Clause 72 - Interpretation of Part 6

Part of Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 15th January 2002.

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Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight 4:30 pm, 15th January 2002

I offer a warm welcome to you, Mr. Pike. The amendments probe the Government's intentions with regard to religious education in nursery schools and in nursery settings in Wales. There appears to be no obligation for nursery education to be provided in nursery schools or nursery settings, but there is an obligation for religious education to be provided in nursery classes in primary schools. The approach is inconsistent, and the amendment would remove the inconsistency in clause 72 with regard to England and in clause 93 with regard to Wales by dealing separately with maintained nursery schools and other nursery settings. I note that the word ''is'' appears on the top line of amendment No. 470 on the amendment paper. That should not be there. The insertion should be identical to that of amendment No. 471.

I propose that we insert two separate definitions of religious education that apply to maintained nursery schools and to nursery provision. The first definition,

which relates to maintained nursery schools, applies the local agreed syllabus as it would broadly be taught in nursery classes in primary schools according to the age, ability and aptitude of the pupils. That is uncontroversial. The second definition would make suggestions about nursery settings, which are cumbersomely called

''funded nursery education otherwise than at a maintained school or maintained nursery school''.

The nursery settings are not involved in the creation of the agreed syllabus. However, in some cases they are provided by religious organisations and in other cases by secular organisations. They provide for a wide range of pupils, who would be drawn in some areas from a large number of communities and in others from quite a homogeneous community. There are many settings associated with Catholic primary schools in my constituency, as there are few nursery schools but many pre-school playgroups, as they used to be called, that are associated with primary schools. One can imagine that the pupils in such a setting will be mainly Roman Catholic. It would therefore be appropriate that the religious education that is delivered in that setting should be consistent with the Roman Catholic faith. Similarly, it might be appropriate for the education provided in a setting associated with a mosque to be consistent with the Muslim faith.

In areas where the pupils are drawn from mixed communities where there is no prevalent religion or religious tradition, it would be appropriate for the Christian religion to be taught in a way that the provider believes is consistent with pupils' religious heritage and their age, ability and aptitude. The amendment is designed to discover the Government's intentions for religious education in nursery schools and nursery settings and to set out proposals appropriate for pupils of this age. I have not sought to apply the whole agreed syllabus in nursery settings because some faith groups expect their faith to be promoted and I do not want to compete with or contradict their wishes in that respect.