we should approach the subject.

Taking up the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, made earlier, there has been no statutory entitlement to the three individual sciences. Before 1988, in the national curriculum there was no entitlement whatever—that was part of the great problem with the education system. There was an entitlement to the double science course thereafter, but not an entitlement to the three individual sciences.

However, when we sought systematically to review the improvements we needed to make to school science and to ensure an adequate supply of students going through the system, and published in March our Science & innovation investment framework 2004-2014, which my department conducted with the Treasury—it is a detailed publication which owes a great deal to the work of the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and I pay tribute to the work that he did—we identified precisely the point highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Lewis of Newnham: that for those students who perform more highly in science and wish to proceed to AS and A-level, the individual sciences were likely to prepare them better than the general science GCSE courses, and that we should seek to extend the availability of the individual sciences alongside the new science in society syllabus and the new general science GCSEs.

The document Science & innovation investment framework 2004-2014 set out very significant new entitlements that we intend to introduce to the three individual sciences. It sets out two which are precisely captured in the noble Baroness's AmendmentsNos. 96 and 97. First, those pupils who achieve level 6 or above, who are the higher performing pupils, in the key stage 3 test at the age of 14, should from 2008 have an entitlement to study the three individual sciences.

To give your Lordships an idea of the scale of the entitlement we are introducing, this year 41 per cent of pupils achieved level 6 or above in science—that is 259,000 students. As of this year, only about 45,000 students are doing the three individual sciences at GCSE. So we are increasing from about 45,000 to 259,000 over the course of the next two years the group of students who will have an entitlement to study the three individual sciences. As I say, that is about 40 per cent of the cohort going into GCSE which is a very generous interpretation of the group described by the noble Lords, Lord Sutherland and Lord Lewis.

Our second policy announcement was that comprehensive schools which have a specialism in science, of which there are nearly 300, should also, from 2008, have a requirement to make available the three individual sciences, on the grounds that in addition to schools already offering the three individual sciences—and quite a number of state schools do—they would have the greatest capacity to have teachers in physics, chemistry and biology to offer the individual sciences. That highlights the type of networking and cluster-type arrangements which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, described. We see them as hubs in their communities for excellence in science education; they are the schools most likely to be able to offer the three individual sciences, and to do so on a collaborative basis with other schools.

That is a very substantial addition to the entitlement that will be available to the three individual sciences. We believe that that very ambitious programme of extending entitlement to the three individual sciences is as far as it is practical for us to go at the moment, given the supply of teachers in the system. Despite the big incentives we have put in the system, which have led to significant increases in the recruitment of science teachers in all three disciplines, it is still not sufficient for us to have a universal entitlement in all schools and for all pupils to study the three individual sciences, much as I would like to make that available now.

As of January this year, the National Foundation for Educational Research found that 26 per cent of schools for 11 to 16 year-olds had no physics specialist, while 12 per cent had no chemistry specialist. We are significantly increasing the supply of both physics and chemistry teachers; we have set targets in the documents to which I referred earlier for a very significant further increase in both disciplines, and are increasing the golden hellos and other payments to encourage graduates to come forward. But I do not believe it would be appropriate and right for us to put in legislation requirements on schools which they simply cannot meet at present.

While Amendments Nos. 96 and 97 reflect accurately the policy we have set out to increase the availability of the three individual sciences and to extend the entitlement substantially in the way in which I have described—up to about 40 per cent of the cohort over and above those who can do the general science—to make it a universal entitlement at one stroke, as the noble Baroness proposes in Amendment No. 95, would simply put a burden and a requirement on schools which they are unable to meet. It is much better to go down the path described by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, of having a great increase in the supply of science teachers, focused particularly on the science specialist schools, and then seeing how, from those hubs, we can spread out a steadily wider availability of the three individual sciences.

I hope that the noble Baroness will not press Amendment No. 95. If she does, we will simply be unable to support it because I cannot say that the school system can deliver the objective she wants. However, with regard to Amendments Nos. 96 and 97, under Clause 71(5)(b) the Secretary of State has a power to prescribe entitlements in respect of science within the curriculum. If she does not press those two amendments, I will undertake to see how the requirements that the Secretary of State prescribes reflect our policy on the further extension in availability of the three individual sciences. I believe that that will secure the objective that she is seeking in respect of her second and third amendments. However, as I say, Amendment No. 95 is simply not deliverable on the current scale of resources and the current capacity of schools.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Education

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. I accept that there is a critical shortage of properly qualified science teachers. But my concern is that as long as the three separate sciences are available only to those high achievers from the age of 14, we will have even fewer qualified science teachers for the future.

There is a downward spiral in terms of the number of science teachers. I appreciate that the Government are putting a number of incentives in place, and I applaud that. But the fact that there is a lack of qualified teachers should not be a reason why fewer pupils are allowed to study all three of the separate sciences.

The new curriculum may offer high achievers the opportunity or the entitlement to study the separate sciences, but my belief is that all children, no matter what their academic capability, should be allowed to study the three separate sciences up to the age of 16. That has always been the case in the independent sector. It is tragic that we are reducing children's life chances in the state sector by making this possible only for high achievers.

I have never said that I am against the new curriculum for the 21st century, but having one system alongside the other is a problem. Unless we properly prepare students in all three separate sciences, or give them that opportunity right from the start, how will they then be able to go on to A-levels and universities such as Imperial College to become the next scientists and science teachers of the 21st century?

We are asking for a simple shift on the part of Government to allow all children, whatever their capability, to learn and develop their aspirations and inspirations in terms of the future of science. I therefore welcome the Liberal Democrats' support. Children should be able to make the choice to learn those three separate sciences up to the age of 16.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness in her winding-up, but I thought that I had indicated to her that the Government had convinced us and that we would not support her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Education

My Lords, that is a great pity. We are denying more than half of children who are learning science in school the opportunity to study the separate sciences. It is why parents from whatever background are doing everything possible to move their children out of the state sector and into the independent sector, where they are being given greater life chances. That is a tragic situation. I shall test the opinion of the House, because I believe that what I am asking for is reasonable.

On Question, Whether the said amendment(No. 95) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 121; Not-Contents, 208.

Division number 2

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 96 and 97 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Education 5:13 pm, 24th October 2006

moved Amendment No. 98:

Page 52, line 27, at end insert-

"(6A) The governing body of a maintained school may opt to provide a course of study in the core subjects for the fourth key stage as mentioned in subsection (3)(a) and (c) above including the separate study of biology, physics and chemistry, that lead to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) as an alternative to one approved under section 98 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 for the purposes of section 96 of that Act.

(6B) Where the governing body opts to provide a course of study under subsection (6A), section 96 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 shall not apply in relation to the provision of that course of study.

(6C) In relation to any performance targets or tables, the International General Certificate of Secondary Education shall be considered acceptable at Grades A*, A, B or C in lieu of a General Certificate of Secondary Education on a subject for subject basis.

(6D) In this section "the International General Certificate of Secondary Education" means the qualification of that name awarded by-

(a) University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, (b) Edexcel Ltd."

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Education

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 98, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 102 and 103. These amendments would allow the maintained sector to follow alternative examination routes in order to drive up rigour and standards in schools. Amendment No. 98 would allow pupils in maintained schools to take the IGCSE in science and mathematics and ensure that the qualification is considered acceptable in lieu of a GCSE for the purposes of government league tables.

When we previously dealt with this issue in Committee, I was pleased that the Minister recognised that the IGCSE is an "effective programme of study". The international GCSE has been offered since 1988 and is recognised by universities and employers worldwide. More than 4,000 schools across the world, including more than 200 UK schools, teach international GCSE, which is taken in more than 100 countries with 350,000 entries a year. This is tried and tested. Two exam boards, Cambridge and Edexcel, already offer the IGCSE. It is recognised by UCAS, which accepts the IGCSE in lieu of the GCSE.

Needless to say, Governments overseas have seen the light and approved the IGCSE at national and federal levels. The take-up of the exam in diverse overseas curricula is striking. The United States is ahead of us on this. The Florida state legislature lists the International GCSE as a "rigorous academic programme". IGCSEs are recognised by the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Virginia as equivalent to its own state standards. What is more striking is that this Government support the IGCSE—but only overseas. The government-funded British Council delivers the IGCSE to over 45,000 candidates a year from all around the world. Noble Lords will understand my surprise on reading the words of the Minister in another place, Jim Knight, who stated:

"Inclusion of the IGCSE would be contrary to the policy that the basics must be achieved by everyone if the IGCSE has not first been proven to meet those standards".

Clearly, the IGCSE has proven standards. It is good enough for British children overseas, but not for children in the maintained sector at home, who could benefit so much.

The Chancellor is committed to closing the gap between the maintained and the independent sector, yet as usual that means matching pound for pound—matching the quantity and not the quality of provision. That is nothing less than unacceptable. The Minister mentioned a report from the QCA on this subject in Committee. We have not read the report, but I suspect that the QCA will continue to dig in its heels. Yet what surprises me is that the Secretary of State has not seen the evidence of his own Government's international practice and that of other Governments.

A news report from the Independent on 2 September showed that as many as half of all independent schools have now adopted the exam. Head teachers at independent schools say that the GCSE is no longer sufficient preparation for A-levels. We have debated the inadequacies of the new science curriculum. The maths curriculum has seen some improvement in the recent commitment to scrap maths coursework, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that policy today. The IGCSE applies that valuable concept to all subjects. Christopher Ray, High Master of Manchester Grammar School, has said:

"We wanted the coursework-free option because the coursework that is demanded for GCSE maths is very routine and very undemanding".

It is sad that we can only quote today from the independent sector. The maintained sector is being denied the privilege of choosing its exams; it is legally prevented from making those choices. I expect that Members on the Benches to my right and the Benches opposite would agree with us that that must change.

Amendment No. 102 would change the current system so that it is not necessary to take an AS-level in order to complete an A-level course. It is based on the recognition that the artificial split between AS and A2 has had a detrimental effect on education at sixth-form level, which has become exacerbated by an increasing obsession with the modularisation of the qualification. I do not propose to abolish the AS-level; it is clear that there is a need for a one-year course for pupils who do not intend to take a subject further. I do not have any objection in principle to the idea that this course can be upgraded to an A-level at a later point. However, I fear that the AS-level has diluted what was a rigorous, linear course of study under the two-year A-level.

Many pupils have found that the AS has forced them to cut back on extra-curricular activities. The summer term in the first year of sixth form, when sixth formers often take on extra responsibilities in the absence of those in the final year, has become disrupted by study leave and examinations. The artificial split of a two-year course of study into two one-year courses has resulted in students following up to 12 loosely connected courses and being assessed 12 different times. Schools should have the choice to offer a rigorous, linear course that allows for the development of intellectual maturity.

We have debated science and maths, but let us not forget the arts subjects. Attainment in English literature, history, geography and languages improves over time. Graham Able, the head of Dulwich College, says that A-levels are,

"lacking in stimulus. They are putting in things that are simply to be examined in little chunks but have little real value. We are wasting a lot of time doing coursework. It is doing simple things more mechanically".

It should be extremely worrying that universities are already indicating that some of the qualifications I mentioned are superior to the A-level. If good schools adopt the most rigorous qualifications of the international baccalaureate, the international A-level and the Cambridge Pre-U, then the gap between those schools and poor schools will be exacerbated further.

Amendment No. 103 protects the status of the international baccalaureate. Although it is currently approved by the QCA for teaching in maintained schools, the amendment would give the qualification statutory protection. I feel that such protection would be useful: it would reinforce the respectability of the exam if Parliament were to approve it in this manner.

I would also like to expose the inconsistency of permitting the international baccalaureate diploma, yet not the international GCSE. I think that it is particularly inconsistent given that the international baccalaureate diploma is approved by the QCA for the pre-16 age group. The Minister needs to explain in which respects the international baccalaureate differs from the international GCSE. I appreciate that it is a level 3 rather than a level 2 qualification, but the fact remains that a school could offer the international baccalaureate to gifted and talented students at key stage 4, but could not offer others the IGCSE at this stage.

I look forward to the Minister's response to these amendments, in particular to my AmendmentNo. 98—which I hope he can accept in the interests of consistent opportunities and standards for all children at all schools in this country. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, regarding the IGCSE, the international baccalaureate and AS-levels. I touched on some of those points at Second Reading. I would like to draw the attention of the House to Amendment No. 99, standing in my name in this group, which also returns to an issue that I raised at Second Reading and concerns youngsters who may not be able to aspire to the levels of attainment that the noble Baroness has just outlined.

I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to meet Mr Mike Bell, who saw the Minister's officials, along with colleagues from the Education Policy Network. I readily accept that some tentative steps have been made in the Bill to move in the direction that I have argued for.

As at Second Reading, in this amendment I hope to put the spotlight on the 30 per cent of pupils who leave education at 16 with few or no useful qualifications—ordinary young people who have simply found education difficult. Later in their lives, you may meet them as loving parents, excellent mechanics, first-rate shop assistants, skilful lorry drivers and a host of other careers that are vital to the economic and social life of our nation. Lest too rosy a picture of this group should lull your Lordships into complacency, consider that some 80 per cent of the prison population are from this group and some become the disaffected youth that so many towns-people fear on their streets at night.

I would like to tell your Lordships about real young people whose names have been changed, but whose stories have been told to me by practising teachers: of Janie, who worked hard every lesson, often got the work right in class, but who always did badly in tests and exams, however hard she worked, and of Bethany, who would often complete the work the teacher had set, but most of her answers were wrong. Both have now left school and are trainees in hair and beauty salons. Or I can tell you of Jamie, who arrives in lessons so eager to get his hands on things that he often gets into trouble for taking the teachers' materials; or of Joe, who is expected by his GCSE entitlement to work out the percentage efficiency of a light bulb. He has struggled with ratio and never grasped percentages despite hard work by himself and his teachers and the word "efficiency" means nothing to him. And Ben hated school so much that he would work only under threat of punishment, but is now successfully engaged on an engineering apprenticeship. Those are just a few voices from around 200,000 young people who, in one year group, had academic abilities lying between the 5th and 30th percentiles.

The aim of the amendment is to give all those pupils the chance to leave school with certificates showing what they can do. For many in this group, the current system tells them only what they cannot do. Grades E, F and G at GCSE are of no value as entry to courses, and employers consider them to be "fail" grades. Around 55 per cent of pupils achieve five A to C grades, but that means that 45 per cent do not.

As I have indicated, this Education and Inspections Bill goes some way towards addressing the issue, and I welcome the fact that the new specialist diplomas will be available at level 1, as well as at the GCSE equivalent, level 2. I also welcome the introduction of the new functional skills, which should enable teachers to focus on the basics of maths and English with pupils for whom algebra and Shakespeare may be inappropriate. However, these new courses are not yet available and, while there is no guarantee that they will meet the needs of non-academic pupils, I ask the Minister, in responding to the amendment, at least to flesh out some of the detail of what they will involve and give us some kind of timetable for their implementation. We need to remember that the same institutions—the Department for Education and Skills and the QCA—which are drawing up the new courses were also responsible for the previous curriculum, which sadly has humiliated many of these less able young people, turned them off education and, in some cases, turned them against society.

Our gifted civil servants never were in the bottom set at school. They have probably never been in regular personal contact with the people whose plight I am trying to highlight in the amendment. When the national curriculum was introduced in 1988, teachers found it so impractical and prescriptive that in 1993 the Government very sensibly commissioned my noble friend Lord Dearing—then Sir Ron Dearing—to make it more manageable. As he indicated in our earlier debate on the previous set of amendments, he slimmed it down considerably.

The curriculum proposals in the Bill are further attempts to patch and mend the national curriculum to meet the needs of real children found in real classrooms by real teachers, rather than the intellectual model of a pupil which seems to stalk the corridors of the Department for Education and Skills. Teachers tell me that you have to teach these youngsters regularly for some time before you come to terms with the fact that they are not simply misbehaving. They tell me that, for some students, however many times you teach some topics, however helpful the worksheet and however interesting the presentation, some pupils continually report, "I've no idea what you are talking about, sir".

Classroom experience and research evidence shows that the range of abilities in the average classroom is far wider than is reflected in current GCSE courses. Surely it is time to admit these facts and offer all pupils courses that stretch their abilities and also give them the chance to succeed. After all, the word "education" is derived from Latin. Its meaning is clear: to draw out; to lead forth. For education to work, it must start from where pupils are today and lead them forward.

I suppose that if I could caricature the amendment in one phrase, it would be "Let them succeed". The problem that we see today derives from the concept of "entitlement". It is used in the national curriculum and we have heard much about it this afternoon. The Minister may try to persuade the House that my amendment undermines the entitlement of all pupils to a broad and balanced curriculum. If he does tell us that, he will be wrong on two counts. First, my amendment applies to key stage 4—to 14 year-olds. It does not reduce the breadth of the curriculum at key stage 3—the first three years at secondary school. Secondly, it does not allow pupils to opt out of core subjects. It simply gives them the right to follow, for example, a course in mathematics to which they are suited.

This so-called entitlement is a dangerous corruption of the use of the word in common parlance. To most of us, if we have an entitlement, it means that we can choose to have it or not. In education, however, entitlement means compulsion. All pupils must follow this or that course. Let us imagine that when you joined a gymnasium you were "entitled"—for which we should read "compelled"—to run 10 miles on the treadmill and lift 100 pound weights. For some, that would be physical education; for others—probably people like me—it would be a disaster. It has been the same in education for 15 years. Some aspects of this entitlement have driven some pupils to despair, disengagement and disaffection. Any sensible gymnasium assesses each member and gives them a training programme designed for their particular needs. Although that cannot be done to the same degree at school, my amendment would move the curriculum in that direction.

Whenever teachers talk about their work, the same themes repeat themselves: staff leaving through stress, poor classroom behaviour, disaffection with learning and dumbing down of academic standards. Employers complain of skill shortages and low standards of literacy and numeracy. At first these appear as separate issues, but a closer look reveals deep connections. They all result from treating pupils as though they were similar.

Taking an average form-group of 30 pupils just starting their GCSE courses in year 10, their key stage 3 results from earlier in the summer tell us that there are three pupils at level 3 or below, five at level 4, 11 at level 5—the average for this age group—eight at level 6 and three at level 7 or above. Those figures may not mean much to the lay observer, so translating them into notional academic ages reveals that the average form starting at year 10 contains three eight year-olds, five 11 year-olds, 11 14 year-olds—the age of most year 10s—but also eight 16 year-olds and three pupils with the same thinking skills as good university students. That is a remarkably high range. We would find it strange if we were to have 11 year-olds and 16 year-olds in the same class, but, in terms of academic age, that is the pattern at age 14 in every non-selective school in the country. The idea that we should be offering all pupils variations on the same course, as at present, is simply nonsense.

Further evidence comes from Shayer and Adey's research at King's College, London on cognitive acceleration. Many schools use CASE in science—cognitive acceleration through science education—or its equivalent, CAME, in maths. These programmes, which are proven to work, are based on an understanding which divides thinking into two broad groups: first, everyday concrete thinking, which is largely about facts and descriptions of the world; and, secondly, abstract formal thinking which requires a mental process.

The research shows that only about 30 per cent of the adult population develops the abstract thinking skills needed for academic courses. That key fact is too often overlooked when education policy is being made. Not only do we have an age range of at least eight years, but it is divided into two distinct groups: those who can access the abstract topics and those who, at this stage of their lives at least, cannot. Failure is bound to follow if policy makers ignore those facts. Many of the problems encountered by teachers can be explained by the way in which the national curriculum forces teachers to put perfectly intelligent but concrete thinkers through courses that require abstract thinking.

To conclude, education for some has become the basis for failure. While the Government have indicated that they will oppose my amendment, I hope that the House and the Government will at least give serious consideration to the principles that lie behind it. Give every child the right to follow courses which will show what he or she can do. Do not let us be persuaded by talk of entitlement, but listen to what practising teachers tell us about their daily experience with non-academic students. Do not be persuaded by promises of functional skills, specialist diplomas and foundation tier. Those have not yet been written and there is no guarantee that they will succeed in meeting that need. Spare a thought for the struggling pupil who feels humiliation on a daily basis at school and for the teachers who struggle to deal with their indifference.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour 5:30 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I support Amendment No. 103 to encourage the use of the international baccalaureate. My interest in this comes, first, from the fact that my elder son insisted on doing the international baccalaureate and it has served him very well, and secondly, and more objectively, I was a member of the European Union Select Committee's Sub-Committee F when we examined labour mobility. It was quite striking to note that one of the obstacles for UK people with children moving into jobs in Europe was the non-recognition of the leaving exam. The international baccalaureate is the leaving examination in 124 countries and in almost all European countries.

In particular I want to remind the House of the evidence of the CBI in this matter. It is on page 23 of the evidence attached to the report. The CBI points out that,

"individuals in families are more concerned about the education implications of mobility", and that,

"many families like the opportunity to go and stay in another EU Member State, they want their children to attend a local school and acquire various language skills. They can actually see that as a very strong benefit of a relocation".

But they do not move because their children's secondary education might be undermined by having to do a different examination system. The CBI goes on to state that,

"many employees find the international baccalaureate helpful because it is broad enough and deep enough to be able to go to universities in most European countries".

Increasingly, UK universities are happy to use the international baccalaureate as an entry qualification. I think Oxford and Cambridge like it better because it is more rigorous and broader. My noble friend will know that it is also flexible enough to allow different levels of mobility within it. Today's Education Guardian says that,

"Wales has embraced the baccalaureate and is rolling out its own version".

It is not always the case that where Wales leads the UK follows, but perhaps this ought to be one of those occasions.

Photo of Lord Northbourne Lord Northbourne Crossbench

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Alton. I draw attention to the fact that the argument that he used applies to boys in particular. I believe that the average figure for gaining five GCSEs is 55 per cent, but for boys the figure is much nearer to 45 per cent. I should also point out that I do not intend to move Amendment No. 101.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson in the Lords (Further & Higher Education), Education & Skills

My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 100, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Walmsley, I shall speak also to other amendments in the group. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, we support Amendment No. 103. It has long been our policy on these Benches that we should broaden out the offering to pupils aged 16, 17 and 18 and the international baccalaureate provides that.

However, we do not support Amendment No. 98. We feel that it looks back to the days of GCEs when there was a division between the sheep and the goats: GCEs for the brighter pupils and CSEs for the less bright pupils. On the whole, we feel that the IGCSE is based on the old GCE standard and is not necessarily appropriate as a broad examination across a whole range.

We have a great deal of sympathy for Amendment No. 99, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but our policy is to implement the Tomlinson report which would have brought this about. The amendment to which I want to speak tries to bring a little more flexibility into the system of specialised diplomas that is being introduced. I raised this issue in Committee and since then I have had an opportunity to meet the QCA and Ken Boston to discuss what is being proposed under the specialised diplomas. I now have a much better understanding of what is intended and how the process will work.

I tabled this amendment again largely because I want to continue to register the discontent on these Benches with the Government's interpretation of the Tomlinson report. The new specialised diplomas, if studied through to level 3, which is the A-level equivalent standard, will incorporate many of the Tomlinson proposals: the broader base of studies with a continuing role for maths and English, side-by-side, for example, with engineering and the need for extended essays or the practical equivalent in terms of a completed piece of artwork or an artefact. We applaud that. We are pleased that these generally welcome aspects of the Tomlinson report are to be incorporated into the diplomas but we are disturbed about the degree to which the choice between diploma and the GCSE and A-level route is likely to be made at 14 rather than at 16, or indeed at 13 in terms of choices to be made at key stage 4.

As presented in the Bill, key stage 4 is when the routes divide and pupils are given the choice of the GCSE route, which leads on to A-level, or the specialised diploma route. We are all agreed that it is necessary to broaden the secondary school offering and provide more courses with practical, hands-on content so that the many who learn by doing rather than just by theorising may be better motivated to continue their studies. That is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Nevertheless, it was intended that there should be an opportunity not only for the demotivated teenager to study construction skills or motor mechanics but for the aspiring engineer also to get his hands dirty with some practical studies if he wished to. As it is, with the key stage 4 diploma courses being the equivalent of five to six GCSEs, there is the opportunity neither for the construction skills student to study history nor for the aspiring civil engineer to study construction skills.

The Minister will emphasise, I am sure, the degree to which students may switch courses at 16 and that the diploma courses at level 3 will be an A-level equivalent and provide a good route to university entrance, while the student who has taken the diploma course rather than GCSE may be able to proceed to AS and A-levels. How many actually will switch at this stage is yet to be seen. However, it is very depressing to read in the Times Educational Supplement of 13 October that many schools and local authorities are currently planning to ignore these new specialised diplomas in the hope, as the headline has it, that they will "just go away".

High-achieving schools focusing on GCSE and A-levels fear that if they shift their focus they will lose their current high position in league tables. Low-achieving schools are concentrating on raising their league table position and, again, do not wish to divert effort and training into the new, untried areas. I hope that that report in the Times Educational Supplement was unduly alarmist and that things may change when the programme begins to roll out in 2008. As things stand, however, we are fearful that diplomas will be seen as an appropriate route only for pupils who are not bright enough to take GCSE and achieve an A-to-C grade and that those who switch from the GCSE route to the diploma route at 16 will be those deemed to have poor prospects for A-level.

A key proposal in the Tomlinson report was for all pupils to have the possibility of studying the practical side-by-side with the more theoretical. The present proposals do not fulfil that ambition. This amendment has been tabled in the—I suspect rather vain—hope that the Government will even at this late hour introduce more flexibility into the choices available.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, Amendment No. 98 would give governing bodies the power to introduce IGCSE courses in English, maths and science and add the IGCSE to the list of qualifications acceptable for the achievement and attainment tables. This issue has been raised on several occasions during debates on the Bill in this House and in another place. We have given it a great deal of thought.

The IGCSE is a reputable qualification which some schools in this country clearly regard as beneficial to their students. However, we have a national statutory curriculum in place to ensure that all pupils receive a broad and rich curriculum. The Government must stand by the requirements of that curriculum. We would need to be sure, before we could allow the IGCSE to be used in state schools, that it met essential requirements in this regard.

In order to take that forward, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to study the IGCSE and to give us its advice. We have now received its report. My right honourable friend proposes to ask the QCA—with the agreement of Cambridge Assessment and Edexcel, the two awarding bodies offering the IGCSE—to publish its report so that the Government can invite a wider consultation within the education community and beyond on the IGCSE's use in the maintained sector. We will then look at the results of that consultation with an open mind. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, will find this a constructive way forward and that she, her party and other noble Lords who have expressed an interest will contribute to the consultation. At the end of that consultation, my right honourable friend and I will look at whether it would be appropriate to allow the IGCSE to be offered in state schools.

Amendment No. 99, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, seeks to ensure that all young people, whatever their level of ability, have access to courses in which they can succeed and to which they are suited. I broadly agreed with the noble Lord's remarks. In the past our curriculum has not been sufficiently flexible or rich to offer students opportunities of the kind that the noble Lord described. We accept that we must do a great deal more to meet their needs and to ensure that they have a successful experience of education so that they can leave school with skills they can apply in the workplace and are not held back by an unduly rigid curriculum and set of opportunities in school.

I believe that the reforms we are putting in place will substantially, although perhaps not entirely, meet the points that the noble Lord raised. We probably part company only on the issue of continuing entitlements. Perhaps I may say to him in passing that not all entitlements are statutory. If they were, we would not have the problem that we now have in modern languages and we would not be inviting the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, to issue his report. That is a classic area, and there are many others, where we have entitlements to provision within the curriculum that are not mandatory. They sometimes cause us difficulties because they lead students to choose not to follow those courses. In respect of modern languages, which is a pertinent issue, it was precisely with the group of students which the noble Lord mentioned in mind—those who are under-motivated by the current curriculum and need more flexibility as they come up to GCSE—that we were influenced to give more flexibility, to allow more opportunities for particularly work-related learning, and not to oblige students who have ceased to be motivated by particular subjects to continue all the way to 16.

That comes at a price, though, and our debates on modern languages during the Bill's passage show that the price can be a serious one where students choose not to follow courses that we regard as worth while. But we have been prepared to go down that road. The issue of some difficulty is the core subjects, which the noble Lord mentioned and the House would not wish to see unstudied in state schools up to the age of 16. Even here, however, I suspect that the difference between the noble Lord and myself is more apparent than real. He said that he would wish functional English and mathematics to continue to be taught, and so do we.

The introduction of diplomas will give more flexibility on that. The foundation level of the diploma—which is geared at students who currently achieve between grades D and G at GCSE, precisely the group that the noble Lord mentioned—will offer those students the opportunity to succeed with a worthwhile qualification. That will include, in its generic components, English and mathematics of a functional nature and not the whole programme leading to the current GCSE. Equally, we recognise the larger role that work-related learning can play. From September we have introduced the key stage 4 engagement programme, with precisely the sorts of students that the noble Lord mentioned in mind. It is designed to offer a motivating and engaging route for 14 to 16 year-olds at risk of disaffection, has a significant work focus of up to two days a week and is tailored to individual circumstances. From September, 21 schemes began for up to 5,000 young people. We shall study the experience of those schemes with care to see whether they are capable of wider application. I will see that the noble Lord has full details of them and can contribute to the ongoing debate about how we take this part of curriculum development forward.

Amendment No. 100, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, seeks to allow all young people to choose to study both a specialised diploma and a course of study in one or more of the four entitlement areas of the arts, humanities, design and technology and modern foreign languages. The noble Baroness described this as a probing amendment, to understand more what our thinking was. I believe that her objectives are met by the design of the diploma as it is being taken forward by the sector skills councils, the departments and the QCA.

At each of the three levels—level 1, the foundation level; level 2, which is equivalent to GCSEs; andlevel 3, which is equivalent to A-levels—the specialised diplomas will have three components: a generic component—English, maths and ICT; a principal learning component that will be sector-related to the area of the diploma; and, crucially, an additional specialist learning component. That additional specialist learning component may be further intensive study in the specialist area of the diploma—for example, a student studying engineering might study mechanical engineering in greater depth as part of his additional specialist learning—or it may involve taking additional subjects within the scope of the diploma, which would, for example, enable students in any of the diploma lines to study modern foreign languages as part of their additional learning. At level 2, the entire diploma will be equivalent to approximately six GCSEs. We have not finally decided the number, but it is likely to be in that area. That will give students the opportunity to study the equivalent of two to three GCSEs in their additional learning component. The areas in which students will be able to engage in additional learning will include the four areas specified in the noble Baroness's amendment: the arts, humanities, design and technology and modern foreign languages.

I understand the point that the noble Baroness made, but we are not seeking to introduce new rigidities into the system. The whole purpose of the diploma is to significantly enlarge opportunities and make it much more possible for students to match theoretical and applied learning. We do not believe that it will be difficult for students to change diploma lines between levels 2 and 3. Students are not being required at the age of 14 to take a decision about their diploma line that will bind them until they finish school or college at the age of 18. On the contrary, the level 2 diploma, which is likely to be equivalent to six GCSEs at grades A* to C, will take students to the age of 16 when they will decide whether to take A-levels or to follow a diploma line at level 3, in exactly the same way as students who have gone down the conventional GCSE route decide at the end of their GCSEs. We are not in the business of introducing new rigidities.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson in the Lords (Further & Higher Education), Education & Skills 5:45 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, will students who have taken the GCSE route have the opportunity of doing a diploma route at level 3?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

Absolutely, my Lords; they have that option and it may be appropriate. We strongly encourage that the offer be made so that they can follow the most appropriate course for them.

The article in the Times Educational Supplement on the introduction of the diplomas to which the noble Baroness referred was unduly alarmist. We will be putting significant resources behind the diploma and exerting all the powers of persuasion and encouragement that the QCA and my department have. We do not intend the diploma to be yet another failed experiment in the introduction of a broader curriculum. Because of the important entitlement that is set out in the Bill, we will be in a very strong position to require schools and colleges to take the introduction of diploma lines very seriously. We are also establishing 14-to-19 partnerships across the country to ensure that the full range of the new curriculum, including the specialised diplomas, is available on a collaborative basis between schools and colleges in the partnerships. That will give significant impetus to making the enlarged curriculum properly available in all parts of the country. I hope that I have met the noble Baroness's concerns on that point.

Amendment No. 102, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, would mean that students are no longer required to complete assessment at AS-level in order to achieve an A-level. The AS-level currently makes up 50 per cent of A-level assessment and is an important step in the transition from GCSE to A-level. We agree that there should be less assessment and fewer units in the AS-level. As part of our response to the Tomlinson report we announced our plans to reduce the number of assessment units in A-levels from six to four so that students will have to study only two units in the AS year and not three as is currently required. In most cases that will lead to fewer AS assessments and will reduce the assessment burden of the AS-level and the A-level by a third. It is a significant reduction and goes in the direction that the noble Baroness wants.

Amendment No. 103 deals with the IB. I entirely associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and my noble friend Lady Whitaker in supporting the IB. It is an excellent qualification and should be widely available in the state system. However, the amendment is unnecessary as the IB is already an approved qualification in the state system. State-maintained and independent schools are already free to offer the IB to students and it is currently being taught in over 70 schools and colleges in England including a large and growing number of maintained schools. The Government are keen that students in the maintained sector should have a wider opportunity to study it if they so wish.

I hope that, on the basis of those assurances, the noble Baroness will not feel it necessary to press the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister, Education

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I welcome his response on Amendment No. 102, which relates to AS-level. It is a move in the right direction.

The international baccalaureate diploma is an excellent qualification and is supported by noble Lords on all sides of the House. I welcome that support. It is important that the Minister was able to confirm that Amendment No. 103 is unnecessary because local governing bodies are already permitted to introduce the IB diploma.

The Minister needs to take the IGCSE seriously. He said that the QCA has agreed to publish a report and to consult on its wider use in the sector. It is important that the Government respond to the need to look at the IGCSE and I welcome their offer to allow Her Majesty's Opposition to contribute to that consultation. I want to encourage the Government in this direction and to send a strong message to the QCA that it is right to allow schools to introduce the IGCSE. Why should children in the state sector be denied that real opportunity to improve their life chances? As I said in speaking to the amendment on separate sciences, I know that many parents feel strongly that their children should have a much more rigorous curriculum. In recent days I have spoken to a number of heads in the independent sector and they have told me that the IGCSE truly teaches the language and vocabulary of science. That is why so many schools in the private sector have opted for it in science and mathematics. If we are to create scientists and mathematicians for the 21st century so that our children will be able to compete at the forefront of the global economy of the future, they must have the opportunity to study and cope with a harder and more rigorous curriculum. We need to establish a level playing field in choice. That is the message that I want to send to the QCA.

On that basis and encouraged by what the Minister said about the need for consultation and a real consideration of introducing the IGCSE as an option—this is not prescriptive, but as an option—for schools to be able to offer their pupils in maths and science, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment(No. 98) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 124; Not-Contents, 196.

Division number 3

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 99 to 101 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 102 and 103 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour 6:11 pm, 24th October 2006

moved Amendment No. 104:

After Clause 71, insert the following new clause-

"REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO COLLECTIVE WORSHIP

(1) SSFA 1998 is amended as follows.

(2) For section 70(1) substitute-

"(1) Each pupil in attendance at a community, foundation or voluntary school shall on each school day take part in an assembly, which shall further his spiritual, moral, social and cultural education."

(3) For subsection (3) of that section substitute-

"(3) The arrangements for the assembly required by subsection (1) may, in respect of each school day, provide for a single assembly for all pupils or separate assemblies for pupils in different age groups or in different school groups.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3) a "school group" is any group in which pupils are taught or take part in other school activities.

(5) Subject to section 71, in the case of a voluntary aided school of a religious character, the foundation governors or governing body may make arrangements for religious worship as a part of assemblies.

(6) The religious worship referred to in subsection (5) shall be in accordance with the trust deed relating to the school or, where provision for that purpose is not made by such a deed, in accordance with the tenets and practices of the religion or religious denomination specified in relation to the school under section 69(4).

(7) Subject to subsection (8), the religious worship referred to in subsection (5) shall take place on the school premises.

(8) If the governing body of a voluntary aided school of a religious character are of the opinion that it is desirable that an act of religious worship should, on a special occasion, take place elsewhere than on the school premises, they may, after consultation with the head teacher, make such arrangements for that purpose as they think appropriate."

(4) For section 71(1) substitute-

"(1) If the parent of a pupil at a community, foundation or voluntary school or a city technology college or an Academy requests that he may be wholly or partly excused-

(a) from receiving religious education given (in the case of a maintained school) in the school in accordance with the school's basic curriculum or (in the case of city technology college or an Academy) in accordance with arrangements made by the governing body or head teacher of the college or Academy, (b) from attendance at any religious worship in (as the case may be) the school, college or Academy, or (c) both from receiving such education and from such attendance, the pupil shall be so excused until the request is withdrawn."

(5) In subsection (2)(b) of that section, for "paragraph 2(6) of Schedule 20" substitute "section 70(8)".

(6) For paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (7) of that section substitute-

"(a) receives religious education or is withdrawn from receiving such education or from attendance at such religious worship as is provided in accordance with the wishes of his parent, and (b) attends assemblies."

(7) Schedule 20 is hereby repealed."

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour

My Lords, I am grateful that the amendment has now been tabled in a separate group, and is not part of the large group on faith issues in schools that we considered last week. This will avoid the overlaps and confusions that we had when we last discussed collective worship.

Collective worship is an important issue. I do not intend to repeat the arguments advanced last week; I shall simply try to put the nub of the argument to your Lordships. Many faith organisations, teacher organisations and parent organisations support the reform of collective worship in schools. They want collective worship to be replaced by inclusive assemblies that are meaningful to pupils. I do not want to abolish assemblies with a spiritual nature—indeed, the amendment does not seek to ban religious worship—but the organisations that I have just mentioned do not agree to assemblies that are entirely about worship.

Spiritual worship in assemblies is good for the school ethos and morale, but it is quite unsuitable and impractical to insist that all schools must conduct worship in assemblies. Many are already technically breaking the law by not doing so. Will the Minister confirm that the DfES is considering collective worship? It is not a complicated issue. It is a sensible reform that would free schools to be creative and to deliver inspiring assemblies that are relevant to young people's lives. They may include discussion of the teaching of many religions as well as discussion of behaviour, values and social issues. The Minister has clarified the position on pupils being excused from religious education, and we should reconsider the issue at a high level. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Crossbench 6:15 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I support Amendment No. 104, in accordance with paragraph 6.54 of the Companion, because the amendment was discussed, in a way, a week ago before your Lordships. It was a casualty of what I call irrational grouping; that is, it was hidden in a grouping to which it manifestly did not belong. That is an important issue which your Lordships should consider this evening. Amendments remain the property of the noble Lords in whose names they appear. They can alter a proposed grouping, but very often—sometimes because the groupings appear rather late—that is impossible, as it appears to have been impossible for this amendment, which appeared in a vast, almost surreal, grouping with other amendments when it came before the House.

I shall use this occasion deliberately to deplore the proposals that departments sometimes advance for groupings that are manifestly irrational and unhelpful. We thought that we had seen the back of this sort of thing in the 1980s, but if 30 years' experience in this House has taught me one thing, it is that proposals for groupings should be the basis of sensible and orderly debate. No department should try to hide an awkward issue—if that was the intention; no doubt it was not in this case—by putting it with amendments that are manifestly not on the same subject.

Amendment No. 104, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, spoke last week, at cols. 706-7 of the Official Report, addressed a duty that was created only in 1944 for schools to have an obligatory daily act of collective worship. The amendment, as the noble Baroness made clear, would replace that duty with a duty to hold a daily assembly aimed at supporting people's,

"spiritual, moral, social and cultural education".—[Hansard, 17/10/06; col. 707.]

The importance of that phrase was made clear earlier this afternoon.

The act of worship needs to be broadly Christian, but the amendment is of interest not only to humanists, atheists or agnostics, or even to religions other than those with a Christian tradition. This is a fundamental issue, which the Government so far have not addressed. The Minister addressed Amendment No. 104 in another sitting, but I hope that he will not mind my saying that I thought that his reply to its case was rather perfunctory. Having been given a little more time, he may do better tonight.

The Minister claimed that this obligatory act of daily worship represented,

"the values and traditions of the majority in this country".—[Hansard, 17/10/06; col. 736.]

I beg leave to doubt whether that is now the case and suggest that it is out of date. No doubt polls will be quoted, but I refer those who cite polling evidence to an article in the Times only yesterday, in which an expert on the matter said that polling is increasingly,

"being used to manufacture the headlines rather than uncover the facts".

The expert is a chief executive of a very important polling organisation.

The Minister did not address the substantive case, made by the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society and many other organisations, that the time for this obligation in all schools has passed. I will not quote those organisations, because noble Lords will think that they are parti pris; I will quote what the Government's inspectorate wrote in a document that was separately published, so important was it, a year later, under the heading Secondary Education. In 1998, Ofsted said that the whole question of daily collective worship,

"raises questions about the ... Act and its interpretation, and in particular whether schools in a broadly secular society can or should bring their pupils together in order to engage in worship. For Roman Catholic, Church of England and other denominational schools the answer is clear in principle. For most LEA and grant maintained schools, however, the notion of worship, and indeed that of prayer, can be problematic at both an institutional and a personal level".

In my submission, nothing has changed to make that decisive judgment inapplicable today.

Of course, the Government may refer to Amendments Nos. 79 and 151, which were passed in your Lordships' House on 17 October. Those government amendments allow sixth formers to have a special right to escape from collective worship in which they do not believe. That right is for sixth formers, but what about the rights of fifth or fourth formers—or third formers, given that I have grandchildren who have reached that elevated level? Do the Government think that those students do not discuss such matters and that they do not have incipient and, in some cases, firm beliefs, and that sixth formers alone should be granted this inalienable right to get out of collective worship?

In order to clarify the point, I asked a very close friend, who is a devoted and devout Christian and a very honest person, what it was all about. He laughed and chided me, and said, "Come on, you must be joking. You know perfectly well what it is all about. We want to get at them early on. Give us a few years of prayer and worship and you can do what you like with them and, what's more, the Jesuits can do what they like with them". The noble Lord shakes his head. I am sorry to offer that to him, but that is what my friend said. It may be wrong, but if it is not the case, what on earth is the point of making these boys and girls go to a religious occasion in which they may already not believe or, more important, in which they may have begun not to believe?

Professor Richard Dawkins addressed this issue on page 185 of his recently published book, The God Delusion. He wrote:

"Could irrational religion be a by-product of the irrationality mechanisms that were originally built into the brain by selection for falling in love? Certainly, religious faith has something of the same character as falling in love (and both have many of the attributes of being high on an addictive drug)", which he names in the footnote—I did not know it—as "Gerin Oil". That is not an oil company; it is the name apparently of an addictive drug. He went on to quote the neuropsychiatrist, John Smythies, who said:

"One facet of the many faces of religion is intense love focused on one supernatural person, i.e. God, plus reverence for icons of that person. Human life is driven largely by our selfish genes and by the processes of reinforcement. Much positive reinforcement derives from religion: warm and comforting feelings of being loved and protected in a dangerous world, loss of fear of death, help from the hills in response to prayer in difficult times".

Your Lordships will forgive my reading, which has recently suffered an attack of something no doubt from beyond the hills.

In the face of the question that we are addressing, the point of the quotation is: what on earth is the point of getting together boys and girls from third, fourth and even fifth forms to obey an order that they must express warmth and loving hopes for help coming to them from beyond the hills? It seems a very strange thing to do, except perhaps in very unorganised and not advanced societies. Dawkins concludes his argument on such matters with words that I suggest the Government should gather together daily to read—aloud, if possible—on their sofas in an assembly devoted to collective inquiry. He wrote:

"An atheistic world-view provides no justification for cutting the Bible, and other sacred books, out of our education. And of course we can retain a sentimental loyalty to the cultural and literary traditions of, say, Judaism, Anglicanism or Islam"— no doubt he would have added other religions had he time—

"and even participate in religious rituals such as marriages and funerals, without buying into the supernatural beliefs that historically went along with those traditions. We can give up belief in God while not losing touch with a treasured heritage".

That is important because this amendment does not seek to make anyone do anything except attend an assembly, which, as I have understood today's debate, is a matter of common ground in the whole House, on all Benches, to advance the,

"spiritual, moral ... and cultural education", of all pupils. There lies the nub of the amendment, which I am happy to support.

Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden Baroness Turner of Camden Labour 6:30 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I have put my name to this amendment and I support my noble friends who have spoken. It is desirable for school communities to have ways in which they can come together to build a common ethos and to explore and celebrate shared human values. This can be in assemblies, which is what our amendment is about, but it does not necessarily have to be under a system that requires religious worship, which, by definition, can never be common to all children, with their variety of beliefs and the wide diversity that we have in our society. The law needs to change to provide for inclusive assemblies instead—and that is what the amendment is about.

As my noble friends have indicated, there is widespread support for a reform of this law, not only from religious, humanist and secularist groups and the teaching unions but, as my noble friend has indicated, from Ofsted. It stated in its 1998 report on the matter:

"For most LEA and grant maintained schools the notion of worship, and indeed that of prayer, can be problematic at both an institutional and personal level".

It is not surprising therefore that it was found in the same year that most secondary schools were not complying with the law. Teachers favour good inclusive school assemblies of a moral and reflective nature, which can bring the school community together to celebrate shared values, news and achievements. Many schools are holding such assemblies, and doing it very well, but they are technically breaking the law and so can attract criticism. It is a pity that a practice that is workable, honest and educationally and socially valuable does not remain legal.

I am a humanist and a member of the British Humanist Association. It is not only humanists who feel this way—as has already been indicated, Sikhs, Hindus and of course the teaching unions support our amendment—but all those who would like schools to be able to share their values and ethos without hypocrisy or fear of non-compliance with an outdated law.

At the moment, many parents do not wish to withdraw their children from religious assemblies; on the other hand, perhaps they do not want to withdraw their children and make them feel different, because that is often a rather harmful situation. I can remember what happened when I was very young. My mother was a Roman Catholic and I went to a state school. My mother indicated on the form that she had to complete that I was Roman Catholic and it was decided that when there were prayers I should sit outside the door. So, when all the other children went in for the religious assembly, I sat outside the door. When I went home, I said to my mother, "They don't like me at school because I'm a Roman Catholic". I immediately felt different. That is not a good idea for any child—it certainly was not as far as I was concerned. I support the amendment and I commend it to your Lordships.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, because of the uncoupling of these amendments we are revisiting issues that we discussed last week. I therefore do not intend to rehearse arguments that I have already put to your Lordships' House and to extend this debate unduly. I should like, however, to make one or two comments about the contributions today.

The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, was particularly critical of what he suggested was the style of education offered by the Society of Jesus—the Jesuits. He said that those who went through such an education came out indoctrinated. I smiled at the noble Lord, Lord Patten, because I think he and I are the only Members in your Lordships' House this evening who were educated by Jesuits. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, that, quite the reverse from being indoctrinated, most of my friends and contemporaries—and I dare say those of the noble Lord, Lord Patten—ended up with no belief whatever. Therefore, in that sense, that education failed because at the heart of their approach to education lay the principle that you should learn to think for yourself and reject those things that you cannot embrace. Therefore, far from being indoctrination, that education encourages a development of sensibilities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, also touched on this issue when she said that she had gone through a personal experience of feeling excluded. What about those children at a school who believe in God and want to take part in an act of worship? If we are not careful, we could turn the tables on them and leave them feeling excluded if we remove something so central to their lives as the daily act of worship. When your Lordships gather for worship, as we do in this House each day, there are noble Lords on our Benches who have no Christian or other faith, yet they come here because it is a moment of pause, a time for reflection, when we can come to terms with ourselves and with God. Even if someone does not believe in God, they can at least clear their minds and perhaps think sometimes about the words that the right reverend Prelates leave before your Lordships' House during those prayers. After all, it was a Member of this House, Alfred Lord Tennyson, who in the 19th century—in answer, perhaps, to the point being made today by the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn—said that more things are wrought by prayer than this world ever dreams of. Sometimes we in public and political life place our own material interests and our own personal aspirations and expectations too much at the heart of the equation and squeeze out the spiritual.

We should tread with care. The right of conscience is there, but if someone wishes to be excluded from daily acts of worship their parents can do that. Let us not exclude parents from the equation, which is precisely what the amendments would do. They would remove the role of parents in discussing with their own children their beliefs and where they are in their own spiritual development. It would be a tragedy if we did that.

More than 80 per cent of the people of this country still say that they believe in God. There are some things that bind us together as a nation. I think it would be a huge error to unravel those things without carefully thinking about the consequences. Syncretism, practised perhaps by the art teacher with the aid of some bean bags during an assembly that tells us about everything but teaches us nothing, is not a substitute for the daily act of worship. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not go in the direction that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, invites us to go.

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Crossbench

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him a question. I preface it by saying that I have always admired him as one of the most broadminded members of the Roman Catholic community that I have had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of. But when he talks about the effect of prayer, has he read all the documents on the great prayer experiment? If he has not, they are described in Richard Dawkins's book and are wide and scientific in nature. But perhaps the noble Lord has not looked at that in his broadminded education.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, I do not think your Lordships will want me to go into great detail about The God Delusion but I have read Dawkins's book. I can only say to the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, that although Professor Dawkins is unable to believe in God, I am glad that God still believes in him.

Photo of The Bishop of Peterborough The Bishop of Peterborough Bishop

My Lords, I, too, will be brief. It will not surprise the noble Baroness that I do not feel able to support her amendment. I fully endorse the arguments made in support of collective worship on the first day of Report by my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth. At column 699 of the Official Report he argued in support of collective worship and said it provided an important grammar and language for later life and is still part of our common culture.

Given the clear indication of the recent census, which is different from a poll, that the overwhelming majority of people in this country wish to identify themselves with one or other of the major faiths—including the fact, if my memory serves me right, that roughly 70 per cent identify themselves as Christian—the right reverend Prelate was right to say that this continues to reflect the grammar and the values of the majority of this country. We of course fully recognise the right of a minority of parents who wish to withdraw their children from collective worship to do so.

The issues were fully aired on the first day of Report and I do not want to repeat the arguments put forward then. I fear that I and my colleagues will continue to resist the amendment while continuing to support all that teachers and others are doing to improve collective worship in our schools, recognising that it is not always providing the focus that it should and can do.

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench

My Lords, I guess that none of us is going to be persuaded very much by what has been said, so I, too, have an incentive to be brief. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, that I was invited by the Church of England to chair a review of the future of church schools, which caused me to go out and about in the land. One of the schools I went into was in Bradford, where it appeared to me that95 per cent of pupils were Muslim. That did not suggest to me that they were coming to be indoctrinated.

I turned to the Bishop of London on one occasion and raised this question with him because I was aware that Muslim children often went to church schools. He said, "I asked the same question to a leader of the Muslim community, and he said, 'We look at it like this: there are those who believe in God and those who don't. You do, and we feel more comfortable in a school where there is this belief than we would otherwise'". That does not suggest indoctrination. If I remember correctly—and my memory is fallible—in the report of the committee which I chaired, we made it explicit that the business was not to convert but to offer young people the experience of what it is to learn and play within the framework of a community that had values and certain beliefs.

Some things about the amendment surprise me. I found no difficulty with proposed Section 4 because parents already have that right. They can withdraw from religious assemblies, but very few do, which suggests that they are not perturbed by them.

Proposed Section 2(1) refers to furthering a pupil's,

"spiritual, moral, social and cultural education".

That seems to deny schools that are not voluntary aided the choice of making it an act of worship. Subsection (5) of proposed Section 3 makes it explicit that voluntary-aided schools may do so; the implication is that others cannot. I wonder where that leaves voluntary-controlled faith schools, of which there are very many.

I was surprised that proposed Section 3(8) said that a voluntary-aided school may, on special occasions, use a church in which to worship. Why only on special occasions? There are schools which have a church on site; perhaps the church is the only place with a room big enough to accommodate everyone.

I must not go on about the detail. I just wanted to put differently the main point made by my noble friend Lord Alton. In the faith schools of which I have some knowledge, the business is not to seize minds, it is to open minds.

Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench

My Lords, I am in favour of the new clause from personal experience. I was a minority child in a faith school. Although when one is older one can see the benefits, at the time it can be very hurtful—indeed, off-putting—not to participate, excluding oneself, or to participate in an occasion when the majority indoctrination is not to one's taste. One has to remember that children of that age can be quite brusque and unfeeling in their treatment of minorities. While there was no attempt to convert, being forced to participate did not endear the notion of formal religious worship to one. There is another place for those who want that experience, and it is not school. There are some similarities with the debate already held in this House about faith schools having a quota for minorities.

There is much to be said for a secular assembly that brings everyone together. That is a much truer form of multiculturalism, and no one need feel excluded. Adults' attitude to this is very different from that of children, who were not included in any Gallup poll or census. I hope very much that the House will support the new clause.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, I find myself replying twice to the same debate. Although the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, said that he thought my previous reply was perfunctory, I do not think that it was. Perhaps I am too sensitive to criticism of this kind; I have read it and regard it as a perfectly full and adequate reply to the debate. It is not so much, I think, that he found it perfunctory as that he disagreed with what I said. He has an absolute right to disagree with what I say. He takes what I would regard as a very extreme view in this debate, which he has set out in support of the views of Professor Richard Dawkins, and it is his right to do so. But those of us who take a different view should not be dismissed for being perfunctory just because he happens to disagree with us.

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Crossbench

My Lords, the Minister may not know that I was not present on that day for medical reasons. Does he regard the previous occasion as one which some noble Lords referred to as a full debate of the issues? The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, spoke and the Minister spent a small paragraph responding to the amendment. Otherwise, nobody else spoke at all; there was no real debate, except that between the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools) 6:45 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, there was a proper debate. The noble Lord takes, I fear, a different view of the matter. As for speaking for only one paragraph, I spent a good part of col. 736 in Hansard discussing the issues relating to the amendment. Since the issue has been raised again, the best thing I can do is go over the same ground. I am glad to say that although I am always open to persuasion, I have not changed my view since last Tuesday.

I deeply respect the position that my noble friends Lady Massey and Lady Turner take in tabling the amendment. They wish to go further than the position we have established. The Government listened to the debates in Committee and have proposed a substantial change in allowing individual students to withdraw themselves from collective worship rather than that being solely the preserve of parents. However, we do not think it right to go further in the way the amendment suggests: abolishing existing collective worship requirements and putting in place a new requirement to take part in an assembly to further pupils',

"spiritual, moral, social and cultural education", with no requirement, as now, for that education to be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.

We believe that assemblies and collective worship are important elements of school life in establishing their ethos and collective character. We believe it right that those under 16 should be required to take part unless their parents specifically wish otherwise. We believe that it is in accordance with the values and traditions of the majority in this country that such collective worship should be of a broadly Christian character, allowing also for the celebration of other faiths as appropriate.

The noble Lord asks for my evidence for that. In the 2001 census, 71.8 per cent of respondents identified themselves as Christian. Those are the facts, although the noble Lord may not like them.

Photo of Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Lord Wedderburn of Charlton Crossbench

My Lords, will the noble Lord tell us what the question was?

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, it was to find out people's self-identification of their religion.

In respect of the broadly Christian character, Section 394 of the Education Act 1996 allows community schools and foundation schools without a religious character to lift the broadly Christian requirement for some or all pupils when the local standing advisory council on religious education judges it appropriate to do so, having received an application from the head teacher. Before making such an application, the head teacher must consult the governing body, which, in turn, may want to seek the views of the parents. That is the position at the moment. Taken in conjunction with the right of parents to withdraw their children from collective worship, we believe this strikes the right balance. The Government do not intend to propose any further changes. Therefore, we oppose the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Massey of Darwen Baroness Massey of Darwen Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply, and all who have taken part in the debate. We have had a good and sometimes erudite debate. Thinking for oneself is a good point, which arose thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, a rigorous thinker himself. I am not sure how the noble Lord knows that God still believes in Richard Dawkins, however.

I am sorry that my noble friend feels he cannot go further. I shall continue to pursue this, but not today. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, and I have read some of the same books on delusions and selfish genes, for example. I do not like the idea of beanbags in assemblies, which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned.

There is quite a lot of agreement on this issue. Discussion of all religions, not merely Christianity, is important. I do not want to squeeze out the spiritual. Of course school communities should come together, but it need not be limited to collective worship, as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said.

As I said, I shall pursue this issue in other ways; it is worthy of further discussion. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 72 [Education and training to satisfy entitlements]:

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson in the Lords (Further & Higher Education), Education & Skills

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 106, 107, 113, 114 and 115. The title given to Clause 72, to which Amendments Nos. 105, 106 and 107 pertain, is:

"Education and training to satisfy entitlements".

I had queried its purpose in our discussions in Committee. My amendments would write into the Bill age 25 rather than age 19 as the maximum age at which those over compulsory school age, but not possessing a level 2 or a level 3 qualification, are able to come back into the educational system to gain such qualifications. I have proposed the amendments because, in March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget speech that the age at which young people might get free tuition at further education colleges in training courses which led to a level 2 or a level 3 qualification would be raised to 25. The Bill ought to reflect that change.

In Committee, the Minister explained—I have received a further letter from him which sets out the position in greater detail and for which I thank him—that the Bill relates only to the core entitlement set out in new Section 3B, which reflects the core entitlement in Clause 71 to courses in English, maths and science, and to the additional entitlement in new Section 3C to take courses in one of the entitlement areas specified by the Secretary of State. These are the specialised diplomas which are being introduced and are identified in Clause 81.

In his letter to me, the Minister wrote as follows:

"The main purpose of the clause is to place a duty on the Learning and Skills Council to secure sufficient provision in each locality to enable 16-19 year olds to access all 14 Diploma lines and the core entitlement of English, maths and ICT. Therefore, this clause will give all young people, wherever they are in the country, an entitlement to a course of study in one of the Diploma entitlement areas.

The collaborative nature of delivery which will be necessary to ensure all young people have access to the specialised diplomas means that we will need more than funding streams to ensure that post-16 providers are all working in partnership to deliver these significant curriculum reforms; that is why we are placing a new duty on the LSC through this clause".

The announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in March related to a different entitlement. I again quote the Minister's letter:

"The Level 2 and Level 3 entitlements are aimed at a slightly different, voluntary, audience. Those wishing to access these entitlements are more likely to be returning to education following a break. The courses offered in this entitlement include more vocational and job specific courses, as well as the more generic courses.

The Level 2 and Level 3 entitlements are removing financial barriers to further learning by ensuring tuition for those eligible is free. Clearly, provision for all adults cannot be guaranteed, and so we would not be justified in creating a statutory entitlement. However, through greater refocusing of public support the government is expanding the opportunities for eligible adults to achieve a first full Level 2 and Level 3 qualification".

We know that because those who have had anything to do with adult education know that funds are being transferred from adult education into meeting the "full-fat", as we call it, level 2 entitlement and the level 3 entitlement.

In Committee, the Minister described this second set of entitlements as non-statutory entitlements for young people and adults to study, free of tuition charges, on courses leading to a level 2 or a level 3 qualification. I understand the distinction between the statutory entitlements described in Clause 72 and those which are non-statutory. However, the Government seem to be seeking to draw an over-fine distinction between these two sets of entitlements. On the one hand, they are saying that they want to hold open the opportunity for everyone up to the age of 25 to achieve a level 2 or a level 3 qualification; on the other, they are saying, "No, no, not that qualification; this qualification". The specialised diplomas will be available only up to age 19.

I have one comment and one question for the Minister. The comment relates to the non-statutory nature of the up-to-25 entitlement. As far as I can see, it is a question of finance. The letter seems to say that, since provision for all adults cannot be guaranteed, a statutory requirement would not be justified. What, then, is an entitlement? A non-statutory entitlement is one that may be given and may be taken away. Given the known skills shortages in the UK, and the demographic trends which mean that we will have to look to training and retraining older people, surely this short-term approach is inadequate. We need to make sure that the LSC funds these longer-term training facilities just as much as it funds the specialised diploma facilities.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 113, 114 and 115. We raised this issue in Committee and it, too, relates to the age of 25. I have had further correspondence with the Minister on this issue. We raised the amendments on behalf of Skill—the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities—and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. Their purpose is to require that local education authorities make provision for transport for disabled students engaged in further education or training up the age of 25. Very often, these students, because of their disablement or learning disability, are behind in their studies and need to go through to 25. As I explained in Committee, we frequently see situations where the local LSC can agree to fund the student's tuition, but the student cannot make use of that funding because the LEA has no obligation to provide transport after the age of 19, although it is pressed by the Government to provide it up to 21. The Minister explained in his response that the LEAs are obliged to make transport plans which cover all students continuing in education up to 19 and, for disabled students and those with learning disabilities, up to 21, with the DfES recommending that the latter provision be made up to 25. Perhaps I may again read from the Minister's letter to me:

"DfES are currently responsible for issuing the guidance that sets out these duties, detailing priorities and priority learner groups, and for ensuring that local transport policies fulfil the duty and have regard to that guidance. Officials will investigate complaints and advise and mediate with local authorities when there are concerns that their duties might not have been met. In the event that any complaint or claim cannot be resolved, the Secretary of State is empowered to direct local authorities to make arrangements for transport which are not in their published transport policy statements and carry out their duties.

Clause 74 is simply intended to transfer the current DfES administrative functions to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), while the Secretary of State retains his present powers to direct local authorities. One of the key goals of the LSC is to encourage young people to participate in learning and the transfer of this role will enhance their ability to do so.

As part of taking on these responsibilities, we would like the LSC to strengthen its role with regard to the responsibilities of LSC area teams in local transport partnerships. At the local level, the LSC would work more closely with partnerships to fulfil their shared aims of improving the prospects of young people by encouraging participation in learning to enhance their skills".

We welcome very much these developments. However, the evidence suggests that despite the work of the DfES and the guidance provided, many disabled students over 19 are not being funded by their local education authority for their transport costs and have to rely on family or friends if they are to continue participating in education or training. The Minister seems to be looking to the local LSCs to take on a more active role in overseeing these arrangements, but he will know that there is frequently little joined-up thinking between the local LSCs and LEAs. That is why I am bringing this amendment back. Getting something along these lines in the Bill would bring home to LEAs and the local LSCs precisely what their obligations are. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench 7:00 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group. The first three are essential if young adult disabled learners are to be entitled to continue their education and the second three, to which I have put my name, would ensure that they can actually get to their courses. Unlike my noble friend Lord Alton's interpretation of entitlement, we are talking about enabling and actually making possible. I refer to the noble Lord's remarks on Amendment No. 99.

I am grateful to the Minister for sending me a copy of his letter about transport, which he sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I have no doubt of his commitment to making things work. The noble Baroness read out the passage where he says he hopes the LSC will work more closely with partnerships and will manage to encourage participation and be successful. The Minister went on to say:

"In my view this is sufficient. Where there is evidence of a specific breach of these duties, my officials will investigate thoroughly and pursue vigorously".

It should not have to come to that. We have been here before—and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association has cited instances when it was only with the intervention of a Minister that someone has managed to get to their course to pursue it. Skill and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association feel very strongly that further legislation is necessary, despite the welcome guidance in paragraph 12 of the transport support arrangements for students aged 16 to 19 2006-07. I should declare here that I am president of Skill.

We know that there are still problems with this group. Skill has produced some evidence as has the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. The colleges and other providers say that there is a problem. The LSC knows that there is a problem; Through Inclusion to Excellence recognised that there was a major difficulty and recommended that the DfES and other government departments,

"consider and propose appropriate transport legislation".

The LSC received a 98 per cent positive response from the sector to its consultation on that recommendation.

Another point is that in the main you really hear only of cases in which a problem has been resolved or there has been a struggle and a failure. The young adult disabled learners who have been turned down and are lost by the roadside go unrecorded. So it is possibly the tip of the iceberg. If there is not a real problem, as the Minister suggests that there is not, where is the harm in bringing in legislation? But the Minister is a very listening and thinking Minister and I hope for a positive response, as normal. Otherwise I hope that he might agree to, or consider, getting together with the LSC and the directors of children's services to discuss the problem further and more deeply.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 105, 106 and 107 relate to the entitlements in Clause 72, entitlements which will legally cease if a person has not started the course of study before they reach the age of 19.

We strongly agree that young people up to the age of 25 and beyond should also have entitlements to continue studying and acquire new skills that will help them to gain employment and once employed to progress in the work place, but we believe that these needs are properly served by specific non-statutory, funded entitlements which are already in place for young people up to age 25. I accept that by their nature, being non-statutory, they are less binding than statutory entitlements, but I equally believe that our commitment to them has been demonstrated not only by what we have said but by the substantial funding that we have put in place to enable the entitlements to be delivered.

The entitlements are for all adults to study towards a level 2 qualification and for young people up to the age of 25 to study towards their first level 3 qualification. From 2007-08, to fund this first full level 3 entitlement my right honourable friend the Chancellor made an extra £25 million available in the Budget this year specifically to ensure that there was proper funding behind that entitlement, so that it could actually be delivered. The existing entitlements give young people the opportunities that they need and deserve to prepare themselves for success in life. Although they are not statutory and do not have the absolute enduring binding force of those that are in the Bill, we none the less stand by them and they will be a first call on resources in our next spending review.

I turn to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, about placing a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for the provision of transport for qualifying disabled young learners in the further education sector. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, I wrote to her on 10 October setting out our view on this. I must say that this is not my area of direct ministerial expertise. I shall give the House the response I have, but it may be useful if I arrange for the noble Baronesses to meet my honourable friend the Minister for Further Education, who I think would be happy to discuss these issues and take up some of the more detailed points that the noble Baronesses raised.

In my letter, I outlined our intention to strengthen the role of the Learning and Skills Council in transport partnerships locally. We look to the Learning and Skills Council to work closely with each partnership to help them fulfil their shared aim of improving the prospects of young people by encouraging participation in learning to enhance their skills. This builds on measures already in place to support young people and adults to access further education. For example, the DfES provides additional support to those who need it most via the learner support fund, which is delivered by the Learning and Skills Council. It is a discretionary fund targeted at local provision to assist learners in financial hardship to continue in learning. It is particularly targeted at disadvantaged groups such as those from low income families to help with learning-related expenses, such as contributions to costs of transport or books and equipment. Around one-third of the learner support fund for young people is used to help with transport costs for disadvantaged students.

In 2005-06, the learner support fund was funded to a total of £123 million. In this financial year, 2006-07, it is funded to a total of £122 million, of which£86 million is for adult learner support and £36 million for young people aged 16 to 19. The fund is awarded to learners on the basis of need. Colleges have to prioritise use of the funds within a framework that clearly identifies disadvantaged groups as a priority for funding. As I say, the fund can help with transport costs.

I hope that that goes some way to meeting the points raised by the noble Baronesses, but I would be happy to facilitate a further meeting with my honourable friend the Minister for Further Education if they would like to take advantage of that.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson in the Lords (Further & Higher Education), Education & Skills

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I understand the distinction between the two sets of entitlement that we have discussed under the first set of amendments. I take on board what he said. We will probably not pursue the matter further.

On the second set of amendments, it would be useful to take up his offer of a meeting and perhaps bring along our friends from Skill and Guide Dogs for the Blind, who are concerned about these issues and have a number of practical examples, which could be discussed at the meeting. I should be very grateful to the Minister for a meeting. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 106 and 107 not moved.]

Clause 74 [LEAs in England: provision of travel arrangements etc for children]:

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, in moving government Amendment No. 108, I wish to speak also to government Amendments Nos. 109 to 112. These amendments extend the provisions for free school travel for low-income groups to include secondary-aged children attending the nearest school preferred on the grounds of religion or belief within a 15 mile radius.

The intention of these amendments is to further promote two of the principles that run through this entire Bill: diversity and fairness. The amendments will play an important part in ensuring that disadvantaged parents make a genuine, informed choice when expressing preferences for their child's secondary school.

Evidence suggests that choice of school, particularly for low-income groups, is often restricted by parental concerns about the cost and availability of transport. Some 41 per cent of parents living in social housing cite travel convenience as the most important reason for choosing a school, compared with only 33 per cent of owner-occupiers. There is also real inequity in how far children travel to school—only around 10 per cent of children entitled to free school meals travel more than three miles to school, compared with 18 per cent of children not entitled to free school meals.

To create equity in the system, it is therefore crucial that lack of affordable transport is removed as a barrier to choice. The existing proposals to extend rights to free transport for low-income groups to one of their three nearest schools will do this. However, we believe that lack of affordable transport should not stand as a barrier to parents exercising a choice based on their religion or belief—such as a parent with strong religious beliefs expressing a preference for a more distant faith school than is available within their three nearest schools; or a parent of no faith expressing a preference for a more distant community school where they do not have a choice of such a school within their three nearest. I refer to the distance requirements currently set out in the Bill.

Amendment No. 109 will apply where a child of secondary school age from a low-income family attends a school because his or her parent has expressed a wish for them to attend that school, and that wish is based on their religion or belief. Amendment No. 110 provides that "religion" or "belief" for these purposes have the same meaning as in the rest of the school travel provisions—that is, it covers all religions, religious or philosophical beliefs and a lack of religion or belief. Amendments Nos. 108, 111 and 112 are consequential amendments arising from Amendment No. 109. The amendments follow extensive consultation with interested groups, including, but not restricted to, the faith communities. I believe that these proposals will be welcomed by them. I beg to move.

Photo of The Bishop of Peterborough The Bishop of Peterborough Bishop 7:15 pm, 24th October 2006

My Lords, we on these Benches are grateful to the Minister for these amendments, which, as he said, address issues that we raised in Committee and which have been discussed subsequently.

Sadly, I think that I am not the only bishop with responsibility for a diocese where a local authority has reduced parental choice by withdrawing support for denominational transport. Indeed, I received a letter this week from the parents of a child in one of our church secondary schools who were having to consider withdrawing their child from the school because of the increasing cost of transport.

We therefore welcome these amendments, which, as the Minister said, will ensure that more disadvantaged children will continue to have access to church schools, particularly in rural areas where distance can be a significant problem. That will not only improve parental choice but help to ensure that church and other faith schools continue to be socially inclusive and represent the breadth of the communities that they serve. While I speak principally on behalf of Church of England schools, I know that other denominations will share our welcome for these amendments.

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour

My Lords, how many schoolsare likely to fall within the two but not morethan 15 miles provision? I am told that an area of700 square miles is covered. How many schools are involved?

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Travel to schools etc: meaning of "eligible child"]:

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

moved Amendments Nos. 109 and 110:

Page 207, line 18, at end insert-

"11A A child falls within this paragraph if-

(a) he has attained the age of 11, (b) he is a registered pupil at a qualifying school which is more than two miles, but not more than fifteen miles, from his home, (c) his parent has expressed a wish, based on the parent's religion or belief, for him to be provided with education at that school, (d) having regard to the religion or belief on which the parent's wish is based, there is no suitable qualifying school which is nearer to the child's home, and (e) the appropriate condition is met in relation to him."

Page 208, line 16, at end insert-

"( ) "Religion" and "belief" are to be read in accordance with section 509AD(3)."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 9 [School travel schemes]:

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

moved Amendments Nos. 111 and 112:

Page 210, line 40, after "11" insert ", 11A"

Page 210, line 45, leave out "and 11" and insert ", 11 and 11A"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 78 [LEAs in England: provision of transport etc for certain adult learners]:

[Amendments Nos. 113 to 115 not moved.]

Clause 85 [Responsibility of governing body for discipline]:

[Amendment No. 115A not moved.]

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

moved Amendment No. 116:

Page 68, line 27, leave out "a sample of the"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 86 [Determination by head teacher of behaviour policy]:

[Amendment No. 116A not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 117 and 117A not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

moved Amendment No. 118:

After Clause 87, insert the following new clause-

"PREVENTION OF BULLYING

The governing body and head teacher or principal of a maintained secondary school, Academy, sixth form college, further education college, city technology college or city college for the technology of the arts shall have a duty to establish effective policies to prevent bullying and ensure the safety and well-being of all pupils."

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

My Lords, Amendment No. 118 is a return to the issue of bullying, which we debated in Committee. On that occasion, our amendment required a school to develop a policy on homophobic bullying. We had enormous support from across the House, including from the Minister, about the importance of this matter and the need for it to be addressed by all schools. All noble Lords agreed that it is unacceptable that a child should be bullied on the basis of his sexual orientation, or any other characteristic, come to that. However, many noble Lords encouraged us to come back with an amendment that was wider in its scope and addressed the whole issue of bullying. That is what we have done.

On 25 July, the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said:

"Bullying is unacceptable towards any child".

She went on to say:

"While we very much support the aims of the amendment, we are concerned that it may be seen as singling out a particular group".

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, in the same column of Hansard:

"Homophobic bullying is nasty, sinister, and cruel and can have terrible results. Of that there is no doubt. But I strongly believe that we should all be concerned about the strategic issue of bullying".—[Hansard, 25/7/06; col. 1692.]

The noble Lord asked whether I would consider withdrawing my amendment and coming back with one that addressed the strategic issues. Support for such an approach also came from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

In his reply, the Minister agreed that,

"bullying in all its forms is one of the great evils that our schools have to confront, and we have a good deal further to go before we can claim to have confronted it successfully".

However, it became clear that he thought that the Bill confronted the matter adequately without the benefit of my amendment when he said later in his speech:

"Clause 82(1)(b) requires a head teacher to determine measures to be taken with a view to,

'encouraging good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils'".

He told us:

"That provision means what it says. Head teachers must ensure that their school's behaviour policy deals with all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying and bullying relating to race, religion and culture, as well as cyber-bullying"—[Hansard, 25/7/06; col. 1694.]

and so on.

The problem is that, when I looked at the Minister's words, I realised that that responsibility is only in one direction. It relates to action that the head must take to affect the behaviour of the pupils. But pupil behaviour is only part of the picture. We need schools to have a policy that addresses the behaviour of everyone in the school community: pupils, teachers, support staff, caretakers and everyone who might come into the school as part of its extended school format. The clause quoted by the Minister does not do that; our amendment does. It would ensure that policies are in place to prevent bullying from wherever it came or on whatever basis it lies. The school would need to foster a culture of mutual respect among all members of its community—both adults and children.

Noble Lords may remember that we had an amendment along those lines in Committee. Without Amendment No. 118, the job is only half-done by the Bill. The Minister assured us,

"my department is committed to providing comprehensive guidance on bullying that is driven by prejudice".

He went on to say:

"As well as advice on dealing with specific incidents, the guidance in respect of homophobic bullying will focus on prevention, including promoting a school environment in which homophobic bullying does not occur".—[Hansard, 25/7/06; col. 1695.]

We quite agree with that. That is what we want to do, but we feel that the Bill as it stands only does half the job. The guidance is not quite enough. Without our amendment, the school may see the matter only as a part of its policy on the behaviour of pupils, without all the positive, mutually respectful things that we all want to see in the whole school community. In other words, it addresses the negatives without putting in the positives. We would like to put the positives in, too. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, though we had considerable reassurance from the Minister, there really is a case for making this rather more specifically a duty. We seem to hear the word "bullying" coming from so many different directions. If it was specifically a duty—not just of the headmistress but also of the governing body—to see that the whole culture of the school was addressing this worrying aspect that has been identified so often, that would be a help. Having a regular item on the governing body's agenda when it met at least once a year might be one way of concentrating people's minds. I hope that further consideration can be given to the matter.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, the issue of bullying in schools is immensely important, and we accept that a great deal more needs to be done, as the leaders of the school community accept that a great deal more needs to be done, to tackle it school by school and community by community. I am entirely with the noble Baroness in all that she said about its importance, including the issue of homophobic bullying, on which we are looking to publish specific guidance early next year. We are consulting interested parties on that at the moment. We also have our main bullying guidance toolkit, Don't Suffer in Silence, which has been very warmly received and has made a big difference to the capacity of schools to deal with the issue. It is currently being updated, and we are looking to see that it reflects best practice in this area.

When it comes to the law, though, I am straining my powers of understanding to understand what the noble Baroness thinks that we could do that we are not doing. I will go through it so that my understanding is clear, and it may be that we can have a further dialogue on this.

Clause 86 sets out requirements on the head teacher, which must include, as Clause 86(1)(c) states,

"securing that the standard of behaviour of pupils is acceptable",

Also, Clause 86(1)(b) requires,

"encouraging good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils".

I do not see that as purely restricted to bullying. It says,

"encouraging good behaviour and respect for others", so it is not just about bullying. It goes on to say,

"and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying", so it goes from the general to bullying as the specific. I do not see it as couched in any way in terms of negatives as opposed to positives. I find it inconceivable that a head teacher could encourage good behaviour and respect for others if they did not have positive measures to promote respect and rewards for good behaviour in school, and if they did not have those properly recognised, as opposed to simply using sanctions or punitive measures. I hope that the noble Baroness is with me so far on the fact that I do not see this as negative.

In undertaking to meet those requirements in Clause 86(1), the head teacher must,

"act in accordance with the current statement made by the governing body", and the governing body, under Clause 85, must,

"ensure that policies designed to promote good behaviour and discipline on the part of its pupils are pursued at the school".

Again, this is not just restricted to cracking down on bullying; it is about promoting good behaviour and discipline, although cracking down on bullying is one element of it. The points made by the noble Baroness are largely, if not entirely, met, but I am happy to have further discussion with her if there are specific issues.

The amendment says:

"The governing body ... of a ... school ... shall have a duty to establish effective policies to prevent bullying"— which, in fact, is a more specific area of action than we provide for in Clauses 85 and 86—

"and ensure the safety and well-being of all pupils".

Here, we come to the issue of well-being, which the noble Baroness raised in our earlier debates on Report, where she was widely supported by other noble Lords in wanting to impose more extensive well-being duties. I said in response to that debate that we would look at this issue further, and I repeat that assurance. We are looking carefully at this, and I may even have some good news for the noble Baroness at Third Reading.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that, and I look forward with great anticipation to hearing what he has to say about it at Third Reading. The main point that I was trying to make is that, although all those good things in the Bill address pupil behaviour, the ethos, atmosphere and culture of respect and tolerance in a school do not just relate to how the pupils behave; they relate to how the teachers and the caretaker behave, too. If the caretaker refers disrespectfully to some children in the school using some of the very nasty homophobic language that you sometimes hear, that affects the children just as much as if other children made the comments, or if the teachers did. Unfortunately, it does happen that some teachers make these comments. Teachers also sometimes feel that they are being bullied by other members of staff for their sexual orientation or for some other aspect of their personality. Our amendment tries to include the whole school community in the duty to ensure that the pupils have their well-being cared for.

The behaviour policy is probably well catered for in the Bill as it refers to the pupils, but it does not refer to the whole school. The school is more than the pupils; it has staff, volunteers and all kinds of people who come into a school. It is important that the policy should take all that into account, so that you have that mutual respect between adults and children, between adults and adults, and between children and children. That would be covered by our amendment, and it is not covered in the Bill at the moment.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Schools), Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

My Lords, I think that I now understand the point that the noble Baroness is making. It may be that what I have to say on well-being at Third Reading will meet her concerns.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson in the Lords (Education & Children), Education & Skills

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I am sorry if I did not explain it well enough the first time, but I am delighted that he now takes the point. We really must go as far as we can to make sure that schools really understand that there are positive things that can be done—not just punishments when things go wrong. There are positive things that can be done to prevent these things from ever happening at all and to create the sort of culture in which such bullying never would happen and children would never dream of behaving to one another in the sorts of ways that they do.

I had intended to divide the House on this amendment but, given what the Minister has said about what he might do at Third Reading, I will save everyone's legs. I really look forward to hearing what the noble Lord is going to bring forward then, because we on these Benches regard this matter as being terribly important. If we do not think that he has adequately addressed it with what he is intending to bring forward, we most certainly will divide the House at Third Reading. I shall tell my Whips, who have the troops on the front foot, ready to vote, that perhaps we should not divide the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion, I suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 8.30 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.