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National Curriculum

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on his policy on (a) the teaching of religious studies and (b) teaching about (i) Islam and (ii) atheism within the national curriculum. (81898)

All maintained schools must provide religious education (RE) which must reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian while taking account of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain. This could include Islam. Religious education syllabuses for maintained schools without a religious designation are drawn up by an agreed syllabus conference which advises the local education authority. These bodies represent faith groups, teachers and local schools. For schools with a religious designation the syllabus is drawn up by the governing body according to the trust deed of the school. It is for local authorities, advised by agreed syllabus conferences, and individual faith schools to decide if study of atheism is included as part of the RE syllabus.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), in partnership with the Department, launched a new non-statutory national framework for religious education in 2004. The framework provides for opportunities for pupils to study all of the principal religions in Great Britain, including Islam, and other religious traditions and secular philosophies in line with the Government’s goals of inclusion, tolerance and diversity. All of the major UK faith and belief communities and professional groups were involved in its development.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what his policy is on the teaching of (a) modern (i) East European, (ii) West European, (iii) Asian and (iv) African and (b) ancient languages within the national curriculum. (81899)

To promote the study of foreign languages for learners of all ages, the Government published their National Languages Strategy: “Languages for All: Languages for Life—a Strategy for England” in December 2002. The cornerstone of the strategy is that by 2010 all Key Stage 2 pupils will have the opportunity to study a foreign language in class time. It is for individual schools to decide which languages they offer depending on their expertise and access to resources and support.

At Key Stages 3 and 4, secondary schools must give access to at least one course in an official working language of the European Union that leads to an approved qualification. The official working languages of the European Union, for which there are approved qualifications, are: Danish, Dutch, French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. Once this offer has been made schools may then decide to offer additional languages. Approved qualifications are available in a wide range of languages in the categories raised in the question.

Ancient languages do not form part of the national curriculum. It is for individual schools and their governing bodies to decide whether to include the classics—including classical languages—in their respective curriculum. Their decision may depend on demand for the subject, having a specialist classics teacher available to teach it, and in meeting the needs of their pupils.

As part of our Specialist Schools Programme, secondary schools can apply to become humanities colleges. As part of this specialism, schools have the option to focus on the teaching and learning of classical studies (that is, Latin, Classical Greek and classical civilisation) alongside a core humanities option of History, Geography or English.

In 2005 the Department launched the Languages Ladder—the national, voluntary recognition scheme for languages—as an alternative qualification route to complement existing qualifications. The Languages Ladder endorses achievement in language skills at all levels of competence for all ages. It is available currently in eight languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Panjabi, Spanish and Urdu. A further 13 languages, in the first three stages of the scheme, will be added in September this year and will include: Arabic, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Modern Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Swedish, Tamil, Turkish and Yoruba.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on his policy on the teaching of sciences in the national curriculum. (82292)

Science is a compulsory subject at all key stages in the national curriculum and the aspects that must be taught are defined by a programme of study.

We have recently made changes to the Key Stage 4 programme of study to make it more engaging and exciting for pupils while maintaining the depth, breadth and challenge of the existing curriculum.

From September 2008, we will be introducing a new statutory entitlement for all Key Stage 4 students to study science programmes leading to at least two GCSEs.