Moved by Lord Shipley
91: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—“Creation and funding of careers programme for primary schools in areas of disadvantage(1) The Secretary of State must work with sector experts to develop a framework for careers education in primary schools that is aligned with the eight Gatsby benchmarks.(2) The Secretary of State must provide financial assistance available to support the delivery of a careers programme for primary schools in areas of disadvantage.(3) In this section—“areas of disadvantage” include areas with primary schools with the top 10% proportion of pupils with free school meal eligibility;“the eight Gatsby benchmarks” means the benchmarks set out in the report “Good Career Guidance” published by the Gatsby charitable foundation in 2014.”Member's explanatory statementThis amendment requires the Secretary of State to create a framework for careers education in primary schools and to give financial assistance to primary schools in areas of disadvantage to deliver the programme.
“to create a framework for careers education in primary schools and to give financial assistance to primary schools in areas of disadvantage to deliver the programme.”
I am grateful for the advice given by Teach First on this amendment, which also draws on the success of the North East Ambition project, supported by Ernst & Young’s EY Foundation. It also reflects the conclusions and recommendations of this House’s Select Committee on Youth Unemployment, which reported six months ago.
Last week Teach First, the education charity, launched a report entitled Rethinking Careers Education: Investing in Our Country’s Future, which highlighted the impact of the pandemic on young people’s career opportunities. Teach First concluded that schools with catchment areas covering the most disadvantaged communities have been hardest hit by the pandemic and that specific extra resource is needed for them. It also concluded that careers education should start in primary schools. Teachers support this, with clear evidence of primary teachers believing that career-related learning for their pupils would raise those pupils’ awareness of different career pathways, with two-thirds feeling that pupils’ aspirations would be raised by this.
These conclusions are similar to those underpinning the work of the North East Ambition project, which aims to put in place the good career guidance benchmarks in all schools in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area by 2024. This is welcome, and we know from the recommendations of the Youth Unemployment Select Committee that those career guidance benchmarks should be
“rolled out to primary schools and be more effectively embedded in the national curriculum so that all young people learn about the myriad opportunities that are open to them from an early age.”
This is about raising aspiration and personal ambition, and through that, crucially, social mobility. The committee heard conclusive evidence that children begin to think about their futures when they are as young as five or six. By the age of seven, life-defining decisions are being formed in their minds. By the age of 10 many have already made career-limiting decisions, and by the age of 14 those decisions will be very firm. Such decisions can be based on where they live, who they know and what jobs those people do. For social mobility to be successful, it requires much earlier intervention.
Recently, statutory careers guidance advice in schools was rolled out to include year 7 pupils. Now is the time to take a further step and to extend statutory provision to our primary schools. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 171F in my name. Had I not had an amendment in this group, I would have risen to support the amendment to be addressed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. I very much support the gist of that amendment on citizenship, having worked with him on some of the committees. What it says makes absolute sense and I hope we will see progress with that idea as we take the Bill forward.
Amendment 171F is on something completely different. I do not think it is contentious. I hope that we will all agree that there is a problem that needs to be solved. I do not think for a minute that it has been deliberately created by Ministers or anyone else. I think it is a loophole, but a very big loophole, and the Bill is an ideal opportunity to address it.
We all would sign up to the idea that partnership between schools and parents is absolutely crucial. Whether we are mums, dads, grandparents or whatever, we all make speeches and know that partnership and the strength of it between the teacher, parent and child are crucial. It is possibly more crucial in some areas of the curriculum than in others: sex education, faith education and some aspects of history. That understanding about what is happening in the school is very important so that the parent can support the teacher and the teacher can support the parent, all in the interests of the child.
If we look at the Government’s guidance on relationships and sex education, it says that parents should have visibility of what is being taught to their children. That is the central core of what I have always thought was the case, both as a teacher and through my time in politics. I was therefore surprised to see a letter that a parent made available to me after she had gone to her child’s school to ask to see some of the curriculum papers that were being used in relationships and sex education. In this case the child was in key stage 2, the latter years of primary education. The head had written to the parent to say that he could not make the curriculum materials available to her because the organisation that was delivering that part of the curriculum said that it was exempt under Section 43(2) and Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act.
In many areas of the curriculum, especially the contentious areas, schools look to outside bodies to bring in their expertise. We have already had a discussion in Committee on the importance of sometimes not necessarily using teachers with QTS but going to where there is specialist skill. This school had asked an organisation to come in and deliver sex and relationships education. But the organisation had said, “This is our intellectual property. It can’t be photocopied and shown to a third party.” The law allows it to claim that parents are a third party. That cannot be right. It does not matter whether they like the curriculum material or not. This particular bit of curriculum material was, I think, very contestable in terms of appropriateness for age. However, even if I thought it the best bit of teacher material I had ever seen, I would say it could not be right that a parent could not have access to it and see it. There are so many areas where a parent would want to know what is being taught to a child, and something needs to be done about this.
It is in the area of contested facts and difficult things to teach that schools are most likely to turn to outside organisations to help. They tend not to do that with maths and English and things like that, because they have the qualified staff in the school. It is for the areas that are difficult to teach, because they are contested, that outside organisations are particularly likely to be approached.
Whether we like it or not, we live at a time when there are lots of curriculum areas in which facts are not facts, and what we all assumed was appropriate to pass on to the next generation is now being contested. We have contested information and different views; as a society and a generation we are trying to work these things out. It is critical that giving ideas and words to the next generation is done with care, openness and the support of all the adults possible.
I very much hope that the Minister will be able to do two things when she responds to this amendment: first, to accept that there is a problem and, secondly, to say how it will be addressed before Report. I do not want—as was the position in the letter I read—the head to have to come between the parent and the outside provider. It was not fair for that head to have to write to the parent, with whom they would be having a longer-term relationship than that over the relationships and sex education lesson. We can all see that it potentially damaged the working relationship between the head and the parent.
Even if it were the case that the law could be got round, or it would have been possible for parent to see the material, or the outside provider need not have said that that should happen, we cannot make the head the go-between. We must have greater clarity. I do not think that this is intentional on anyone’s part. If this amendment is not appropriate, that is fine. We think it works but, if it is not appropriate—or perhaps I should say, if there is a better way of solving this problem—I know that everybody who supports this amendment will be delighted to discuss this with the Minister in the intervening weeks. I hope we can solve this problem.
My Lords, I too have put my name to Amendment 171F because, as your Lordships have heard, it is important that parents should be able to discover what their children are being taught and, in particular, to see the materials. This has arisen because the commercial providers of materials have apparently tried to prevent parents getting access to those materials. They have met requests for information or to see the materials with the assertion that these are protected, and they can rely on an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act.
I find that surprising. The material has been, or will be, referred to in class to the children, perhaps with slides shown. I should have thought that any duty of confidence on the part of the school to the commercial provider has been waived by that disclosure in class, but so be it—the effect of the assertion is to put parents off and, as we have heard, it puts the schools in an embarrassing and awkward position. The parents and the schools are on the same side.
The issue is, of course, particularly sensitive where the subject matter is RSE—relationships and sex education—but it is not limited to that nowadays. History, economics and politics—a whole range of subjects—raise awkward and difficult matters in which there are strong differing philosophies and political views. It is very important that parents should know what is being taught and, in particular, whether their children are in fact being indoctrinated; things are not always the facts that they appear to be. The content must be accurate and balanced.
This amendment will give statutory force to a policy to which, we would argue, there can be no reasonable objection. In the case of RSE material, there is already statutory guidance, provided by the Government in 2019. I note that only the other day, on
“When schools choose resources and external provision for Relationships, Sex and Health Education and PSHE, we expect schools to consult with parents on these matters and to make reasonable decisions about the content of their curriculum. Schools should also ensure that when they engage parents, they provide examples of the resources they plan to use (for example, the books they will use in lessons).”
That seems to be the Government’s policy, and who could argue against it? If that is the policy, what possible objection could there be to having it reinforced by statute, which would meet the arguments put forward by certain providers?
In 2019 the Secretary of State wrote in the foreword to the statutory guidance:
“We are clear that parents and carers are the prime educators for children on many of these matters. Schools complement and reinforce this role and have told us that they see building on what pupils learn at home as an important part of delivering a good education.”
The guidance says in paragraph 13:
“All schools must have in place a written policy for Relationships Education and RSE”, and in paragraph 24, under the heading “Use of materials”:
“Schools should also ensure that, when they consult with parents, they provide examples of the resources that they plan to use as this can be reassuring for parents and enables them to continue the conversations started in class at home.”
Who could argue with that? It is common sense and uncontroversial. However, as we have heard, parents are not always getting the access to which they are already entitled and should be getting. We have heard about the school that obviously felt on the spot because the provider did not want them to see the material. The provider wrote that the material was exempt and that the placing of the copies of the actual documents in the public domain by inspection or copying is not justified. What on earth does that mean? How can it be right not to put a copy in the public domain or show it to the parents?
So there we are. We suggest that the amendment strikes a reasonable compromise. It would not require schools to copy all the materials, some of which might be quite lengthy, but would allow people simply to go into a school and see what is there. That would spare schools the burden of copying. The amendment is necessary and reasonable. Without it, it appears that parents will not be assured that, without recourse to litigation, they can see what their children are taught. I commend the amendment to the House.
My Lords, I have also put my name to this amendment. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, that the present position is untenable. In 2019 the Government updated the relationships and sex education guidance to make the teaching of certain content compulsory in all schools. The guidance was clear that content should be age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate and—I underline the next words—anchored in science and material facts. It seems that a significant number of independent so-called RSE providers have created materials that promote to schoolchildren, including quite young children, the idea that biological sex is a spectrum, that we all have an inner gender identity that should take priority over biological sex and that our assumed genders are assigned to us at birth.
One may agree or disagree with those propositions, and one may agree or disagree with them being put forward as scientifically based fact, but it is also clear that the 2019 guidance made paramount that parents should have visibility of what is being taught to their children. There are many references to that in the guidance, which says that parents must be consulted in developing and reviewing RSE policies; that
“All schools must have in place a written policy”; that policies should reflect the communities they serve; and that policies should be “made available to parents” and published on the school website.
However, the intention for openness also covered RSE content because policies should:
“Set out the subject content, how it is taught and who is responsible for teaching it.” and
“include sections covering … details of content/scheme of work”.
I support this amendment for three main reasons. First, there is clear evidence that the 2019 RSE guidance has resulted in some schools using ideologically driven materials not grounded in science, in my view, with children, including some very young children. This has particularly been so in the field of gender ideology, where some materials appear to deny the reality of biological sex. These teachings have consequences, not least for women’s sex-based rights.
Secondly, it is very clear that the 2019 guidance was intended to enable parents to engage with materials used in their children’s education. Thirdly, however, it has become apparent that some external resource providers, including some with a notoriously fixed and driven view of these matters, are actively seeking to prevent parents seeing the materials being used, including by using arguments based on commercial confidentiality.
In my view, this amendment provides a solution. Its purpose is to counter what I describe as this obfuscation by enshrining in law a parental right to review curriculum materials that is presently merely alluded to in guidance. For all the reasons set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, I strongly believe that this Government should do that.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 168 on fundamental British values. The law at present requires every school to teach fundamental British values and the purpose of my amendment is simply to build on what we have at the moment to strengthen it more firmly into the structure and teaching of the school.
The law we have at the moment was introduced in 2015 in the wake of the Prevent programme. Almost inevitably, it was orientated in a particular direction; the result is that it is lopsided and strangely missing in certain fundamental matters of our society. That law says that democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs have to be taught. It may be obvious to everybody that there is one fundamental gap in that list: the equal respect to be accorded to every person in our society. We all have one vote—only one, not less and not more—and the law has to treat each of us equally, whether we are wealthy or poor. Government departments have to treat everybody equally, whether they are powerful or powerless. This is of course not a value which has suddenly been dreamt up; it goes back to Runnymede. Therefore, in the revised list before us in Amendment 168, there is included
“equal respect for every person”.
The two first values on the list, democracy and the rule of law, remain unchanged but, as we all know, democracy can mean anything or everything. Most countries in the world claim to be democratic when, in fact, more than half of them are not at all, so it needs to be spelt out in law what we mean by a liberal democracy. That can be seen in proposed new subsection (4), and I shall mention two obvious things in it: “an independent judiciary” and
“in a Parliamentary system, a Government that is accountable to Parliament”.
Freedom, of course, is also fundamental to our society and it is a word whose meaning is very well established in law and international law. It is actually to be preferred to the present wording of “individual liberty”, because it goes much wider. That is spelt out in proposed new subsection (5), which says that
“‘freedom’ includes … freedom of thought, conscience and religion … freedom of expression, and … freedom of assembly and association.”
At the moment, fundamental British values are hardly being taught in schools at all. I was speaking to somebody at lunch today who is trying their best to get something taught and was telling me that it meets a great deal of opposition from teachers and pupils because of the phrase “British values”. That was part of the original unease when this was introduced in 2015. It is a great pity to be distracted on that kind of debate, and there is an easy solution to it in this amendment. The values are to be called “values of British citizenship”, and are legally clear. It claims not that the values are unique to society or that they are better or worse than others but that if you are a British citizen by adoption or birth, these are the values of our society. I do not see how anybody could possibly object to that. It would help to avoid a debate that at the moment is distracting and stops this matter being properly taught in schools.
Although the law states at the moment that these values have to be taught in schools, it does not say who is responsible for teaching them. That is why proposed new subsection (3) says that these values
“must be taught as part of citizenship, at the first to fourth key stages.”
Teaching them does not have to be confined to that—it may be that a head will want to talk about British values in assembly—but at least there would be a clear place in the curriculum where the values have to be taught. This would strengthen citizenship education in schools, which at the moment is very patchy. In some schools it is hardly done at all, while in others it is elided into PSHE. There would therefore be something much more substantial to grasp and to teach children.
There is one further addition that is not there at the moment, “respect for the environment.” From talking to people, there is no doubt that including this in the list has very widespread support, particularly among young people. Seeing that in the legislation would help to arouse their interest in the list as a whole. It is not just a personal value but a political one, which is why proposed new subsection (6) says that
“‘respect for the environment’ means taking into account the systemic effect of human actions on the health and sustainability of the environment both within the United Kingdom and over the planet as a whole, for present and future generations.”
That is a widely agreed definition of what is meant by respect for the environment.
I am a passionate believer in the teaching of British political values in our schools. At the moment it is not being done properly, if at all. This proposal is a real way in which to strengthen the teaching of those values, and I am glad that it has such substantial support, including from the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, from the Labour Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, from the Conservative Benches, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, from the Liberal Democrats. I very much hope that this will continue to gain support from all around the House.
My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 91 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. Helping children to understand the different opportunities and career paths that might be open to them, what sort of work they involve and how to pursue them is one of the most important tasks for schools to undertake—in partnership with parents and employers.
It is therefore disappointing that the Bill says so little about careers education, information, advice and guidance. The schools White Paper in March included commitments about careers education that do not appear in the Bill, such as the one covered by Amendment 91 on launching a new careers programme for primary schools in areas of disadvantage and the one on improving professional development for teachers and leaders on careers education, including strengthening understanding of apprenticeships and technical routes.
The importance of starting careers education in primary schools was recognised in the 2017 Careers Strategy. Its aim has been well described by the Careers & Enterprise Company, CEC, which has done so much valuable work in promoting and supporting careers education. It states:
“Career-related learning in primary schools is about broadening pupils’ horizons, challenging stereotypes and helping them develop the skills and sense of self that will enable them to reach their full potential.”
The CEC has conducted a number of research studies and pilot programmes both to demonstrate the effectiveness of primary careers education in achieving these aims and to establish what approaches work best in practice. From these studies it is clear that there is not only a clear appetite for careers education in primary schools but growing evidence that such education has a positive impact on overall school engagement and attainment, raises pupils’ aspirations, enhances their motivation and helps to clarify their life goals and break down biases about the world of work. There is plenty of good experience, best practice and resources to draw on, such as the CEC’s report What Works? Career-related Learning in Primary Schools, the Career Development Institute’s Career Development Framework: Handbook for Primary Schools, and the Teach First report that the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, referred to.
I strongly support this amendment but ideally I would like it to be extended, with a requirement that the delivery of a careers programme within the framework required by proposed new subsection (1) to be inserted by the amendment should be mandatory for all primary schools. There are three questions I ask the Minister in responding to this amendment. First, what are the Government’s plans to ensure that all primary schools have a careers programme in line with the Gatsby benchmarks? Secondly, how will they ensure that adequate resources and facilities are available to deliver these plans, including not just financial assistance for disadvantages schools but an adequate pipeline of fully trained and qualified career guidance professionals, as well as careers leaders in schools? Thirdly, what action will they take to ensure that all teachers learn about careers education as part of their training?
I also support Amendment 158, which sets out a number of subjects which should be a mandatory feature of every school’s curriculum, including digital skills, financial literacy and life skills. In my view, one of these life skills should be first aid training, which I shall say more about, noble Lords will probably be relieved to hear, when we get to Amendment 167. It always astonishes me that skills such as these, which are so vital to everyone, and which schools are ideally placed to teach, are not taught as a matter of course. Digital literacy in particular is rapidly becoming a category of functional skills complementary to, if not on a par with, literacy and numeracy. This was suggested by the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills in 2015, which pointed out that
“Digital literacy is an essential tool that underpins other subjects and almost all jobs.”
I support the other amendments in this group, including the amendment on British values introduced by my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries, and Amendment 171I tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Chapman and Lady Wilcox, to make work experience mandatory—to which I add only that it needs to be high-quality work experience.
If we are looking for the Schools Bill to help create an education system that is designed to meet the growing needs of the future, it should ensure that all young people are taught the subjects listed in Amendment 158, are made aware of the values set out in Amendment 168, undertake high-quality work experience as required by Amendment 171I and are helped to start thinking about their own career aspirations and potential from primary age onwards, in line with Amendment 91. I hope all these requirements and amendments will find their way into the Bill.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Shipley and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on Amendment 91, to which I added my name, to ensure that careers education is supported in primary schools. It is really important that young people are introduced to a range of careers before they become convinced that some jobs are boys’ jobs and some are for girls. We need women engineers, firefighters, police and military officers, just as we need men to become nurses, teachers, hairdressers and carers. If very young children are encouraged to see where their interests lie, it will serve them well later on.
There was a wonderful programme—I do not know if it is still going—called Drawing the Future, where primary children drew their ambitions. One eight year-old girl had drawn a very accurate picture of an RAF Hawk aircraft and written “When I grow up, I want to be an RAF Red Arrows pilot”—no matter that the Red Arrows have hardly ever had women; that did not daunt her. What a wonderful aspiration. She and the other prize-winners were then greeted by an appropriate adult in their chosen field, and an elegant woman pilot appeared to give her a prize and talk to her about her aspirations.
It is important for all children—but, as we have heard, particularly for those who are less academically gifted and more practically motivated—to see a way to become a car mechanic, a cook or a carer, so that they are more likely to have confidence in learning and apply that to other areas of schoolwork. Of course, this is particularly important for disadvantaged children who may not have the encouragement at home to stimulate their interests and give them confidence to succeed. I urge the Minister to take this amendment back and see that primary children have the greatest possible opportunities to achieve later in life.
I also strongly support Amendment 168, so powerfully introduced by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries. When he introduced it at Second Reading, there were rounds of silent applause from all around the House, but I hope that, with more support from these Benches, this amendment will go through. My noble friend Lord Wallace cannot be here today, but he is powerfully in support of this too.
My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group and will just say a few words in support of Amendment 168. In the absence of a written constitution, we need a much more explicit statement of the values we hold dear, with which we must acquaint our children. This amendment would fulfil that educational obligation, as set out magisterially by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. It includes acknowledgment of our diversity, as well as the elements which bind us together. It also signals the environmental pressures of our time. It could, with great advantage, be the basis of the content of those lessons which are offered to pupils who opt out of worship. My only rider is that open and continual class discussion is an essential part of the teaching of these values, and this perhaps could have been made explicit also. In the words of the inspirational thinker Amartya Sen, public discourse is a vital part of democracy.
My Lords, I support Amendment 168, on which noble Lords have spoken very well. It is very important, particularly for people who come to live in this country, to understand our values and to feel happy living here.
I also support Amendment 171F, which the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, explained clearly and eloquently. As a parent, I find that it is so important to be involved in your children’s education, and children also want their parents to be involved. If there is a loophole—which is so easily amended by this amendment—it is important for it to be included, and it should not be difficult to do so. If it is not corrected, we run the risk of being on a slippery slope. There are consequences if parents are not involved in what is taught to their children—this is what happened under Nazi rule and in communist China and communist Russia, and is possibly happening even now with what President Putin is doing with children in Russia. It is important for parents to be involved and, if there is a loophole, I hope that this Government will amend it.
My Lords, I speak in favour of all the amendments in this group, and in particular Amendment 168. However, before I get to that, I will speak in respect of Amendment 91, on careers education, and the amendments from my noble friends around work experience.
It is really important, in its own right, that we nurture in young people an interest in their future in work and the future careers they might have. I am particularly passionate that they should think about more than one career; it is about not just what you want to be when you grow up but the variety of things in a long working life that young people might want to do when they are older. I also believe in its importance for more than just that purpose, as part of a broader and more balanced curriculum than we have at the moment in our schools, at every one of the key stages, where things are particularly narrow. I would hope that, in the context of Amendment 158, which talks about digital skills, this might include media literacy—something we were talking about earlier at Oral Questions.
I would also say in passing that if any noble Lords are interested in how the career aspirations of children change as they grow up, they should talk to the people at KidZania. It is a rather unusual experience in this country, at Westfield shopping centre, where you drop your children off and they are immersed in a two-thirds size world where they can choose from different work options for them to enjoy as work experience while you go shopping. KidZania exists in various cities around the world, and it collects data about the different backgrounds and genders—all the aspects of diversity—of children and what their choices are, and it is fascinating to see how those change as they get older and become more gendered. The different aspirations according to background are indeed fascinating.
On work experience, I know that, as ever with anything where you are looking at a broader and more balanced curriculum, people in schools have to make some difficult choices about resources and what aspect of the curriculum they are going to let go to make space for something different and new. I think we need to be honest about that. My sense is that we have an overemphasis on academic and cognitive skills and not enough on some other skills. That is a point I make regularly, and it is where I would want schools to focus. I would also want them to use the good work of organisations such as the Careers & Enterprise Company, which has been mentioned; Founders4Schools, which has a great platform to help connect schools with local employers and people who run local businesses to ask them for work experience opportunities or to come in and speak in schools; Speakers for Schools; and the few remaining education business partnerships. In a world where every school is an academy, one thing I would really like to see is for all those academies to be in local partnerships with local employers so that they can help drive this important work at a localised level. I think the partnership in Hounslow still exists, but such partnerships are very few and far between, and I wish that they could be revived.
On Amendment 171F, transparency for parents is really important. They should not be treated as a third party in a school, as my noble friend talked about some being treated. They are an integral part of the community, and for community cohesion purposes among other things, it is important that such transparency exists.
That leaves Amendment 168 in the name of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, which is excellent. I am somewhat partial, in that I tried to introduce through a Private Member’s Bill “sustainable citizenship” as a way of amending the citizenship subject in order to introduce sustainability. I will not rehearse all the compelling arguments that I made during the passage of that Bill, but interested Members of your Lordships’ House can look it up in Hansard. But the rest of the amendment, in respect of codification of British values, is really valuable and important. Indeed, if we could introduce this really quickly, perhaps members of the Cabinet could take some instruction in citizenship and learn about equal respect for every person, an independent judiciary, government that is accountable to Parliament and freedom of assembly—all things that appear to be threatened at the moment.
I have not contributed so far to this debate, either at Second Reading or in any of the subsequent stages. I am no expert in the field of education, but I wanted to contribute today, just once, in support of Amendment 168 in the name of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for reasons I shall come to in a minute. As he pointed out, the amendment has had pretty strong cross-party support.
But before doing so, I want to take just a moment to reflect on earlier days in Committee, which I sat through, covering the opening clauses of the Bill. As I have just made clear, while I am not an expert and know very little about education policy, wearing my hat as chairman of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, listening to those earlier debates—particularly the contribution from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who is in his place—left me quite disturbed. Of course, we come to the point made by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, that part of democracy includes,
“in a Parliamentary system, a Government that is accountable to Parliament”.
Many noble Lords will be aware of the recent reports by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and its sister committee, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, drawing attention to the Government’s increasing use of what we have come to call framework Bills. These are Bills in which only the broadest direction of policy travel is revealed in the primary legislation and is, therefore, subject to a proper level of scrutiny, or the detail—and it is the detail that really matters—is left to secondary legislation. The hard-hitting report by the DPRRC about this Bill in particular set out the case in detail.
We on the SLSC have a wonderful staff, but we are concerned that we are going to be asked to report to the House on regulations which are of sufficient importance to justify a much higher level of scrutiny and consultation. The SLSC’s report, Government by Diktat, has been commented on—less so our more recent report published about six weeks ago, What Next? The Growing Imbalance between Parliament and the Executive. To be honest, it is simply not good enough for the Government to say that all these regulations are approved by both Houses. While that may be true technically, it is none the less a sophistry; as the House knows, statutory instruments are not amendable—they are either passed or rejected. Therefore, it is not surprising that when faced with this nuclear option the House has, understandably, been reluctant to press the button marked “reject”.
I have some sympathy with the Government’s view that public policy is evolving too fast for the rather stately pace of primary legislation to keep up. But if this argument is to be accepted, then the Government, in turn, must accept there is a need to examine and redesign our secondary legislation scrutiny procedures to cover these framework clauses—not necessarily very many of them—that come in the Bills before your Lordships’ House. Yes, it will make the Government’s job more difficult—that is why they do not like it—but better consultation and wider debate will lead to better law; most importantly and most significantly, it preserves and strengthens the principle of informed consent which is a critical part of any properly functioning democratic system. So, I urge my noble friend the Minister to encourage some fresh thinking by the Government, who have had, after all, “taking back control” as a primary policy objective.
I turn now to the amendment from the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries. I had the pleasure—it was a privilege—to chair the House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement on which he, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley—from whom we have just heard a very interesting and informed expert speech—all served. One key issue on which the committee focused was what held us all together—the glue that binds us. It must be true that if we are to adhere to that glue, to accept that glue, we need to establish some values that form an essential part of it. This is the essence of the argument of the noble and right reverend Lord.
I have to argue that there is an urgent need to debate, to agree, to teach and to then stand up for those values. Why is this important? I think there are three reasons. First, the impact on our society and on our social cohesion of social media. Social media is a shouty place, it is not a reflective one. It emphasises rights and can often forget responsibilities, and responsibilities inevitably run—and must run—parallel to our rights. If our society is to be successful, every one of us has to be prepared to put back in as well as just take out. Indeed, if I have a concern about the amendment from the noble and right reverend Lord, it is that the words “rights” and “responsibilities” do not appear in it.
The second reason for the glue weakening is the rapid changing of our society and the way it is made up. I touch here on the point made by my noble friend Lady Meyer. ONS statistics tell us that 28% of the children born in this country last year were born to mothers who themselves were not born in this country. That is not an anti-immigrant remark; it merely points out that if you were not born in the country, you will inevitably have a slightly more tangential knowledge of the values that are essential to the country in which you have arrived and are now living, as my noble friend pointed out.
Thirdly and finally, having agreed those core values we have to explain them widely, but in particular, as several noble Lords said, including the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, to those of school age, starting with simple explanations and examples for the early years, followed by more complex situations for sixth form and beyond. We do not learn about values and issues by osmosis; we need to be taught them and taught well. By “well” I do not mean taught just by theoretical learning about the emergence of our democratic system and the sacrifices and pains that went with it, although that is important. Equally important are practical examples: how to organise a public petition, how to conduct a public service, and how to visit a magistrates’ court so that you can see some of the building blocks that make up our society at work. That is hard work for schools, I understand, but a key part in maintaining the glue of our society.
I suspect my noble friend the Minister will not be surprised that I found the response to our follow-up report on citizenship and civic engagement disappointing, especially regarding the teaching of citizenship education. The tone was encouraging enough, but in too many cases the Government sought to “encourage” and “expect” rather than mandate performance to take place. This half-hearted attitude is exemplified by the decision to remove from official statistics the number of trainee teachers focusing on citizenship education.
None of this is easy. For example, it will take us into sensitive discussions about the difference between integration and assimilation. It will require us to establish red lines that we then have to be prepared to defend, painful and controversial though that might sometimes be. But today the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, has performed a valuable service by keeping this debate alive. The consequences of this debate will play a critical role in maintaining a country that is at ease with itself. That is why he has my support for Amendment 168.
My Lords, having said to the Minister that I would be quiet today, I had forgotten that this group did not get debated last week when I was away. I support all these amendments. It is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. He and I do not always agree, but on this occasion I want first to thank him for his incredibly helpful contribution on primary and secondary legislation. It was astoundingly clear and helpful. I thank him very much and hope it will be heeded by Her Majesty’s Government. Secondly, I agree with him on Amendment 168, but I will come back to that in a moment.
I support Amendment 91 on primary careers guidance because it would help to break down false dreams, as well as raise aspirations. I hear too many false dreams arise from children in primary schools when I visit them, which is a regular feature of my work and that of all my right reverend friends. We visit primary and secondary schools and listen to children there. We absolutely want to raise aspirations but we do not want to give false hopes either. Well thought-through careers education at the primary level helps this.
It also helps children in primary schools develop the sense of work as vocation and calling rather than simply a job that you do to earn money. We need to recover a much deeper sense that work is part and parcel of being a human and that it is not simply what you get paid for but what you contribute to the life of society as a whole and what helps you flourish as a person. If we do not inculcate that thinking during the primary years, we only ever go down the more and more utilitarian road that work is about what you get paid for so that you can enjoy yourself in the rest of life, rather than enjoying work and being fulfilled in it.
Such careers education also helps the sense of why it is important to have literacy and numeracy. The reason why I regularly struggle with the emphasis on literacy and numeracy as if they were utterly distinct subjects, rather than part of education for the fullness and wholeness of life, is that literacy and numeracy are there for a purpose, not simply for their own sake. They enable people to fulfil their calling and their task, and lots of children struggle with literacy and numeracy because they do not see any purpose in it. However, if you get a vision of what work and career might look like—I pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Knight—it must be about the potential numbers of careers that you might hold in the future. Very few people now end up with simply one career, and certainly will not in the future. Therefore I strongly support Amendment 91.
On Amendment 168, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord who used to sit on these Benches for his proposal. I am utterly behind it. However, there are two things that I wish were there but which are not at the moment. I would have liked to have seen something on the social responsibility that flows from the five areas outlined. Freedom, respect for persons and care for the environment require social responsibility. This is where I agree again with the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, that we need something around the fact that rights and responsibilities go together. I hope that the Government will pick up this proposal, and that would be one of the possible tweaks that I would look at.
On Amendments 158 and 171I, I say “Absolutely” but—I am never sure whether I am allowed to do this—I have a question for the opposition leadership, who proposed this rather than for the Minister. Amendment 171I says “All schools”. Does this therefore mean that we are introducing work experience at primary level and if so, what does that look like, or is secondary level meant? If it is the former, it ties in with primary careers stuff and so on; I am just teasing out how that would look.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, for spotting an obvious flaw that needs to be dealt with. She explained it so clearly, and I hope that it is accepted and moved forward.
My Lords, there are some splendid amendments in this group. I very much liked what the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, had to say. I will speak briefly to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and to that of my noble friend Lady Morris. The former is an extremely important amendment on the broad principle that it is never too early to widen the horizons of children at school as to what may be possible and the options that may be there. We all know that there is a tendency for the career horizons of students to get narrower rather than broader, and if it is not there at a very early age then certainly is by the time they are in secondary school. They are affected by their peer group very strongly, and I hope that it is not too old-fashioned a phrase to say that it is a matter not just of gender stereotypes but of class stereotypes.
People are often restricted in their view of what is possible by the careers of people they know, such as their parents. These may be very good choices, but people need the whole bandwidth, as it were. I hope it is not seen as too facetious a comment—I know we are not talking about private schools—but if you attended Eton College and said that your career ambition was to be Prime Minister, that would be a reasonable and statistically likely objective, given that, I think, 20 Prime Ministers went to Eton. If that was your objective in life, the strong recommendation would be to go to Eton, assuming, of course, your parents could afford to send you there. If, however, you had been to the schools that most of us have been to and had said in your teenage years that your ambition was to be Prime Minister, you would have been told to sit down, have a drink of water and be more realistic in your expectations. I really think that before children start commenting, essentially in the same language as their peer group or their social background, the broader the options made plain to them the better—and, of course, the ways of achieving those options.
The other amendment I want to speak to is the one from my noble friend Lady Morris. I emphasise that, for me, the issue is not so much about parental examination, if you like, of life sciences, life relationship skills and the like; it is about the principle of accountability that could apply to any area of school activity. I must admit that it was news to me—I am nothing like the professional that she is—that schools could contract out pretty well anything they liked. To take an absurd example, it is possible that parents would not be able to discover what was in the English curriculum at school because it was commercially sensitive. Quite apart from that being unacceptable, it seems pretty impractical. Given that these subjects are being taught in schools to teenagers and the details of the curriculum are being withheld from parents because they are commercially sensitive, you would simply have a situation in the family where a teenager came home from school, their parents asked what they had been doing that day and the teenager responded by saying, “I’m afraid I can’t discuss it—it’s commercially sensitive.” On a practical level, even if the principle is right, which I do not think it is, my noble friend’s amendment should be supported.
My Lords, I support pretty much all the amendments in the group. The one tabled by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, is particularly helpful and casts a glow over most of the others. That is why I plead it in aid when talking about Amendment 171F, spoken to by my noble friend Lady Morris of Yardley and so strongly supported by both the noble Lords, Lord Sandhurst and Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, with both of whom I align myself.
I should like to make three points. First, almost all of us in ordinary conversation talk about the importance of the relationship and the fact that education is a team sport—schools, kids and parents are all involved. We take it as a truth and do not question it any further. But the other thing about this team sport is that none of the bits is sealed off from another. All of us who have brought up children must have had the experience of them coming home and wanting to talk about something that has arisen in the curriculum they are being taught. If we do not have the smallest idea of what that might be, it will be a much less fruitful conversation than any parent, or the child who introduced the subject, would want to have. These points have to be fundamental and this amendment goes to the heart of the issue. If we mean that it is a team—something shared and collaborative—it must mean that we are all in the position where we can talk about what the other experiences and what the other knows. If not, it does not really mean anything. I hope that point will be taken very strongly.
Secondly, I strongly identify with the point made with great force by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, about the work done in curricula in the sphere of science and scientific knowledge. By training I am a mathematician; I do not know whether that counts as a scientist but, in any event, that is what I have been trained to do. One thing that it has always seemed to me very important to stress is that in any debate it is possible to distinguish between those things which people may hold very sincerely as opinions and those things which, none the less, are not sustained by any kind of research or scientific knowledge.
A couple of examples of this have been given. My noble friend Lord Grocott’s example of class is very important, and another is religion. This may be special pleading, but I can tell noble Lords that if you come from a Jewish family and your child is in a faith school, it is not at all unusual to find the unchallenged view about the culpability of the Jews historically, without anybody making any kind of point about it at all. There are issues of that kind, which in good schools of course would not arise, but they do arise in some schools and that is important.
The extremely important example given by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, is the one that has become the subject of so much debate: the issue of gender. It appears to me that in schools a number of organisations have unwisely been allowed to capture the agenda, and the point is repeated ad nauseum about what you have to believe. Now, I do not mind people championing ideas—I have a go at it occasionally myself—and I do not mind everybody disagreeing with me; it happens to me all the time. But I do not like people being designated as the champion of things whose orthodoxy in those respects has to be adhered to. That is no basis for any kind of education—any kind at all. We are subject to that at the moment. It is not the sole responsibility—I shall mention an organisation—of Stonewall to tell me, my child or anybody else what the orthodoxy is about those questions. I do not think there is any case for that to be done privately in a school without the parents knowing what is happening.
That brings me to my last point. I will now stray a little from schools, but it is relevant because it has also happened in the world of education more generally. The introduction of the argument that commercial sensitivity makes it impossible to proceed in a discussion about anything has not happened only in schools; it has happened in higher education routinely. It may be that noble Lords will not want to hear another word I say when I say that I was the Minister in part responsible for the research excellence exercise and for the ways it has been used. When we were looking at the ways in which we described what was really excellent research, and therefore where it might be sensible for funding to follow that research—it was like betting on winners rather than not—we found that, in the discipline of psychology, for example, where psychometric testing was used, it was almost all proprietary property of the people who set up the experiments. The normal notion that you would challenge the data by repeating experiments could not be done, because you had no right or access to the source material.
It does not matter to me, candidly, whether that happens in higher education or in schools. The fact is that we cannot protect pools of knowledge which people want to address from proper scrutiny and argument. If we do, we kill any scientific process. Let us not mince our words: we kill any scientific process.
For those reasons, let us not have that insidious development, which we have seen happen quite a lot, particularly in research funding, move across into the school sector by accident and not address the problem. As my noble friend Lady Morris has said, we must make sure that we do not let it slip through a crack.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 171F, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, and to add my support for this group of amendments.
It is already well established in national and international law that parents have the right to raise their children and the duty to safeguard their well-being. It is also well established that this includes the obligation to ensure that their children receive a suitable education and that this is then underpinned by general presumption in law that, except in cases where there is substantial risk of serious harm, parents do act in the best interests of their children.
Further, under Article 13.3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the UK has ratified, it is also enshrined that parents have the prior right to choose the kind of education that their child will be given. Many parents chose to exercise this right by delegating the education of their children in certain subjects to more qualified teachers in schools in order to provide them with the best education possible. None the less, it is still their choice as parents to do so.
It follows, therefore, that to make this choice, as we have heard this afternoon, parents must be able to review all teaching materials, in order to make a fully informed decision about the education of their children. This must include third-party curriculum resources. Many schools choose to make use of a wide range of these third-party resources, some of which are extremely useful. However, as noble Lords are aware, there is increasing evidence from parents that schools are using third-party teaching materials which are often ideologically motivated and lack factual basis, particularly in relation to some relationships and sex education materials, as well as other contentious issues.
As we have heard this afternoon, even more concerning is that some of these materials are being withheld from parents. Amendment 171F seeks to maintain the right of parents to view all teaching materials, not just the curriculum lesson titles. Schools have a duty to provide these materials for parents to view and therefore this amendment is necessary in order to close that particular loophole in legislation.
In addition, it has long been communicated to parents that children learn best when they are supported at home by parents who are interested and involved. I can remember hours of testing my children on spellings, maths and history. If parents cannot view and understand the materials their children are being taught, they are hampered in their ability and responsibility to support their children in their education.
Parents should not only be allowed to view teaching materials but actively encouraged to read and engage with their child’s education and the materials being taught in schools. That is why, while I wholeheartedly agree with the amendment, there is one issue that I would encourage the noble Baroness to smooth over, perhaps by Report, should she bring the amendment back, which I very much hope she will. For parents to be able to engage fully with their child’s education, the material needs to be freely available to parents online or at home. The phrase “on the premises”, meaning on the school premises, is an unnecessary restriction. These third-party organisations are commissioned to provide a service, not to teach secret material.
Research has consistently shown that the impact of parental engagement in a child’s education has a far greater effect on the child’s educational success than the schooling itself. This is a trend found across the age range and social backgrounds. Parental engagement is particularly important when children start to engage in some of the personal and social issues in society. There are many examples of good practice in this area already in place in schools across the country, such as making the curriculum, teaching resources and guidance for parents available via parent portals. It would be fun to see some of this material taught on BBC Bitesize, for example.
As parents, we have a duty to ensure that our children are receiving a high-quality education, but in order to fulfil that duty, we must retain the right to engage with the material that our children are being taught in schools. With one tweak in mind, Amendment 171F has my full support.
My Lords, I very much welcome this debate. First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for his intervention and the work of his Select Committee, which is invaluable to the House. He put to the Minister very stark choices that we face as a House when presented with the kind of Bill that the noble Baroness has brought before us. In essence, either we take those clauses out or we must see from the Government a new approach to the way we deal with secondary legislation. As the noble Lord suggested, either we must be able to amend such regulations—framework clause regulations, as he referred to it—when they come to us, or we must have a much more extensive system of scrutiny. Otherwise, the House will start to change the convention and reject secondary legislation, because we cannot allow Governments to steamroller through this type of legislation. I suspect we will see, time after time in this Session, the House becoming much more assertive about the way we are being treated.
I very much welcome Amendment 168, from the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries. I was tickled by the definition of democracy, which, in subsection (4)(d) of the proposed new clause, means to include
“decentralised decision-making, accountable at an appropriate level to the electorate” and then comparing it to the Bill, which is taking powers away from local education authorities and giving it to either the Secretary of State or non-accountable academies. Ministers should certainly pay attention to the noble Lord’s amendment.
I strongly support my noble friend Lady Morris on Amendment 171F, and I say to the Minister that, if she thinks the wording is unacceptable and there may be some perverse incentives in it, I hope she will say that the department will make it absolutely clear to schools that parents must be able to see the materials we have been talking about—not to veto, because we need a partnership between the school, the teachers, the students and the parents—and she must come up with something firm. A lot of people have raised issues with her department and officials, and they have been mealy-mouthed in their approach and reluctant to say anything firm at all, but I think that time has passed.
“How we can support schools to teach high quality RSE effectively and with confidence .. How teachers can feel fully equipped to teach these subjects well … How we can include the voice of children and young people in achieving the DfE’s aims for RSE more widely.”
That is to be welcomed. I have attempted to get a copy of the letter that the department sent to the commissioner, but the Library of the House has so far been unable to get a copy—I suspect it has not yet been written. I am surprised that it has nothing to say about parents and their involvement. Would the Minister look into this to see that the letter, when it finally goes to the commissioner, makes it clear that parents are seen to be a partner as well?
My Lords, I support Amendment 171F, excellently introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, and backed up by others. First, I will comment on this whole group of amendments and the interesting speeches we have heard on them.
I think what lurks behind some of the frustrations with the Bill is an absence of anything about the content of education and the curriculum—the whole question of what education is for. I regret that we are not spending more time on the substance of schooling rather than the structures and systems. These speeches indicate that people want to talk about something that is not in the Bill: education, which is, after all, the point of schools.
One trend we have seen over recent years is the tendency to see schools instrumentally as a means to address social, economic and cultural problems, which I worry squeezes out a focus on knowledge for its own sake, which is my particular hobby horse. Regardless, because that has led to an ever-expanding demand on teachers to solve myriad non-educational social problems, I fear that it is stirring up tensions over the distinct division of labour between schools and families—a sort of mission creep that often makes parents feel that teachers are encroaching into areas, such as values, that are either politicised or at odds with their own values. I think that lies behind some of the tensions that have emerged around Amendment 171F.
At the very least, this expanded remit has dragged teachers into some highly contentious arenas that they now have to teach. We have heard the contributions on British values in this debate; one could argue indefinitely over those things, and there have been arguments. The question is whether schools are the places where they should be fought out.
I have a couple of examples. Head teachers and senior teachers I know told me that there was something of a panic after the Black Lives Matter moment, when teachers were told that they had to decolonise the curriculum in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and also in relation to the government extension of relationship and sex education in 2019. Teachers were saying, “Well, this isn’t just teaching biology”—they are aware that it is a toxic topic these days. It is not just something you can send in the teaching staff to do; they know it goes far more broadly than science or facts.
The solution has been to bring in outside experts—third parties, NGOs—with their ready-made materials, but I think there is a real problem here. This is actually undermining the professionalism of teachers. These experts can be used to train governors and teachers or to run workshops directly with pupils and to supply materials, as we have heard. But when you look at who is doing it, some of them at least are partisan political activists who embrace one-sided ideological approaches to contentious issues. They are not trained as teacher trainers, they are not accredited and there is no central regulation.
One would think from the Bill—which is, as several people have noted, such a centralising power grab that it is likely to squeeze the life out of school autonomy—that the Government might be all over a situation where there are all sorts of people going into schools and teaching things and nobody knows what they are teaching. However, on this issue, the DfE seems to be washing its hands, saying that it is up to schools to vet third-party providers. But without clear guidelines it is hard for schools to navigate around what are, if we are honest, contentious culture war issues.
I do not know whether Ministers have looked at the resources produced by some external organisations, but I urge them to go through the research provided by Transgender Trend or the Safe Schools Alliance, because it is more ideology than facts: pronouns for primary school kids, et cetera—I will not rehearse it. I think the excuse is that the material is commercially sensitive, but often what is going on here is that things are politically sensitive. These are not benign ideas, let alone facts; they are often divisive and totally at odds with parents’ values, and certainly fall short of statutory requirements for teacher impartiality.
Moving to a different subject, so that it is not all gender, I was struck during the lockdown by the Channel 4 documentary, “The School That Tried to End Racism”, which involved 11 and 12 year-olds at a school in south London. Many parents I knew were horrified at the use of pseudoscientific implicit association testing and the splitting of classrooms into white and non-white affinity groups, all through the prism of critical race theory. The campaign group that I was involved in setting up at the time, Don’t Divide Us, was drowning in concerned parents asking what was going on and whether their kids were being taught that all white people are racist. Parents went into schools to ask whether they could see the materials being used—even though sometimes that meant dodging lockdowns—and were told that there was nothing to see here, treated as a nuisance and told to go away.
When a group of parents led by DDU challenged Brighton & Hove City Council about its Racial Literacy 101 materials for schools, they were constantly rebuffed. Eventually, what was revealed showed some shockers. For example, under the heading “Overt and Covert White Supremacy”, lynching was listed alongside colour blindness. This is a shocking slur against generations of civil rights and anti-racist activists who took Martin Luther King’s mantra that we should judge on the content of character and not skin colour—no longer, it seems.
When you finally do see some of the teaching materials, they show that Martin Luther King’s position is dismissed as “old-fashioned” and that pupils are often being told that parents are the problem—that they are old-fashioned and backward. We must be very wary of this. For example, parents who go along with colour blindness are being described as exhibiting unconscious bias; those parents who believe in the biological facts of sex rather than the fluidity of gender identity are labelled to their own children as bigots and transphobic, guilty of cisnormativity.
The Government have a responsibility to diffuse what could become quite a nasty set of tensions. Potentially, one of the ways of ensuring against this breach of trust between schools and parents would be more transparency. It is a no-brainer for the Government: they should ensure that the spirit of Amendment 171F goes flying through and becomes part of the Bill.
My Lords, the noble Baroness has made a very interesting speech and said some extremely sensible and some provocative things. However, sitting through this debate, and when I first saw the Bill, the one word that kept coming to my mind was “superficial”. We are in danger of pandering to a superficial society and being involved in the evolution of a superficial society.
When I was a young schoolmaster, over 60 years ago, a very well-respected headmaster said to me, “Whatever you do, be thorough.” I was appointed the careers master, and he told me to remember that what was important in the boys that I taught—in that case it was boys—was that they recognised that the job which they have when they leave school, whatever it is, is only part of them and that, in whatever they do, they must seek be a part of the community in which they live. I paraphrase, but that is the essence of what he said.
I often think of that when I go across to Lincoln Cathedral, as I do every day when I am in my hometown. I sit above the choir-stalls before evensong, while the choir is training and rehearsing. These young people are being given a thorough grounding. They can sing often the most complicated music with great beauty and accomplishment because if they get a note wrong, kindly but firmly and—to use the word again—thoroughly, the master of the music or his deputy points it out and they do it again, and, if necessary, again. In what they are doing to create great music in one of our greatest cathedrals, they are, in a sense, emulating the people who built that great cathedral and who, through the ages, had long, complicated, detailed apprenticeships.
I know, as the founder of the William Morris Craft Fellowship, in which I declare an interest, that today many young men and women—we have awarded fellowships to many young women—are able, through mastering their craft, to become much more important members of the society in which they live. They have mastered something and done it thoroughly. A great many of those young people play a role in their local communities—some even as councillors—or in the voluntary sector.
The Bill must be put into some sort of order; I pick up on the substance of the amendments spoken to so splendidly by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and others, and in the fine speech made by my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. We are saying, in effect, “Do not be superficial; remember that aspiration is important.” I remember a Minister in the other place saying in a Queen’s Speech debate many years ago that the real poor of the 20th century, as it then was, “are those without hope.”
Hope and aspiration are terribly important; they have to be encouraged, through partnership between parents, teachers and students. The Bill comes nowhere near that. We need to inject the spirit of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts if at the end of the day we are to get a Schools Bill that is worthy of its name. At the moment it is not. This is no personal criticism of my noble friend the Minister, for whom I have real regard. Nobody would call her superficial but she is in charge of a Bill that is. That needs to be put right; I hope that it will be.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support the speech made by my noble friend Lady Morris—and in no way to demur from anything she said about appropriate access to curriculum materials for parents—but also to reinforce the point made by my noble friend Lord Hunt that we are not talking about a veto. We have strayed into some extremely difficult areas. It is important, therefore, to stress that we are talking about partnership between schools, parents and students, and looking at curriculum content in a collaborative way. This is not saying that a group of parents, or indeed one parent, should be able to turn up and say, “I would like to look at this and, by the way, my child is not having it”—and expect that somehow the writ of that will run throughout the school. That was clearly not the intention of anyone who has spoken in the debate.
For example, in previous debates we have talked about parent councils, originally introduced by my noble friend Lord Knight under a different kind of Government. We have to be in that place throughout this; it is not just about access to curriculum materials. We need to be saying that the work of a school is a partnership between the parent body, the students, the wider community and the teaching and other staff. This is not in any sense to demur from the notion of access, but it is perhaps to draw the balance. This should not be about a veto but about developing a relationship so that parents understand what is going on in schools. They may feel that they can and should influence that in some small way, and that may be welcomed by the school. However, there is a very big difference between that and vetoing. That is all I wanted to say.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, and to agree with everything she said. This has been a rich and full debate, reflecting the importance of these amendments. I am going to join the breadth of support for Amendment 168, to add another party to the list, and will make some contributions that are different from, and a point of disagreement with, some of the discussion we have had.
Picking up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, I entirely agree with Amendment 171F but we have been somewhat driven off course. When we think about this being about commercial confidentiality, we are talking primarily about commercial companies, which are going to be citing commercial confidentiality. I reference a question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, in the DCMS Oral Question earlier today. She was expressing concern about giant multinational media companies providing materials on media literacy to schools. That might be a cause for concern.
I also have great concern about very large multinational companies selling curriculum materials all around the world; these may or may not be appropriate to the British context. That is where we are much more likely to encounter that argument of commercial confidentiality. I query whether any commercial company should be providing materials going into our schools. I fully accept that NGOs, social enterprises, and people who start out with a social purpose to produce materials for our schools, are very valuable and worthwhile in specialist areas. However, if you have a company where its entire purpose is to make money—that is what a commercial company is—what will that do to the materials it produces?
Just to note, a lot of the charitable organisations and so on are making money. I am not suggesting that because they are making money, they are evil, but I do not think that it quite works in this instance because the phrase “commercial sensitivity” is used by organisations which are not big businesses going in; they are small and socially worthy, but they are also commercial. Let me tell you, a lot of them are making quite a lot of money, even if they are doing it with the best intentions. That is not really the point.
While we are at it, I declare my interest that I work with a company called EVERFI, which does some of this work, but it liaises with money-making commercial organisations to provide resources at no charge for teachers. Some of those, for example, relate to careers, which is part of this group of amendments. There are excellent science employers or computer gaming companies, for example, which are trying to help create the learning that will mean that people from all sorts of backgrounds are more inclined, readier and more confident to think that they could work in those industries. I would not want anything that the noble Baroness is saying to curtail that sort of important learning resource.
I take the noble Baroness’s point that NGOs and social enterprises may indeed have commercial interests. I still think that there is a difference between them using that to fund their work and a company that exists purely for making profit, but I take the point about commercial confidentiality. I will circle back to the question on computer gaming companies when I comment on some of the other amendments.
I entirely support Amendment 91 and the related Amendment 171I on careers programmes and work experience. We have already had an interesting debate, but a bit more needs to be drawn out. Some of the discussion was about raising aspiration and social mobility; the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said that in introducing his amendment. We need to acknowledge that there is a huge amount of aspiration in our societies that people cannot fulfil because they lack opportunities. We need to acknowledge all those strangled aspirations.
I pick up the point from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, that we need to think about this not just as a way of helping people to think about different careers—although I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, that addressing gender stereotypes is really important—but as people going out into and spending some time in operations in society as a way to see how they might contribute in all sorts of ways, not just through whatever paid employment they might eventually take up. It is important that we see that.
On this whole language of aspiration and social mobility, I contend that we have to ensure we value everyone contributing to our society in all sorts of ways. I will pick up the point from the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, about Eton. Would we not have got somewhere when pupils at Eton aspired to be a school dinner person or a bus driver? Maybe there are pupils at Eton who do, but I doubt it somehow and I doubt they are encouraged to. Yet those are both vital jobs in our society that people can make a large contribution through.
I entirely support Amendment 168. Its importance has been powerfully covered by lots of people, in particular the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. However, I question one word in it. It refers to British values as “values of British citizenship”. The values in the amendment—
“democracy … the rule of law … freedom … equal respect … freedom of thought, conscience and religion”— are ones that the international community has collectively agreed should be the values of human rights and the rule of law and should be observed all around the world. I do not think this necessarily has to be referred to as “British” citizenship; they are the values of citizenship that we encourage in our own society and all around the world. Indeed, British jurists, British campaigners and British Governments have played a very powerful role in spreading those values around the world, such as through the European Court of Human Rights. They are not uniquely British values but values we want to encourage everywhere.
On that point, I have to challenge a comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who suggested that those who were born overseas and have chosen to become British citizens may have less awareness of these values than those who were born here. Of course, people who have chosen to move here—I declare my own interest as someone who chose to become a British citizen—have consciously chosen to sign up to those values. It is very important that we do not suggest that this is an issue for some people and not everyone in our society.
I had a lot more but I am aware of the time and we have not yet heard from the noble Baronesses on the Front Bench about mandatory curriculum subjects. I will just come back to the point about computer gaming. Some of the items that the noble Baronesses suggest as crucial are “financial literacy” and “life skills”. I looked to a report from the Centre for Social Justice, On the Money: A Roadmap for Lifelong Financial Learning, which points out that there is a huge problem with a lack of financial knowledge among young children being exposed in digital online marketplaces, particularly with gaming loot boxes. We need to be very careful about the involvement of companies such as that because there are very large financial interests there.
Finally—I am aware of the time and wanted to say a lot more—the one thing that I do not agree with, which I have to put on the record, is that all academies must follow the national curriculum. The Green Party does not believe that there should be a national curriculum. We think that there should be a set of learning entitlements whereby learners and teachers together develop a curriculum content to suit their needs and interests.
My Lords, this group of amendments is extremely important and I just want to raise a number of issues arising from them. Let me remind noble Lords that in the early 1970s the only compulsory subject on the school curriculum was religious education. Anything else was left to the schools themselves to decide what to teach. Then in 1974, the William Tyndale Junior School in London had a parents’ protest outside because of the radical learning going on in that school. That resulted in a huge educational row and the Government wanting to develop a curriculum in schools that flowed down to local authorities. Then, of course, we had the national curriculum of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, which was very inclusive. People had an opportunity to say what they felt should be included in that national curriculum, which we followed, by and large, with great joy.
Then came the academy movement, and we said, “Do you know what? We need schools to have the freedom to choose what they want to teach”. So we now have a system whereby some schools have to follow a national curriculum and some have the freedom to choose what they want to do. I will not comment on the rights and wrongs of that, but it creates real problems in our learning.
The amendment of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, is absolutely stunning, but while we talk about British values, we live in a multicultural society. Our curriculum does not reflect that multicultural society, which is why Amendment 158 from the noble Baronesses, Lady Chapman and Lady Wilcox, is so important.
Over the last few years, in a series of Written Questions I have tried to probe the opportunities for black studies in our curriculum. They are incredibly limited and, by and large, it is left to schools themselves to say, “Do you know what? I would like to do a unit on slavery”. If schools in Liverpool and Bristol, which were the centres of slavery, did not have to pull down statues but there were a historical unit on slavery, it might have been a very different situation altogether. Again, it is left to schools to decide. In her written replies, the Minister will come back to me and say, “They can do so and so”. They can choose to do that but it is not mandatory, so we have a society in which it is mandatory to study the Egyptians but not other important multicultural and historical issues.
I turn to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. I had not thought about this at all, in the sense that when I was a head teacher I always assumed that parents had the right to know what was being taught to their children. We spent a lot of time making sure it was on the school website and, before that, they would come in and find out. This is such an important amendment that we have to get right, because I see issues that can arise. We have to road test it in our minds to make sure that it works. There is another side to it that we have not mentioned. The noble Baroness has perhaps come to it from one direction, but we have unregistered schools, which we will talk about later. They are unregistered for exactly that reason: they want to teach things that are not inspected. The curriculum and the materials they use are not inspected. Also, the only subject that parents can withdraw their children from is relationship and sex education. Maybe, if parents saw the materials used, they would feel comfortable enough to let the children come into school. It is important that it can have a very positive impact on parents and on learning.
By the way, I say sorry to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, but I do not agree with this notion that you cannot have commercial companies producing material for schools. I can think of a whole host of teachers who are brilliant in the classroom and who had an idea, wanted to share it, went to a commercial company and asked if they could produce—in the old days—some books on certain subjects. My goodness, some teachers produce the most amazing reading schemes which would never have happened were it not for the commercial companies being prepared to put their money behind them.
Finally, I come to something I feel very strongly about and have done for a long time. It was the subject of the first contribution we had from my noble friend Lord Shipley today: careers education in primary schools. Primary children are like sponges: they suck up knowledge and information. At my school we did careers education—if you want to call it that. We invited a host of parents with different careers to come into school and, using a carousel-type approach, the children went to different parents and heard, in a 10-minute question and answer session, about the different careers. There was a male nurse and a female firefighter, which blew away the stereotypes that my noble friend Lady Garden talked about at the very beginning. This has to be kept focused on primary schools, and it has to be kept simple, but it has to be there because it will lead to important contributions later on.
I finally want to mention something we have talked about quite often. I just want to add a word of caution. We sit here glibly and say, “Children and students should go on work experience.” But we need to know what that entails; it is a huge operation to make work experience work: you have to find employers for the hundreds of children, and you have to make sure that it is the right work experience opportunity for them. My experience is that I would get schools contacting me asking, “Can our students come into your nursery, because we’ve got nowhere else to put them?” If we are to do work experience, it has to be properly funded, properly organised and properly thought through so that it makes a proper contribution to the career development of those young people.
It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Storey. By the time we finish this group, we will have spent more than two hours on it, and that says a lot about the meaty topics that we have in this group that really could have been separated into more groups. The fact that we have had to table amendments to get these topics discussed tells you something about what is not in the Bill.
I still do not understand why the Government are taking this approach. We understand, say, the measures on home-educated children and why the Government are doing that—we will have questions and we will want to challenge specific areas, but we know why they are doing it. With most of the rest of the Bill, we do not know what they want to do, and we do not know why they are doing it; we know how they intend to do it—by taking powers—but we really need to understand why the Government have decided to bring the Bill forward in the way that they have.
Amendment 91 proposes a careers programme for primary schools. It has been spoken to very well by several noble Lords, and I will not repeat everything that they have said. We support the focus on encouraging quality careers advice, information and sharing ideas about different careers with young children. This should be embedded throughout the curriculum. Amendment 158 insists that all schools should follow a national curriculum. The Secretary of State is giving himself the power to do these things—or not—by regulation. We want to know whether he intends to use that power, and how. That gets to the crux of all this: we are all just talking about what we would like to do. That is all very well but, unless we know what the Government are going to do, we are really just having an interesting conversation among ourselves without having anything to properly hang it on. As the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, said very well, this is about democracy and the role of Parliament. Forgive us, but we take our role seriously and want to use the time afforded to this Chamber to make a positive contribution to the legislation before us. I know that the Minister is listening, and I feel for her, but we are very firm on this point that we keep coming back to. We need to know why.
Many people spoke to Amendment 168 from the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries so, again, I do not want to take up time repeating what others have said. This amendment talks about citizenship and British values; we think it is interesting and a sensible evolution of the current situation. I would like to know what colleagues in the other place think about this. Given that the Bill is a Lords starter, the only way I know how to do that is to get something into the Bill to send to them so that they can debate it. It would be incredibly valuable for us to get the reflections of the elected House so that we can take that forward, because it does make sense—especially given the debate that my noble friend Lord Knight led last week on including environmental education.
Our Amendment 171F—no, sorry, that is the amendment of my noble friend Lady Morris, but my support for it is such that I want to take ownership for myself—is obviously about sharing information with parents and getting rid of the issue of commercial confidentiality in this context. It is perfectly sensible and I hope that the Minister can say something positive about it when she responds.
Our Amendment 171I is about mandatory work experience. I totally take on board what the noble Lord, Lord Storey, has just said about the burden this would place on schools. I hope my noble friend Lady Blower does not mind me saying that she raised this with me earlier and it is an absolutely fair challenge. But the way we are looking at this is that if you are going to have work experience that is of value, it ought to be accessible to all children. It cannot be right that those children with parents in careers or with good contacts get a really good experience, while others get to do a school-based activity or end up in the nursery school run by the noble Lord. That does not seem fair so, in that way, it needs to be made an entitlement so that it is properly supported. We know that is an onerous responsibility but it is one that we think ought to be fulfilled. If noble Lords look at our amendment, they will see how: by doing it in partnership with local organisations.
We think it is wrong that, too often, young people rely on their social networks and connections to get work experience. We think that this disadvantages children and the community of employers because, be they small businesses, public bodies or voluntary and community sector organisations, they are missing out on the opportunity to engage with their local young people. Building a partnership with local organisations equipped to provide quality, horizon-broadening placements would, if the partnership is stable, be long lasting and benefit everyone.
There are lots and lots of examples of this being done very well all over the country but it is patchy. To namecheck just one of them, I say that the Social Mobility Foundation runs a scheme called One +1. It is a good example of a project that could be done in partnership across a wider area, where an employer who has already agreed to take on a young person whom they know, which could be the child of a childhood friend or relative, agrees to take an additional young person which the project has put in touch with them. Taking on two young people on work experience can often be a bit easier than taking one, so it is a minimal extra responsibility for the employer but it doubles the opportunity and makes sure that it is available based on the interests of the young person. That is just one example of how this could work.
Our Amendment 158—to which a few noble Lords have suggested enhancements, which are very welcome—is about the national curriculum. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has suggested that we add first aid, my noble friend Lord Knight would like to include media literacy and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, wants us to include online marketplaces, and I think all of that is sensible. I know there is an irresistible temptation to chuck things into the national curriculum and ask, “Why can’t schools do this thing that I am passionate about?”, but the intent of this amendment was more about honing things that are already taking place. We already have financial literacy education in schools, for example, but we think it is important to ensure that that is kept up to date and covers things that are of current concern.
The reason why we feel strongly about this issue and have done for some time is that there are choices here about what is important in what we teach and what skills we think our young people will need to benefit them and indeed all of us as a country. The answer to that question informs the values and attitudes that we as a society want to promote. We should take great care and consideration, as well as debate, in deciding what our children learn. There should be, and there is, flexibility for schools, teachers and parents to influence what is taught, but it cannot be right that the governance structure of a child’s school is what determines whether they benefit from the national curriculum. My noble friend Lady Morris made that point in an article that I found she had written over 10 years ago, and the argument is probably even more relevant now that we are going to see so many more of our schools becoming academies. She talked about the curriculum being
“an entitlement to all children” and said:
“It stops schools giving up on children who find it difficult to learn or who are difficult to teach.”
There is something in that.
If everything worked perfectly in every school at every stage then there would be an argument for moving away from the national curriculum, but we are just not there at the moment. If we had universally high-quality teaching and leadership, and parents were always getting excellent feedback about how their kids were doing, then perhaps we could be more relaxed about this, but our mission here is to develop the potential of every child. That requires flexibility but it is right that gold-standard core knowledge is available to every child—including, I suggest, my noble friend Lord Knight’s suggestion about environmental education.
Subsection (3) of the proposed new clause in Amendment 158 is about the teaching of black history, something that the Welsh Government have decided to take forward, and we very much welcome that. Michael Gove removed the curriculum’s focus on diversity, and we would say that some of the richness of our national story—which is becoming appreciated more and more, and that is a good thing—has been lost. Teaching black history is essentially optional now. There have been black people in Britain since at least Roman times, fighting in the most famous battles, including Trafalgar, as well as both world wars. Obviously, issues such as the slave trade, colonialism, apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the US have had a significant and long-lasting impact on the world as it is today. However, we make the point that it is vital that the teaching of black history should not only be about empire and slavery, vital though these things are, but should celebrate figures who have achieved incredible things, such as those who were part of Henry VIII’s court or, I would say, someone like Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer, who played for Darlington. Those are important too.
This issue is important to us—I think it is important to explain why you are doing things—because we need to connect our history to the world around us as it is today. These are not just fascinating and exciting stories; this is about a history that has too often eliminated women, people of colour, the non-literate and even children. Learning to see past events from different perspectives is a key skill, not just for historians but for everyone who wants to understand the world around them.
I make the point again to the Minister that the Government have so far not explained why they are taking the Bill forward in the way that they are. Unless we get to that, there are several clauses of the Bill that I think are not going to make it to the other place.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their very thoughtful contributions to the debate on the amendments in this group. I start by thanking the noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Aberdare, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, for their Amendment 91. The Government believe strongly that starting career-related learning early is important. As noble Lords have said, children as young as seven start to adopt stereotypes based on gender, ethnicity and social background which can limit their future subject and career choices. In fact, on Friday I was lucky enough to take part in a careers session at the Howitt Primary Community School outside Derby. I am not sure that I converted anyone to a political career, but there were definitely budding newsreaders, scientists, paramedics and others in the room.
The importance of early career-related learning is why we announced in the schools White Paper that we will fund a new careers programme for primary schools in disadvantaged areas, and we will announce more details of that in due course. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, raised some particular questions; if I may, given the time, I will write to him with answers to those.
As your Lordships will remember, careers advice also featured prominently in the Skills and Post-16 Education Act, with many helpful contributions from this House. We have strengthened provider access legislation by requiring schools to put on six encounters—if I remember rightly, that figure was quite challenging for us all in terms of our maths, whatever our curriculum was—with providers of technical education or apprenticeships to take place during school years 8 to 13.
Turning to Amendments 171I and 158 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Chapman and Lady Wilcox, of course the Government agree in principle with what the noble Baroness said about every child having access to work experience. We want that happen in practice; it is not enough to agree in principle. The first part of Amendment 171I would require schools to provide pupils with at least 10 days of work experience. We believe it is right to give schools the autonomy to provide a range of experiences of work of different type and duration, rather than to impose a blanket 10 days. Schools can deliver this as part of their legal duty to provide independent careers guidance for year 8 to 13 pupils. Of course, work experience is part of the Gatsby benchmarks, which all schools are expected to follow. We believe that the second part of the amendment is unnecessary as we already fund the Careers & Enterprise Company to deliver careers hubs. We are extending access to careers hubs so that they will cover approximately 90% of schools and colleges by August next year.
On the first part of Amendment 158, many academies choose to use the national curriculum, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, said on another day in Committee, we trust heads and trust leaders to determine their own curriculum. I find a slight irony in the mix between areas where the Government are being encouraged to lean in and influence the curriculum, and others where the Government are being accused of taking too much power. We believe that heads and trust leaders should determine their own curriculum but that the national curriculum is something of great quality for them to benchmark against.
We recognise the value of academy freedoms and do not intend to undermine them with this legislation. Academy trusts have been at the forefront of curriculum innovation. We believe that many of the topics suggested in the remaining parts of this amendment are already covered in the existing curriculum. After a period of disruption in education due to the pandemic, we have committed to make no changes to the national curriculum in this Parliament.
I turn now to Amendment 168 in the names of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, and my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. The amendment seeks change to the phrase “fundamental British values”, the list of values and their definition, and their place in the curriculum. The national curriculum does not add the level of detail in this amendment as it is our policy that schools should lead on the development of the detailed content of their curriculum. However, the key principles of the amendment—democracy, law, freedom, respect and sustainability and climate change—are already covered across the citizenship, science and geography curricula.
It is rightly highlighted that these values are not exclusive to our society; however, we believe it is important to articulate those values fundamental to life in modern Britain. “British values” is a shorthand for those values that unite us and are commonly understood to be at the core of what it means to be a citizen in a modern, diverse Britain. Developing and deepening pupils’ understanding of these values is already part of the Ofsted inspection framework. Ultimately, school leaders are best placed to make decisions about how to embed these values to meet the needs of their pupils, and many good schools already do so very effectively.
As I hinted at, we think that adding “respect for the environment” to the values is unnecessary because this is taught through the geography, science and citizenship curricula. Whether we refer to “fundamental British values” or “the values of British citizenship”, what ultimately matters are the values themselves and how they are embedded in schools’ ethos and practices. We do not believe that it is the role of the Government to try to manage the delivery of the curriculum in this way.
The point about quality of delivery was behind what the noble and right reverend Lord and other noble Lords spoke about. As I mentioned, Ofsted inspects how well schools and colleges promote these values and, by 2018, nearly all leaders and teachers—98%—reported that they were confident that their school effectively taught the values of respect and tolerance for those from different backgrounds.
Finally, I turn to Amendment 171F in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, my noble friend Lord Sandhurst and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven. Of course, we should encourage parents to engage with their child’s curriculum to allow them to support their child’s learning at home. However, as the noble Baroness and other noble Lords expressed very clearly, parents should feel confident that they understand what their children are learning. We also think it vital that schools and teachers are focused on the activities that add the greatest value to pupil outcomes. It is a priority for the Government to reduce teacher workload. We are concerned that introducing this amendment could drive teachers to focus on tasks which become very burdensome—which I know is not the noble Baroness’s intention. There are already ways for parents to engage with their child’s school curriculum to the extent needed to support learning at home. My noble friend Lady Stroud spoke about online learning. The Oak National Academy, for example, provides packages of optional, free and adaptable digital curriculum resources and video lessons which pupils and parents can access to supplement learning.
Just to be clear, the Oak National Academy, as my noble friend may know, was set up during the pandemic to provide online resources. It continues to make those resources available to any parent or child who wishes to use them and to teachers who want high-quality curriculum resources to teach in a physical setting.
Furthermore, the statutory guidance for relationships and sex education is clear that schools must have a written policy in place for these subjects and must consult parents. My noble friend Lord Sandhurst referenced our guidance in this regard: schools should provide examples of the resources they plan to use when they consult to reassure parents and enable them to continue the conversation started in class when their children are at home. I think those are exactly the points your Lordships raised this afternoon.
The department has published guidance to support school engagement with parents and leaflets for schools to provide to parents when communicating about their teaching of these subjects. As was referenced, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has asked the Children’s Commissioner to look at the RSE curriculum to complement the work that the department is already doing to improve the consistency and quality of RSE teaching, to make sure that children are being taught well and that we have equipped teachers with the right tools to teach these sensitive and difficult subjects well.
My Lords, this is an incredibly disappointing reply. My worry is that I do not know whether the Minister has offered all she is going to offer. This is not about using Oak National Academy resources rather than those of an outside organisation. It is not about how to communicate with parents. The amendment has nothing to do with that. I am quite sure that the Government have a lot of good ideas on advising schools about how to communicate with parents. This was very specifically about schools using materials from outside bodies, which save them work and having to rewrite the curriculum in line with what the Government want them to do—but, by law, they are not permitted to show parents these materials. I hope the Minister will forgive me if she was about to address that point, but I do not want her to sit down before doing so and I am a little worried by the tone of the response so far.
I am sorry; the last thing I want to do is worry the noble Baroness. I am not sure that I will be able to reassure her entirely, but I was coming to this point. Specifically on the intellectual property loophole, which I understand is the point the noble Baroness raised, if she would be agreeable, it would be helpful to meet and go through some of the examples. We would like to be confident that the law is being interpreted correctly and, without seeing the examples, it is difficult for us to establish that. If the noble Baroness agrees, we could look at this in more detail.
I hesitate to ask this, but I simply do not understand. The material has been relied on and shown to children in class. What good reason is there for parents not to be able to inspect that material within the school?
I think two issues underpin the point that my noble friend raises. I will finish the point on intellectual property, which is where I think he was initially; perhaps I misunderstood. We want to be clear that the law is being applied correctly. We will be honoured to take the time to establish that and clarify it for the House. That is one point.
The second point is that I absolutely understand the spirit of my noble friend’s question. When I spoke to colleagues in the department who had previously been head teachers, their answer was that they understand the sentiments that my noble friend expresses but are also concerned that one could end up in a situation in which there are vexatious requests and a school becomes unable to cope with them because of the number of them. With the permission of the Committee, I would just like to be able to explore that in more detail.
A very good point was made earlier about this not being a matter of veto. We have only to remember what happened with the RE teacher who was driven into hiding because he offended local activists from the more extreme Muslim wing—not the majority of Muslim parents, I hasten to add. We get that. Nobody is saying that. Can the Minister clarify that none of us are trying to give a parent veto to what is taught? Can the Minister also acknowledge that this is not just a technical question and that the Government are in danger, if they do not see what is going on, of parents starting to withdraw their children from these lessons because they hear that all these terrible things are being taught?
The Minister pointed out—or somebody made the point—that if they could see the materials, they would be reassured. I think they would be horrified, but that is not the point. The point is that you need to be able to see them so that you are not relying on reading in the newspapers what is in them. The Government surely have to tackle this and be sensitive to it.
I understand the noble Baroness’s point and I do not think I said for a second that I thought the Committee was suggesting that parents should have a veto. If I may, I will take this point away and write to your Lordships on it.
The department and the head teachers the Minister has spoken to have chosen to go down a dangerous avenue on this. If the issue is to stop parents being vexatious and demanding too much of schools in asking for materials, they can do that now with almost all the curriculum materials that are taught in schools and they do not. The only ones they cannot see are these in the most contentious areas of the curriculum. I am not worried about parents being vexatious and asking for all the curriculum materials; that is not what happens at the moment. I am not sure how there can be any justification for the one area where, by law, you cannot see the teaching materials happening to be the area where parents would have most concern about curriculum content.
All I was trying to say to the noble Baroness is that I think there are two steps in this. First, is the intellectual property law being applied correctly and, secondly, how does that then translate? I think we have to answer the first question first, but I will undertake to give a full answer to the House when we have a chance to look at this in more detail. If your Lordships have specific examples, it would be extremely helpful to share them with us so that we get a broad sense of the issue.
My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for her reply. We have now been on this group for two hours, 21 minutes and 51 seconds. I think it rather demonstrates the problems that we have been experiencing in the first three days of this Bill—it is now day four—where a whole set of matters being proposed have not been properly thought through. I hope the Minister will understand my concern—and I think that of others in your Lordships’ Chamber—that perhaps Report should be deferred until the autumn.
However, I am slightly encouraged by what the Minister said in relation to my Amendment 91 on careers guidance in primary schools. I hope very much that the Government will come forward with proposals, maybe before we get to Report. If that is not to be, I need to give notice that I am likely to come back on Report with a further amendment and debate on this matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment in my name.
Amendment 91 withdrawn.