Academies Bill [HL] — Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 7th July 2010.

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Photo of The Bishop of Lincoln The Bishop of Lincoln Bishop 5:30 pm, 7th July 2010

My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Knight, because, as he will recall, our board of education was anxious to work with the then Government on that Bill. We were very supportive of what was emerging in the Bill and we were as saddened as others by its eventual fate. I therefore thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for bringing forward the amendment-and I do not always say that about her amendments. However, I do on this one because everyone in the House, as we have heard, has good reason to be sympathetic to the principle of PSHE and wishes to see it delivered, at the highest possible standards, across our education system.

That may prompt noble Lords to ask why the Church so often seems to be in the forefront of those resisting this kind of development. It is a good question. I do not always appreciate the answers I get from within my own constituency but, at the heart of it all, something needs to be said in this debate before we get carried away with all the positives and affirmatives: there are implications for some of our understandings of childhood and we must not go down the Pollyanna school of pedagogy. None the less, we all appreciate that something gets lost when some elements of children's education come in earlier than is perhaps appropriate to the well-being of the child at quite an early age.

The motives of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, are honourable and I support the underlying principle, but I do so in the spirit of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for two reasons. First, there is not much detail in the amendment and I need to know a great deal more about what is described here as PHSE. At what age will it be introduced? As the Academies Bill will affect primary as well as secondary schools, the question of age kicks in. I want to know more about its content and whether it will be consistently provided across the country and by whom. All this seems to be within the purview of the curriculum review, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has referred. Out of that may come more detail which will enable some of us to give a fair wind to the spirit of the amendment.

I wonder whether this is the place to pursue this important agenda, partly because, as the noble Lord, Lord Knight, the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and others, have said, it applies only to academies. If it is as good as many believe it is, it ought to be good for all, not only for some. I would support a process that would enable this to become part of the agenda for all our children and not only for some who happen to be in schools which have converted to academy status. While I support wholeheartedly the spirit of the amendment, I would not be able to go into the Lobby with the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for those reasons.

I look forward to the debate continuing and to engaging with this Government, as we did with the last, to achieve something that will be for the common good of all our children. We want them to experience and enjoy relationships, as given by God, so that they can have fulfilled lives-sexually, in terms of their health, in terms of their economic management and, most of all, in terms of their personal well-being and delivery of their potential.