Clause 72 - Interpretation of Part 6

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 4:30 pm, 15th January 2002

I apologise for arriving slightly late to this afternoon's sitting.

I vigorously oppose both amendments and I hope that the Minister will oppose them as strongly as I do. If we start bringing religious education into early years settings, where are we going to end up? The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) argued that faiths should be promoted in such settings, but I can think of nothing worse than a state-funded system that allows children in the Welsh valleys, for example, to be indoctrinated in a particular denomination at so young an age. I hope that the Minister will vigorously oppose that.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight for tabling the amendment because it will show where the Government stand on early years religious education. As I understand it, all early years settings—whether in Wales under the aegis of the Welsh Assembly or in England under the aegis of the

Secretary of State—receive funding for three and four-year-olds without the proviso of having to deliver any specific curriculum.

In the previous Parliament, the Secretary of State was forward-thinking in listening to the views of early years partnerships from the maintained nursery sector through to the Pre-school Learning Alliance and other voluntary groups and reaching a compromise on early learning goals, which were centred on play and socialisation rather than delivering a curriculum. I hope that the present Government will not stray into prescribing a curriculum for early years education. I trust that the Minister will not only oppose the amendments but state clearly that the Government will not support state-funded religious indoctrination in nursery schools.