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Schools: Investment In Education And Science

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1986

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3.1 p.m.

rose to call attention to the situation in our schools and the case for greater investment in education and science at all levels; and to move for Papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, your Lordships may have observed that the terms of my Motion on today's Order Paper are somewhat different from those which appeared in parliamentary papers last week. On that occasion we had put down a Motion on which we would have divided the House. We are aware of course that it is not popular to have Motions to divide the House on Wednesday afternoons. On the other hand, it has been agreed that on occasion this may be permitted. We on these Benches have only three days made available for us to choose the subject for debate. The subject of today's debate is one on which we feel very strongly indeed and we had wished to be able to test the opinion of the House on what we had to say.

However, after our Motion had appeared, an amendment was put down which would in our view have totally changed the nature of the debate. Since that was the case, it would have deprived us of one of the days that are allotted to us, for of course the debate would have been on the amendment and not on the terms of the Motion. That would have meant that we would not have been able to produce the arguments and discussion that we wanted to have this afternoon. Hence, we have altered the terms of the Motion, which is no longer divisible. However, we do not retreat from the position which has been retained, that on occasion (and we recognise it must only be rarely) a divisible Motion on debates of this kind is permissible.

Turning to rather more pleasant matters, may I say how delighted I am that today's subject gives an opportunity for our very welcome, newly-acquired ally, the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, to contribute to this debate. I am only sorry that, as I speak first, I shall not be in a position to be able to congratulate him on what I know will be a very valuable contribution, because he speaks with exceptional experience of the subject we are discussing today.

It is not our intention this afternoon to spend a great deal of time raking over the unhappy events of the past 14 months since the strikes in the schools in our country began: indeed, in Scotland they began even further back than that. A great deal has been said about this and a great deal more no doubt will be said. All I wish to do is to summarise very briefly the unhappy consequences of that long drawn out and totally to be regretted strike.

It has meant that a very great many children in this country have been deprived of the education that they are entitled to receive and which they need. It has meant that a great many parents have been exceedingly anxious about the education, the educational prospects and indeed the consequent career prospects of their children. No doubt it has meant that many very suitable young people have been discouraged from entering the teaching profession. With a variety of options before them (and there still are options) how can we expect able young graduates of the kind we greatly need in education to want to teach in schools when we see the kind of situation we have witnessed over the past months?

The only people who have gained have been the independent fee-paying schools who have had the best boost they have had for the past 50 years. I must say that I find this a curiously inappropriate moment for the Labour Party to be advertising its determination to get rid of fee paying. There is a case no doubt for reducing charitable benefits to some of these schools; but for many parents, if there had not been the option of fee paying at the present time, the plight of their children would have been a great deal worse than it is at present.

It is not only in the schools that we are experiencing great anxiety and concern about what is happening in education. This concern in further education, in adult education and in higher education, is not coming from the Leftist groups in education—about whom I suggest we have heard rather too much in your Lordships' House in recent weeks—but it is coming from highly responsible bodies many of whom would be expected to be those who, when confronting the ballot box, might be so misguided as to vote for the Government. I refer—I may be maligning them in attributing such voting opinions to them—for example, to the Advisory Board to the Research Councils, who talk in their report about a serious loss of talent and the greatest worry about the drift overseas of chemists and biochemists. They give as reasons for this drift greater opportunities and responsiveness to novel and untried ideas; better pay, prospects and facilities; and frustration over difficulties of obtaining research funding in the United Kingdom.

Again, there is anxiety in the universities. Those of us who have worked in universities know that there have been reasons for reform. There has been some waste and some unnecessary duplication; but the attack upon them, the restrictions being put on them and the reduction in the money being paid to them have surely gone a great deal too far. The report of the Vice-Chancellor's Committee—and again, my Lords, that is not a dangerous, radical body determined to undermine government—refers to the net income of universities having fallen some 17 per cent. in the period from 1979–80 to 1984–85. They point out that during the period 1980–81 to 1984–85 public expenditure rose in real terms by 6 per cent. while the recurrent grants paid to universities fell by 10 per cent.

These are matters which must give us the greatest cause for anxiety. We cannot afford to have dissatisfaction of this kind running through our education system and the unhappy events of the past 12 to 15 months are made all the sadder because I believe—though it may perhaps surprise your Lordships that I should say this—that in some ways we have had the most creative and concerned Secretary of State for Education in a very long time. We on these Benches—and I believe your Lordships throughout the House—would agree that some of his ideas have been of the kind that we welcome greatly.

Up and down the country I find for example that the new examination system is very much welcomed in education quarters. I was talking to the headmaster of a comprehensive school (and your Lordships will not be surprised to hear me say that it was in the Ryedale constituency) who assured me that he had waited for and welcomed this new examination. He said that he had taught O-level standards all his life but he realised that what he was teaching was not appropriate and he was delighted that the new examination was being introduced. But he added: "I am asked to put in new equipment and I have been given £2,500 with which to do it". If we want reforms of this kind, surely we have to be prepared to accept that there are implications in funding which we have simply got to meet.

So much for what has been going on in the past two months. That is not really what I and my party want to talk about this afternoon. It is high time that we turned our minds to what we really want the education service in this country to do; what its role in society is; and what is involved in enabling it to fulfil that role.

It is now nearly 10 years since, when he was Prime Minister, Mr. Callaghan launched what he called the great debate on education. This was supposed to focus our attention on what improvements were needed in education in order that the education service could deliver to this country what it needs to have. What has happened to the great debate? In the years that have been wasted, especially recently, the great debate has turned into a slanging match. The great debate has become the great debacle.

But can we not revive it? The question to be asked surely is: what do we require from education, what do we look for and how are we to enable the educationists to deliver the goods that we need to have? I hope that that great debate will be restarted here this afternoon, because the fact of the matter is that this country, which has little in the way of resources apart from oil, which is a wasting asset, and coal, needs as few other countries need a highly educated, flexible, informed population. We need to make the very best we can of the abilities of our country, and what are we doing to see that those abilities are properly mobilised? It is common knowledge, and not only in teaching circles, that we are failing abominably to deliver the goods educationally. We need success in education, both for economic reasons and for social reasons, and if we do not improve our educational achievements then indeed we shall decline economically and we shall not recover socially.

It was only a fortnight ago that in a meeting in your Lordships" House the aluminium manufacturers reported this, which I shall pass on to your Lordships.

They said:

"The aluminium industry, in common with British industry generally, is facing a severe problem in the shortage of technically trained school leavers and graduates from relevant science subjects. This is already proving to be a major disadvantage to British industry, particularly when compared with other industrialised countries."

I draw your Lordships' attention to that phrase.

"It is clearly going to become an even greater problem as the planned reduction in expenditure on sixth-form and higher education further reduces the flow of available graduates and technicians. It is fashionable to presume that the shortage of suitably qualified candidates for industry reflects the lack of interest in a career in industry, compared with a career in pure science, academic bodies, the City of London or elsewhere. Whereas it is true that industry cannot sensibly compete with the pay levels currently being offered by the City of London, it is clear that the reason for the shortage of graduates and technically trained staff is far more to do with the limited output of the education system. This is the key problem which we hope can be addressed by Parliament."

I hope that this part of Parliament will start again to address it today.

That was followed by a letter from one of those aluminium employers, a managing director, who said this in his letter to me following that meeting:

"The supply of technically trained women is pitifully small. The standard of science and maths teaching in girls" schools, unfortunately, is even lower than in boys' schools. We will probably have to remove my daughter from her all-girls" school to the sixth form at a boys' school so that she can obtain the appropriate 'A' levels to allow her to continue with science or engineering at degree level."

We have been saying over and over again that we need to attract more women who are a real potential source of trained personnel in this country for industry. We cannot attract them if we are starving the schools of properly trained science teachers, but that is what we are doing. Of course, in saying that we have to raise the whole approach to education in this country I know that it will cost money, but it is an investment. That may sound a cliche, but unless we make this investment we are not going to be able to compete.

Again, only yesterday I was attending an extremely interesting session launching a new work produced by ACARD—the Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development—on exploitable areas of science. It is devoted to what we have so long asked for: ways in which we can harness the real scientific ability of this country to economic success; ways in which scientists, finance people and technical people can get together to make the most of the resources that this country has. But the implications of this grand scheme—and this came out in the discussion—are that we need far better science research, we need far better science dons, and more of them, and we need far better science teachers in schools. You cannot make the progress that is required unless you have the teaching going on at all levels in our educational system. We need to raise the whole approach to education in this country.

But it is not only that we need for purposes of this kind to turn out more scientists. We need a general population that understands about science, that can appreciate what is involved in scientific development. This is a democratic country. Unless there is support throughout the country for the kind of changes and developments that are needed, those changes and developments will not take place. This requires a basis of scientific education throughout the population and not merely of specialists. We have so often in this country made the mistake of turning out very good specialists but failing to back them up with people with an adequate basis of science and mathematics to be able to give the support that they need at all levels. So can we not renew the great debate?

Let me also just say this. It is not only about scientists that we are talking. This country does not only need scientists. It needs people who can undertake marketing; it needs people with languages; it needs people with communication skills; it needs people with imagination; and of course right through society we need an educated population able to respond to change. We all know—we have said it so often in your Lordships' House—that the future is bleak for those who cannot learn and relearn. Learning and relearning can only be carried out on a sound educational basis, and it is to the schools that we have to look to provide throughout our population the kind of basis which will enable us to respond and to compete, as we are not responding and not competing at the present time.

We do not only need the scientists. We need the communicators, we need the critics and we need the philosophers who have the courage to go on asking the question "What is it all about, anyway?" and to try to pursue that unanswerable question to some kind of end. We are only going to solve these problems, we are only going to get the kind of education that can help us out of our economic and social difficulties, if we begin to put teaching and education on an altogether different plane.

Teachers should see themselves as they do not see themselves at the present time, however much they may aspire to do so, as on all-fours with the other highly respected professions in this country. It is not so much a question of the staffing rates, important though they may be, but of what kind of a return there is for the head of a department and the deputy head of a school. They should feel that their prospects are as good as if they had gone into the Civil Service, as if they had gone into the law; yet that is far from being so. And of course you will not attract good people if they see so low a limit, so little in the way of opportunities for a real career, so little in the way of being held in real regard and respect throughout the country. It is an entirely new approach to education that we seek.

We hope that this debate will do something to contribute to a rethink on education, but may I make a suggestion? We in your Lordships' House are, I think, proud of the fact that on a number of matters of great importance we have been able to make a really impressive contribution to the thinking in the country. I refer particularly, because it is one of the most recent, to that remarkable all-party report on overseas trade, studying a subject of very great importance. Is it not possible that on an all-party basis in this House we might be able to set up a committee to examine anew the basic problems of education and to put forward suggestions on how we might raise the whole level of this debate which has sunk so lamentably low over the past two years? My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.20 p.m.

My Lords, the House owes a debt of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, not only for her choice of subject for this afternoon's debate but also for the eloquent way in which she moved the Motion standing in her name. I am particularly grateful for the tribute she paid to the initiative 10 years ago of my right honourable friend Mr. James Callaghan in starting the great debate, and for the cogent way in which she expounded the decline of that great debate and the way we have sunk to a much lower level of concern for education and for educational standards.

The record of the results of the past few years in education is only too clear. The noble Baroness has given a number of the indicators by which it can be seen that this country is falling behind in the output of its educational and training system. The figure of the percentage of the qualified workforce is well known now. It is known that perhaps only one-third of our workforce have the minimum qualification of one O-level or the equivalent, compared with approximately two-thirds in our major industrial and economic competitors—the United States, Japan, Germany and so on. The fact that we have only 40,000 apprentices in this country compared with 600,000 in Germany is also well known.

The record of our participation rates in education after the age of 16 is perhaps not so well known but certainly it should be. In this country 64 per cent. of 16 to 18 year-olds are still in full-time education compared with 84 per cent. in Germany, 79 per cent. in the United States and 73 per cent. in Japan. If we look specifically at 17 year-olds, we have only 30 per cent. participation in full-time education in this country compared with 94 per cent. in Japan. These figures—and there are many more with which I shall not weary the House—speak for themselves.

It is not a matter of chance that we have arrived at this position. The position has been arrived at as a result of a number of years of devaluing the importance of education and the resources which need to be given to it. I have looked at the recently published expenditure White Paper, Cmnd. 9702, and I have looked back at the period since 1979. I think it is shocking that for the first time defence expenditure in this country has passed education expenditure. Even accepting 1985–86 as a baseline—I should prefer to take an earlier date when we had a more realistic education budget—if we look at government projections for future years we see that in 1986–87 projected expenditure falls short of the 1985–86 level in real terms by 6.1 per cent.; in 1987–88 it will fall short by 9.1 per cent.; and in 1988–89 it will fall short by 11.8 per cent. Let us look at education expenditure as a percentage of total public expenditure. In 1978–79 education accounted for 11.8 per cent. of total public spending. In 1985–86 it accounted for 10.8 per cent.; in 1988–89 the projection is that it will account for only 9.7 per cent. That is a decline of 20 per cent. in the share of total public spending.

There is clearly a deliberate policy here on the part of the Government. It is not simply a matter of chance. It is a deliberate policy of this Government to restrict the resources available to education, using the excuse of falling rolls, of which I am quite sure we shall hear more from government spokesmen during the course of this afternoon, and ignoring the overwhelming evidence of increasing needs for further resources and further attention to be paid to our education system. It is not by chance that this debate takes place on the day before the local elections. I am sure that the Liberal Party has designed it with that purpose. It is also not by chance that the annual report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools, which could have been made available before the local elections, has not been made available in time.

Last year's report published towards the end of May made some very scathing comments about the standard of education in our schools, and in particular about the resources being given to education by local authorities and allowed to be given by local authorities under government restrictions. Where is that report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate, and why has it not been published at a time when the eyes of the nation are quite rightly focused on education as a major part of local government policy?—a matter on which I am quite sure the electorate will express their dissatisfaction with the Government at the polls tomorrow.

In the absence of any report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate I venture to suggest some of the points that the inspectorate might have made and for which research by the Labour Party has indicated there is an inadequate provision. Let us look at nursery classes. There are huge differences between one authority and another in nursery provision. Four of the top five nursery providers are Labour controlled; the bottom five are all Conservative controlled. Let us take class sizes. There are still more than 1 million children in this country in classes of more than 30 pupils. On the condition of school buildings, perhaps I may say that nearly one-third of all schools have leaking roofs and many other defects as well. A quarter of our schools still have outside toilets and 10 per cent. of our schools, despite falling rolls, are still overcrowded.

There is the question of capitation allowances and the resources available for items necessary for education. Four-fifths of parent-teacher associations, we were told by the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, are raising funds not for luxuries and extras which might be available to pupils in schools—not for the minibuses which were so commonly the original intention—but for essential items such as books and paper. In a local authority such as Solihull where there are great differences between middle-class areas and working-class areas the resources available for books and papers in the better-off areas are four times greater than those available per head in the working-class areas in the north of the borough. We have gone a long way from free education which used to be the pride of this nation.

I now turn to the curriculum. I shall come on to the other aspects of the curriculum in a moment, but it is common knowledge that the cuts in education have resulted in the removal of music, second foreign languages and craft and design technology. All the subjects which require special teaching and special apparatus are sadly in decline in our schools. Expenditure on school books has declined by more than 10 per cent. in real terms since 1979. The proportion of young people remaining in full-time education after the age of 16 has actually fallen since 1984. There is a comment, my Lords. There is something of which we should be ashamed at a time when the demands on our workforce are increasing. The report that has to be made on the condition of our schools is not one in which the Government can take any pride, despite what the noble Baroness says—and I agree with her—about the concern of the Secretary of State himself for education and for education standards.

I barely have time to refer to issues of higher education, but it is only necessary to say one or two words about the position that the Council for National Academic Awards is facing to realise how serious is the situation. There is no scope for further reductions in resourcing and of public expenditure on higher education without a drop in quality. Even the present level of quality cannot be maintained at the existing resourcing levels.

In grant-aided higher education, the level of spending per student has decreased from a base of 100 in 1980–81 to 81 in 1983–84. Again I could go on to give more figures. In the face of that crisis, the Government are fiddling while Rome burns. What we have is irresponsible talk about vouchers and about assisted places, excessive concentration on the question of the teaching of politics in our schools, ill-thought-out plans for Crown schools, and, consistently, blame placed on the teachers for what is after all the responsibility of us all in our education system.

There are priorities for education that the Labour Party has been putting forward over the past few weeks. What is required, as the noble Baroness said, is to treat education as an investment in change—but it must be an investment in change over the years. None of us would claim that the damage that has been done to our education system in recent years can be put right at one time. I am encouraged to think that that is not an excessive confession, because only two weeks ago the Government, in responding to a Liberal debate in another place, moved an amendment that acknowledged that, after seven years, they were only beginning to tackle the urgent need to raise and sustain education standards. The investment needed must take place over a period of years. It will not be cheap, but it would be much more expensive to continue with the neglect, and with the increase in ignorance and indolence, that has been characteristic of the education policy of this Government.

3.32 p.m.

My Lords, I must not only join, as is customary, in the thanks to the mover of the Motion, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for calling our attention to this important subject but I must also congratulate her on the versatility that enables the noble Baroness, after withdrawing a Motion full of party rancour, to make a statesmanlike appeal for all-party coming together to investigate the problem. It is perhaps regrettable—although not from my point of view—that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, found it impossible to follow the noble Baroness into that empyrean of the heavens but preferred to concentrate on the familiar party battle. So I am caught betwixt and between.

I begin by pointing out what is common to the approach of the noble Baroness and the noble Lord. It is the belief—put crudely, and clearly they would not put it this crudely—that more money is the key to solving the problem; more investment is, after all, more money. Therefore, since the noble Baroness, in customary form, now moves for Papers, perhaps I may offer her one or two papers.

I will start with a paper that the noble Baroness will certainly appreciate. It is a paper with a long liberal tradition, the Economist. On 26th April this year, in an article that was a survey of Japan (and I note that Japan was called to our attention by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh), the Economist wrote:
"The average 15 year-old Japanese schoolchild is better educated at maths and other testable subjects than the top one-quarter of British 16 year-olds who get O levels, even though"—
and perhaps this is the crucial phrase—
"Japanese teachers take classes twice as large as the British average and even though Japanese expenditure per schoolchild is smaller".
The article might well have added that the Japanese have the additional disadvantage of having to master a much more difficult script before they become fully literate.

It is therefore clear—is it not?—that on the basis of international comparison, it is not lack of funding that we can look to in explaining our deficiencies. Those deficiencies must lie primarily in the way in which the money is distributed between the various activities that come under the umbrella of education.

The article went on to point out that Japanese industry is at the moment, understandably, very ready to invest abroad, especially in English speaking countries. Britain's difficulty is the "appalling foreign reputation of her comprehensive schools". What we are asking is this: how can we as a nation learn to do more with both existing resources and the further resources that I join in hoping the Government will provide, and thus wipe out that reputation for educational backwardness?

Even if one eliminates cross-country comparisons, there is also the fact, which as far as I know has never been denied by the Opposition Benches, that there is a great difference in the level of achievement by particular local education authorities, and that such differences have no direct correlation with the money that those authorities spend.

Some statistics relevant to the Inner London Education Authority have recently been published by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who will be speaking later. I will leave her to answer the criticisms made by Mr. Webster of ILEA upon those statistics. What worries me is not Mr. Webster's quarrel with the statistics of the noble Baroness, because I am not qualified to judge on a matter of statistical interpretation, but Mr. Webster's own apparent satisfaction with the statistics that he himself accepts as valid.

In a letter published in The Times—and here is my second paper—on 30th April this year, Mr. Webster wrote that so far from a poor result, ILEA was forty-fifth in ranking out of the total of 96 education authorities. I have a feeling that if the official responsible for education in Paris were to tell Mr. Mitterrand, "Our capital city is forty-fifth in ranking", then that official would soon find himself looking after waste disposal in a sub-prefecture somewhere in the region of Limoges. It is rather like the manager of a football team that has once known great days who is hauled up before the board of directors and asked why the team is doing so badly. He replies, "Doing badly? Not a bit of it. We got quite near promotion to the Third Division".

I believe we have to say, therefore, that there are reasons, both cross-national and cross-authority, for believing that money is not the key unless we get the use of that money right. I find it curious that the noble Baroness not only puts herself in the firing line on behalf of the Alliance but also puts her noble friend, to whose maiden speech we look forward, in the same firing line. She referred in specific terms to the great debate inaugurated by Mr. James Callaghan. It is a debate to which I myself have referred in this House quite recently. Yet the noble Baroness must be well aware that the reason why that debate did not get off the ground was that it was deliberately sabotaged by the Secretary of State for Education, Mrs. Shirley Williams, who is now an ornament, they believe, of the Alliance parties.

If we go back to Mrs. Shirley Williams' position on education, we see that on every single point it was wrong. It was wrong in its denial of the need for specialised institutions. It was wrong in its denunciation of competition. It was wrong in its devaluation of the importance of external examinations. Until we get rid of that legacy and are willing to look at education as our competitors look at it, as the Japanese look at it, as something that is pushed forward by the competition of institutions, by the competition between teachers to do well, by the competition between children to distinguish themselves, we shall get nowhere, however much money we put into the system. One cannot plug leaks in a boat that is open-ended.

Therefore, my Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that there is a case for a major debate across the parties, but it will have to be a debate in which the parties are prepared to shoulder their responsibilities. It is no good—if, indeed, it is attempted from the Alliance side—to say that, after all, Mrs. Shirley Williams' educational record is in the past. She is still promulgating the same doctrines in the press and, furthermore, in local education authorities where the Alliance shares power, the first thing that it does when it comes to share power is to support Socialist councillors as in Devon and as in Gloucestershire in killing off the remaining grammar schools—that is to say, in perpetuating this hatred of excellence which was the core of Shirley Williams' position.

I can only say that Mrs. Williams now puts herself forward with extraordinary lack of sensitivity as a possible Member of Parliament for the great university city of Cambridge. If Mrs. Williams is a suitable Member for Cambridge, I can only say that the Reverend Ian Paisley would make an excellent Pope, and Mr. Yasser Arafat ought to be Prime Minister of Israel.

3.43 p.m.

My Lords, I should first like to declare an interest. I am a university teacher in a civic university, and I work in an engineering discipline. I should like to comment on two related matters: the need for good graduates in industry, especially engineers, and the parallel need for graduates to be recruited into secondary schools, especially in the areas of maths and physics.

It has sometimes been questioned whether the supply of qualified engineers and applied scientists is a limitation to innovation and growth in our industry. Those in the best position to know appear to disagree. The CBI response to the Green Paper on higher education, commenting on competitor countries that have been eminently successful, states:
"One factor in their success must be that they produce, relative to their population size, more science, technology and engineering graduates eager and able to apply and exploit knowledge from many sources and disciplines".
The response of the Standing Conference of Employers of Graduates (SCOEG) is much the same. In discussing the need to become internationally competitive it comments:
"We believe that the most crucial factor is to produce a better educated and better disposed industrial and commercial management and workforce—especially in engineeering".
It goes on to add that the increase in engineers projected in the Green Paper is inadequate.

It is also not true to say that there is not at present a strong demand for engineering graduates of all kinds. The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services—AGCAS, which is another awkward acronym, I am afraid—has recently produced unemployment figures for 1984 of graduates six months after graduating. Only 5 per cent. of engineers are unemployed after this period; that is, about half the average for all graduates. Interestingly at the lower end of the scale are graduates from law departments, 3 per cent., and graduates from medicine, 0 per cent. I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me that in a healthy society the demand for doctors or lawyers should be low. It would seem the prognosis is that we are going to be not only poor, but sick and quarrelsome as well.

The problem, of course, is that the demand for places in science and engineering in higher education is already low, and there are unfilled vacancies at present in many departments. I refuse to believe that we as a nation are inherently less gifted than others in these subjects or potentially less capable of being enthused by able and dedicated teachers. This, it seems to me, connects with the problem of the supply of graduate teachers to schools, which was commented upon by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear.

It seems to me that this has the makings of a tragedy for the whole of education, the size of which is only beginning to emerge. Figures have recently been made available on the number of graduates entering teacher training courses for the whole country, and these have been compiled by the Careers Advisory Service at Sheffield University. They show that in mathematics there was a drop in intake of 13 per cent. between 1984 and 1985 and a further drop of 28 per cent. between 1985 and 1986. In physics the corresponding drops are 20 per cent. and 28 per cent., and in chemistry, 7 per cent. and 28 per cent.

I think it will be agreed that the implication of these statistics is appalling. The fact is that science graduates simply do not want to go into secondary school teaching because the morale of the profession is at an all-time low. Teachers feel undervalued by society, which is reflected in their low pay scales; many want to leave, and maths and science teachers often can.

It is rather like the days before Chernobyl—we are complacent, we refuse to believe that disaster can come. I believe that if we do not take some positive action, some firm action, in this area, it surely will come, and the fall-out will affect everyone in the country.

There is only one solution to this problem: resources must be found to reward good teachers in schools and to attract graduates into the teaching profession, particularly in maths and sciences. We cannot dragoon people into Jobs in a free society. If we need them and value them, we must reward them properly.

Important as the stimulation of good teaching is, it is not sufficient in itself to attract pupils to the prospect of an engineering career. The Engineering Council has done a great deal of useful work in promoting the image of the importance of engineering in society and the satisfaction that a career in engineering can bring, but more needs to be done.

I am told that manpower forecasting is even less reliable than weather forecasting. Nevertheless, I think that there is value in government and industry together attempting to predict areas of graduate shortage in the short term—clearly the long term is an impossible task, but in the short term, in two or three years, it is possible to make some reasonable estimates—and then to flag this need by offering premiums on the basic grant to students entering the appropriate disciplines. I am not suggesting a large and divisive cash award, but some sort of signal or indication from the nation saying, "We desperately need graduates in this area, and jobs are waiting for you". The advantages of such a scheme are that it would be flexible and able to respond quickly to perceived changes in the industrial scene. Most importantly, in my opinion, it would be a flag which would be seen waving way down at the fifth forms where decisions are being made that can affect the whole career of a child.

I believe that this two-pronged strategy of, first, improving the quality of teaching in schools and, secondly, providing clear signals of national need must be the way to change attitudes among schoolchildren towards an engineering career and to provide the manpower which is not only literate and numerate but also technically competent and which this nation so desperately needs. But all this requires adequate resources being provided.

3.50 p.m.

My Lords, I know that your Lordships will all join wholeheartedly with me in expressing appreciation for the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, and in congratulating him. It was an illuminating, apposite speech borne out of his experience. We welcomed it and look forward to many contributions from him in this House. I have particular reason to be grateful to the noble Lord because I would have wished to have said something about the problems of higher education today, if time permitted, and I am grateful to him for what he said about graduates in industry and the supply in the teaching profession.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science, in discussions about the funding of the education service, has frequently commented that the present Government have twice been elected on a programme with a clear commitment to reducing public expenditure: and he makes a valid point. On the other hand, for some time, as I know from my experience as Chairman of the Church of England Board of Education and meeting people concerned with education, an increasing number of voices, including many who voted Conservative and Conservative-elected members of local education authorities, have protested that such an overall programme has been having too adverse an impact on the education service; and that their general support for the Government should not be taken as to imply an automatic assumption that they approve of the Government's particular approach to the funding of the maintained education service. They too make a valid point.

The Secretary of State has also observed that the level of funding is not demonstrably inadequate when it can be seen that there is a considerable differential in performance between schools, and indeed between local education authorities, in apparently similar circumstances. He draws the inference that rather than establishing a case for increased funding, there is scope for better efficiency, more effective planning and use of resources. There is doubtless some validity in that argument. On the other hand, other voices are stressing the difficulties of ensuring that like is being compared with like in view of the numerous and complex variables which are involved in the situation; that human beings and organisations will always produce unavoidable (as well as unacceptable) differences in performance, and that it is intolerable to try to fund all in the light of the performance of the apparently more efficient. There is doubtless validity in those points, too.

I have tried in these preliminary comments to indicate a predisposition to be even-handed in my response to the debate that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has initiated; and perhaps I may say how very much I welcome her initiative and the opportunity of this debate. I should also like to say how much I welcomed her opening speech. In an attempt to be even-handed I am not, I confess, simply trying to be politically neutral. I have another reason, which is simply this: education is far too important a matter for the human race, for this nation, to be regarded simply as a party matter. If it is regarded simply as an instrument by which certain political ideologies can be enforced, then any country which is subjected to that will be brought down to its knees. I very much welcome the call from the noble Baroness for an all-party approach to this issue.

I believe that, certainly so far as the schools are concerned, the root of the problems in the education service today is in the low standard of morale of the teachers. We must do all we can to restore their morale, their dedication and to improve their professionalism. It would be unrealistic to debate investment in the education service without referring to that very important resource; namely, its teaching force. Some of your Lordships may be aware that, with my area bishops in the diocese of London, after consultation with the local authorities and with the teachers, a few weeks ago I issued a statement on the teachers' dispute in which we made comments affecting both sides.

On the one hand, we spoke to the teachers of our fears that beyond a certain point—which could well be imminent—some forms of action by their very nature will have an irretrievable impact, an adverse impact, on the children themselves. Such action would offend natural justice and be unacceptable to society. On the other hand, we spoke of the great value of teachers, of the justice of their case for better and more realistic pay, and the need therefore for more financial investment in the teaching profession. I should say that the statement was obviously not issued with the approval of all parties, but at least none of them objected to it, which I thought was something.

A year or two ago the Secretary of State referred to the market forces of supply and demand in the context of teachers' pay, noting that there was no great shortage of people wanting to become teachers. He was at the time, I believe, making a comparison with the police. Even during the past few months I have noted expressions of concern about grave shortages in certain subjects, with some surveys claiming to show a considerable falling-off in the number of students considering teaching as a likely career.

During the Second Reading of the Education Bill in this House, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester expressed some anxiety about the pressures facing head teachers, and he referred to evidence that head teacher vacancies were not now attracting a high number of applicants. According to a recent survey by the Secondary Heads Association this situation is compounded by a rising number of heads seeking premature retirement. Certainly the extra stress during the teachers' industrial action would appear to be a considerable factor. But I fear that whatever statistics may emanate from the Department of Education and Science about pupil-teacher ratios, per capita spending, and so on, the perception at school level is of trying to cope with inadequate funding for supply staff, internal and external decoration, text books, in-service training, equipment, and the like.

A large proportion of head teachers believe that they are being asked to manage new developments with inadequate resources. For example—and I make no comment about the suitability of the new examination system and whether it should be postponed—I have noted the large number of reservations that have been expressed about the amounts of money that heads of departments will have at their disposal to purchase not only the new books for those who will be the first to sit the GCSE but also to provide for those lower down in the school who will eventually have to do so.

It has not helped the morale, I am sure, of heads, teachers, children and governors not to have their schools decorated for years. That is quite obvious when one goes into any of the schools. I gained the impresssion that improvements to school buildings have virtually dried up unless the schools in question are part of a reorganisation scheme, in which case riches seem to abound.

Some of your Lordships may have seen a letter in The Times a week or so ago warning that the failure of a school to come up to the Education (School Premises) Regulations of 1981 is being cited by some authorities as an excuse for closing a school. If this is so, it is indeed an alarming situation, especially as many other schools over which there is no threat of closure are not receiving the funding to bring them up to the self-same standards. One may be forgiven for wondering whether educational factors are sufficiently weighed in the size of school—school closure controversies, or whether financial considerations are playing too coercive a role to the detriment of the schooling of the nation's children.

So far I have deliberately spoken of the whole maintained system. However, I should like to take this opportunity of expressing some special concern on behalf of aided schools where building works are concerned. I shall simply say that we are worried about the small amount of funding that is being made available for capital projects in aided schools. Let me take one illustration: one diocese that is known to me has been allocated only £3,000 for all its aided schools for 1986–87 to cope with major building programmes—that does not cover repairs, but refers in fact to improvements. What can one do with £3,000? Frankly, the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and the proposition that you cannot sever the relationship between excellence and financial expenditure seem to us in that situation to be totally irrelevant.

I cannot forbear from mentioning one other matter, which is the imposition of VAT on aided-school projects. This has laid a heavy burden (in some cases amounting to tens of thousands of pounds) on governors who want in fact to improve their schools. The Secretary of State for Education has indicated his intention not to stand for re-election and I should like to endorse the remarks of the noble Baroness in tribute to him, because he has taken many important initiatives, and I know from meetings with him how near education is to his heart. But the irony and tragedy is that the creation of a suitable atmosphere to encourage these initiatives seems to have eluded him and we must direct our attention to that. I believe that the Government's approach to the funding of the service is to no insignificant extent a contributory factor in creating an environment in which we can restore the morale in our schools. When that happens we shall also see that the money is well spent and well used.

I welcome the comments of the noble Baroness about an all-party approach. There is too much gloom and doom in the education air. We desperately need to create an education service which is perceived by those who work in it—administrators, advisers, heads, teaching and non-teaching staff—as a service that provides an exciting, worthwhile, fulfilling and enjoyable career. That is what we have to do, and frankly it cannot be done without money.

4.4 p.m.

My Lords, I too should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for initiating this debate this afternoon at what I feel is one of the most useful times given to Members of your Lordships' House for expressing their concern about education. Of course, the Education Bill is passing through the House and a number of noble Lords have given their opinions about certain aspects of it, but this debate allows us to stray in other directions also. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, on his maiden speech. Long may he continue to grace your Lordships' House and long may he continue to come forward with ideas such as those which he has spoken about this afternoon. I am sure we all welcome his participation in this debate.

I have tried to find something good to say about the present education policy of the Government and I have found it extremely difficult to do so, though I have searched diligently. I do not want to pursue the many statistics which have been raised so far during the course of the debate and which will no doubt come up again as time goes on. I am reminded of a story that I heard some time ago about a minister who was asked to take care of someone who had died and to say a few words about the deceased. Unfortunately the minister did not know the deceased, but he went round to various people in the parish who had known him and asked what they thought of him. He could not find anyone who would say anything good about the poor departed man. On the day of the funeral the minister went through the ritual until he came to the part when he had to say something in praise of the dead man; and still nothing had come to mind. Finally he said, "Well, he was a scoundrel. He turned his wife and daughter out on to the streets. Nobody had anything good to say about the man". Then it came to him and he said, "Ah, but in comparison with his brother he was a saint". Perhaps we can use that story in this debate. Maybe the Government are not as bad as many people are saying they are, though it would be extremely difficult to find a brother who would measure up to the one in the story to compare with the Government.

My Lords, I am not mentioning the Opposition party, and I am not being droll either. I have been involved in education for almost 35 years, in one form or another. As many previous speakers have said, morale among those in education is as low as it possibly can be in all fields, from teachers in primary schools to university vice-chancellors. Everywhere one looks one sees depression.

The other day I was speaking to a group of teachers and I asked them if they could tell me of anything good happening. They could not tell me of anything. That was sad. I remember the day when education was looked upon by all parties—I repeat, by all parties—as something at which we could all work together. In my early days I was chairman of an education committee in a small or medium-sized local authority—a county borough—and when we were debating in that education committee a stranger could come in and sit at the back and he would not know which members of the committee belonged to which party. That meant that we were all working together for the betterment of our children in that area. That now seems to have gone. People are pulling different ways.

Again, within the authority the education committee was looked upon as a very important committee, one in which people were prepared to compromise and to which the chairman and the finance committee would lean over backwards to give additional moneys because they knew that it was the right investment. It was an investment in the future and one that could bring back so much in return. I also remember discussions that we used to have with teachers when comprehensive education was introduced in my authority. It was not a political issue at all. It was a policy that was carried out by the three main parties and with the co-operation of the teachers. That was a good thing and it was the reason comprehensive education got off the ground so well.

What do we find today? All those issues have now become political and it is wrong that they should be political. Again, the teachers whom I, along with other people, was privileged to appoint were dedicated teachers. There are a lot of dedicated teachers today, but in those days many teachers were people who had come out of the services. They had had very little training but, my word, though they had very little training in teaching children, because of their time in the armed forces they had a lot of experience of life.

I find the difficulty today among certain teachers is that they have had little experience of what goes on in the world. Many go from school to college, from college to university and from university to teaching. Unfortunately, because of that they know little of what goes on in the world outside. The same criticism can be made of people in industry who know little of what goes on in teaching. I speak to engineers. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, raised the subject of the council for engineering. It is doing a tremendous amount of work in informing schools of what is going on in engineering, and it also places teachers for short periods in engineering. That is good, and we should be heading in that direction.

At the time of which I spoke we had the Association of Education Committees, with Sir William Alexander, as he then was. He was a pioneer, a great thinker and a man of vision. He was always willing to assist local education authorities. Unfortunately, we now have various associations but we do not have an overall body as we did then. That is sad.

What the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, which was repeated by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, is important. Unless we work out a plan together we shall never make the progress that we made between 1945 and the 1970s. After the 1970s a great deal of political interference entered into education. A Bill is presently going through Parliament to deal with the management of schools. Certain of its provisions are good but many of them could be improved by slight amendment. Unfortunately the Government have given us no encouragement so far to believe that they will change their minds, but perhaps they will when the Bill goes to another place. At the moment they are sticking to what they think is right and are not willing to accept the advice of people who have worked in education for many years. I hope that on Third Reading, which I believe will be the week after next, they will accept some of our amendments.

I am not despondent about education. I believe that we can still offer to the world a good education system, but time is running out. The education of our children is of great importance to the quality of our life and so much depends on it. Let us not risk losing that now.

4.13 p.m.

My Lords, I add my gratitude to that which has already been expressed to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for giving us the opportunity to discuss once again the situation in our nation's schools and also to emphasise the fact that increased funding alone will not be a panacea for all the problems. I also add my congratulations to the other well deserved accolades to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, for an excellent maiden speech, which achieved the well nigh impossible in respecting the canons of your Lordships' House by avoiding being too controversial on a subject which is sadly riddled with controversy.

I shall concentrate on one area, London, because I know it best, because it is acknowledged to have many problems and because it serves a sizeable proportion of our nation's schoolchildren. I must begin by emphasising that there are many good schools in London; they are as good as anywhere in the country. And there are many good and dedicated teachers who deserve great respect and admiration for their professionalism, especially during the difficult months of the past year. But there are aspects of some of London's schools which cause deep concern to many parents. In 10 minutes I can do no more than touch briefly on two of those—poor academic standards and the teaching of some subjects which many parents and members of the public find offensive.

On my first theme of academic attainment, recent research, in which I must declare an interest as one of the members of the research team, has shown that the Inner London Education Authority has a disastrous record in GCE and CSE exams. Of course there is more to education than exams, but for pupils leaving school exams matter as qualifications for entrance to a chosen career. Exams also provide one kind of external, independent measure of the quality of teaching and learning in a school. Therefore formal examinations are not a criterion to be dismissed lightly.

The research undertaken by the National Council for Educational Standards analysed GCE and CSE results for more than 47,000 fifth-year pupils in ILEA schools. The data relate to 1981–82, but ILEA's own figures show that the situation has not improved significantly since. Thus the findings are still relevant and deeply disturbing. For example, they show that ILEA's pupils achieve 40 per cent. fewer O-level passes than the average for pupils elsewhere in the country. They attain 25 per cent. less than pupils in other socially disadvantaged areas; and they even attain 10 per cent. less than pupils in secondary modern schools elsewhere, schools which do not have top ability pupils. This dismal underachievement is found despite the fact that ILEA spends 40 per cent. more than the national average on each pupil.

Excuses for ILEA's poor performance tend to be of two kinds: the social deprivation of the areas in which pupils live and inadequate funding. Neither stands up to scrutiny. For example, there are two schools of similar size in one of the most socially deprived areas in the East End. The schools are in walking distance of each other. Both have similar intakes and both have their fair share of top ability pupils. But pupils achieve three times more GCE and CSE passes in one school than the other. Similar situations are found elsewhere in ILEA. Schools within walking distance, with similar catchment areas, differ dramatically in the number and quality of the exams with which they equip their school-leavers. ILEA's appalling performance cannot be explained away by social deprivation.

A study by Professor Rutter, 15,000 Hours, finds comparable differences between schools in similar areas and concludes that it is teachers' behaviour, attitudes and expectations which determine the ethos and the performance of a school. Similarly the HMIs' report on ILEA in 1980 criticised the poor performance of many schools and refused to allow pupils' backgrounds to be used as an excuse. I quote:
"These schools frequently blame their pupils' backgrounds for these poor results: this is largely unjustifiable. The fault lies in low teacher expectation…and from lack of pace, interest and variety in the work of the class".
Another excuse, as I have said, used to explain ILEA's poor performance is alleged inadequacy of resources. This, too, will not suffice. ILEA's pupil-teacher ratio is one of the most favourable in the country. As for other resources, the inspectors have pointed out that funding for ILEA is
"generous, almost to a fault".
They claim:
"It should therefore be rare at any level in ILEA schools to find serious shortages of textbooks, stationery, teaching materials, audio-visual aids or reprographic services".
If such shortages do exist, the inspectors argue that they are due to managerial inefficiency and not to lack of funding.

That HMIs' report was published in 1980. But ILEA is still the biggest spender and its performance is still one of the worst in the country. Also since the early 1980s there has been growing militancy among ILEA teachers, with a sizeable number who appear to put politics and strike action before their professional responsibilities. In summary on this aspect, the accumulated evidence of research and of official reports reflects a situation known only too well to many teachers and parents—that there are many schools in ILEA which are giving their pupils short shrift.

I had intended to spend the rest of my speech in rebutting some of the criticisms made of that research, but I shall not take up your Lordships' time with statistical controversy; I shall deal with those criticisms elsewhere. I want to use my remaining minutes to turn to a second area of concern. It is one which was not touched on in the recent debate on politicisation in your Lordships' House but which is equally disturbing. I refer to the growth of teaching in some London schools on subjects that are horrific in the literal sense of that word, such as the occult, witchcraft and black magic. Before your Lordships conclude that I have lost my senses, let me assure you that I ground my concern on a letter written by HMIs within ILEA and circulated to all schools by ILEA. Having been critical of ILEA, I am happy to commend the authority for sending this letter to all teachers. The letter, written by a group of HMIs, refers to letters from parents concerned that their children's interest in the occult is being stimulated by aspects of their education. With leave, I shall read brief extracts from the letter. Time constraints prevent my quoting it in full. The letter states:
"We are concerned about the heightening of children's fears … we are aware of children who have been badly frightened by stories and other activities even to the point where it has caused severely disturbed behaviour. … We are concerned about insensitivity. Many religious believers believe that there is a spiritual reality which lies beyond this world and that there are forces of evil as well as good … they are concerned at what they feel to be encouragement or endorsement of occult practices".
The HMIs conclude by expressing the hope that their letter will help in,
"what appears to be a growing area of concern".
While I commend the HMIs for writing the letter and ILEA for circulating it, according to teachers who have been speaking to me in the past 10 days, the practices continue unabated. I have time for only one or two examples. First, a text-book, used for 10 to 12-year olds, called Beginning Religion, abounds with terrifying and grotesque pictures on subjects such as human sacrifice, initiation rites and witchcraft. Children are actually encouraged to engage in the occult. For example, they are told to find out what happens at a seance. The cumulative effect of the book is, according to a psychiatrist, malevolent and appears designed to engender fear and uncertainty at an age when children need as much stability as they can find. It could lead to nervous breakdown.

Only last week, I received a letter from a teacher and a copy of a letter from a parent. The parent wrote:
"The book, Beginning Religion, was being used to teach my daughter in the first year of the comprehensive school. We considered it was encouraging participation in things of the occult, for example, the ouija board and the making up of spells".
A teacher expressed these worries arising out of her recent experience in schools:
"I was horrified to find material introducing children to the occult and encouraging them to explore it in books on religious education and even in apparently innocent English comprehension books. Class readers, library books and special English department books contained a high percentage of material sympathetic to the occult. Our children are being opened up to an area that can land them in a mental hospital or lead them to live a life of fear".
I could give further examples, but time does not permit. I would, however, urge your Lordships not to dismiss this as something of no consequence.

I should like briefly to mention one related aspect of teaching that is causing concern to parents. I refer to attempts to destroy the traditional concepts of family life. Parents in north London have told me of their anger at the promotion of a picture story book called Jenny lives with Eric and Martin. It describes how a little girl lives with her father and his homosexual partner. It was issued for 6 to 8 year-olds and shows photographs of Jenny in bed with her father and his male lover. This is on distribution from a teaching centre in north London.

What are we doing to our children in some of our schools? The majority of parents do not want their children exposed to this kind of influence. There is an urgent need to investigate developments in teaching subjects such as the occult, witchcraft and homosexuality. I would hope that leaders of the Churches might take such an initiative.

In conclusion, referring to the Motion before us, greater investment in resources per se will not solve these problems. Greater investment must be accompanied by greater accountability of schools to those whom they serve and by higher standards of professionalism from all teachers. Unless those conditions are met, there is a danger that in those places where children are suffering most, additional investment will be throwing good money after bad. Our country and, above all, our children deserve better than that. They deserve the best possible educational qualifications and also education in spiritual and moral values on which their well-being and our civilisation depend.

4.25 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to my newly-found noble friend Lord Kirkwood for what seemed to me an admirably concise and incisive speech without a word wasted. A number of your Lordships have spoken of what one might call the top end of the education ladder. I have been largely concerned, in my experience, with the lower end. It is that about which I wish to speak, together with the position of teachers. I am afraid that my theme is, again, doom. Really, it is demoralisation—demoralisation at the lower end of the pupil ladder and demoralisation of the teachers.

One might speak of the failure of the education service to produce young people who will satisfy the demands of industry. Many of your Lordships have concentrated upon that important aspect. One might speak of failure to fulfil the needs of the highly gifted or of the educationally handicapped. Equally serious to me, in terms of human wastage, is the failure of the under-achieving and unmotivated 40 per cent. at the lower end of the scale.

Let us consider the gravity of the situation. Curiosity is a basic human instinct. Young children are eager to learn. They are a delight to teach because, up to the age of 11 or 12, they want so much to learn. Then, however, come the vital teens when, for an unacceptably high number, school becomes increasingly meaningless and irksome. Why does this happen to so many of our children? It is of course because they are failing. Failure breeds failure. I feel that continual grading and relegation into the goats' section produce frustration, collapse of confidence, despondency, and ultimately, and not infrequently, delinquency, drug abuse and even crime and violence.

Why are these youngsters failing? It can be shown that as many as 10 per cent. at the age of 10 are severely under-achieving in the basic skills of reading and writing. A smaller proportion—2 per cent. of the total—are dyslexic. But, if one takes 10 per cent. as the number who are under-achieving, why are the other 30 per cent. of the 40 per cent. failing? Official current thinking blames the education service, the schools and the teachers. I believe this to be quite unjustified.

Schools are facing unprecedented problems. In London and other urban areas they have to tackle the challenge of teaching in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society. I invite your Lordships to imagine schools in which 30 different languages are spoken and where immigrants outnumber English children. One has also to take account of the demands of new technology, developing all the time and requiring constant readjustment. Then there is the depressing prospect for the children of unemployment at the end of it. Additional factors are the breakdown of traditional standards of behaviour and the ever increasing secularisation of society. The difficulties of educating the young in the last quarter of the 20th century are unprecedented.

For all that, there is some wonderful teaching going on. It is not all gloom and doom. I think of the fifth-year girls I saw in an ILEA school drama class. It was wonderfully creative and imaginative. The girls came from all over the world—not one from England. I think of another group of fifth-year girls who, with their head teacher, were carrying out simulated job-interviews, recording themselves and commenting upon, monitoring and criticising each other. There is marvellously creative teaching going on. I think of the teaching of modern maths. Maths was a subject which I dreaded and feared, as I think many did. But now it is imaginative and creative. I think of the educational experience of going to a school in London nowadays where children from all over the world can befriend and get to know each other and learn something of others' ways of life, background and language. What an education, my Lords. It has never existed before.

To give them their due, the Government have done a great deal. They have done some excellent thinking on the curriculum and have gone a long way—with such schemes as TVEI and the GCSE—towards providing an answer to this problem of the underachievers. Unfortunately they have failed disastrously in two major respects: the underfunding to which many of your Lordships referred, and which I shall not labour, and the alienation of the teachers. I said that I would not elaborate on the underfunding. I think enough has been said about that. I know that not only will your Lordships not want to hear it again but I shall run out of time.

The Government may claim that educational provision for each child has not gone down in real terms since they came to power. I do not know—I do not like statistics. But the fact is that provision needs to be increased because education in a technological age becomes more expensive all the time. Underfunding is also the reason for the shortage of teachers in certain key subjects to which reference has already been made. If one is qualified in physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer studies, craft design and technology, industry is a very much more attractive proposition than teaching. Yet the irony is that this position has been brought about by a Government whose attitude to education is—rather too much to my mind—that of the market place. The Secretary of State is keen that pupils in schools should be taught economic awareness. That is quite right but it should be borne in mind that education is not essentially a commercial enterprise but an enrichment of the whole personality—of the soul even. Teachers are not salesmen and saleswomen but carers. I feel that there is something about the Government's attitude that is in conflict with this and is part of the essential problem.

However, what is more desperate than the underfunding is the total demoralisation of the teaching force so well summed up by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood. I do not want at the moment to speak of the pay dispute but I want to remind your Lordships of the situation. There is an idea current (and it has been for some time) I fear held in part by certain Members of your Lordships' House that it is the teachers who are to blame for the difficulties of our education Service. These are difficulties which are attributable to other factors—to the infinitely greater demands made on the service by such things as the great immigrant population, the needs of industry, the high-tech age in which we live, the stress of the new exposure to the media, the prospect for the young of unemployment, and the destructive and myopic underfunding of the service.

As I say, innovations such as the TVEI scheme and the GCSE are excellent. What the Government seem to have failed to grasp is that all the thinking and planning in the world is in vain if it is forgotten, as it has been, that such schemes can only be effected by teachers—by human beings. The human element has been forgotten and left out. The teachers are in rebellion and all schemes such as these will grind to a halt if something is not done about it.

For many months these oversensitive and underconfident people have been subjected to the suggestion that they are not measuring up to their responsibilities and that they are failing in their professional skills. I should like to quote briefly from a letter from the chairman of Kent Secondary Heads Association to the chairman of Kent Education Committce which sums it up better than I could. It says:
"We have been increasingly angered by the Impression given in public statements made by representatives of the Government and others that schools have failed the country, that teachers have not been doing a good job and that the profession contains a large number of inept and incompetent teachers".
I do not know whether your Lordships know the extent of the demoralisation of our teachers. I was speaking to two teachers a few days ago. They told me they felt that they had almost to apologise for being teachers instead of feeling proud to belong to an honourable profession. And society endorses this low esteem by the outrageously low remuneration teachers receive for the exacting, stressful and responsible work which they do. We are losing teachers. They are leaving the profession and others are not coming into it for these reasons.

Government projects such as the assisted places scheme do not help. Nor would the suggested vouchers or Crown schools. These projects merely undermine and injure the state system by implying to concerned parents that there is a better option on offer, and by removing the best pupils from schools they remove the high academic and social standards that they set and improverish the community that is left. We need to make the existing system work. The department has done the thinking. It has produced the ideas. The time has come for them to be implemented and monitored. But this cannot be done until the teachers are happy. The teachers will not be happy until they are properly paid and properly appreciated by society, by your Lordships, and by those who are listening to us. We may then hope to have, not the meritocratic elite which the Government sometimes seem to want but an education service for everyone where all may reach their potential, and will be able to give their best to the country.

4.36 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, on a most admirable maiden speech. But I have to inform him as a new Member of your Lordships' House that I am not the noble Earl, Lord Arran, whatever the list of speakers may say. This confusion between the noble Earl's family and myself has been going on for some time, especially in the time of the noble Earl's father, who I am sure is still remembered with great affection in your Lordships' House. I used to receive his mail and—startling though some of it was—I never enjoyed reading anybody's letters more.

It seems to me that what has happened this afternoon is that we have had a most admirable diagnosis of the deficiences in our education. I am not quite sure that I have heard so much about the remedies. Perhaps I ought to explain to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, that I am an exasperated and dispirited technocrat. I listened in days gone by to Mr. Wilson (as he then was) as Prime Minister and to Mr. Callaghan in their most splendid exhortations tell us that we should reform, revise and invigorate our education system. But nothing very much happened to make it more efficient. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was admirable when he spoke about the lack of investment in education at the present time, and I very much agree that there are some matters, such as the teaching of Asian children, in which an infusion of cash would make a very great deal of difference.

But then I also listened with admiration to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, saying that there were many other things which money would not cure. The noble Baroness is entirely right. What are the educational reforms that we need? How are we to change curriculum and improve it? I do not think that we can do so until the Department of Education and Science has slaughtered some of its sacred cows.

In Committee the other day on the Education Bill the noble Earl very properly pulled me up short and defended his civil servants against the charge that he thought I was making; namely, that they were displaying lack of imagination. It is not the individual civil servant whom I would dream of attacking. But I feel that over many decades doctrine established itself in the department and when doctrine has been established it is very difficult to get it changed because it is so dinned into the mind of every civil servant when he enters the department that he continues to observe it when he gets to the top.

I suspect that one of the sacred cows in the department is that they believe whatever happens the Secretary of State should have no power over the curriculum. There are good and understandable reasons for this. They endorse the demand that the Secretary of State should not politicise education. But, as we have heard from the noble Baroness—and I do not think that anybody would deny this—education has now long been politicised by the local education authorities. I wish there could be a change of heart in the department.

What should the Secretary of State do? Perhaps I may put forward some proposals. First of all—and I know that this is an old sacred cow of mine—it should be compulsory, right up to the age of 18, that every boy and girl should continue to learn something about mathematics and something about English. I do not mean that scientists should be put to work to read the more esoteric works in English literature. What they ought to be doing in the sixth form is learning how to use English, and there used to be a good A-level paper called Use of English which did precisely that. It taught précis, and it taught you how to understand complicated passages, elucidate them and analyse them.

Nor am I suggesting that people whose bent is in the humanities should have to undergo the rigours of learning trigonometry or the calculus. But I believe that you can teach the calculus now by using computers, and that this is the kind of teaching needed for humanists. Only a fortnight ago I visited the University of Waterloo, in Ontario. With a wide spread of subjects, one of which was English—it is, incidentally, the place where the Oxford English Dictionary in 40 volumes is being revised on computers—90 per cent. of all students do one course in computing. Of course it is not programming—nothing complicated and technical like that—but learning how to use numbers in the modern way, which I hasten to say to your Lordships I have absolutely no ability to do at all.

That is one reform. The second is that we must have some kind of crash course to produce science and maths teachers. That is a highly technical and complicated matter, and it is difficult to get teachers to teach these subjects and difficult to train them. But our present situation, where there are vacant places in engineering and science departments in our universities and polytechnics, will continue unless we can create teachers in secondary schools who can teach these subjects. This is one of legacies of having expanded our higher education so quickly, as we did in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Then again when we ask ourselves why are there no engineers coming forward, is it possible that this is due to what has happened in A-level subjects? Here the universities are to blame. It is not the universities themselves, but—how shall I put it?—their offspring, the university examining boards. At any rate from my experience universities rarely tangle with their examining boards at all. The boards are something exterior and they are financed by examination fees and not from the block grant. They are therefore held to be hardly a decent subject for dons to concern themselves with.

What has happened in our A-levels? What has happened is an enormous proliferation of subjects which can be taken at A-level. Is it any wonder, human beings being what they are, whether they are adolescents or fossils, that they go for the easy subjects? Is it any wonder that they will naturally do subjects which are highly entertaining and interesting rather than the tough, core, curriculum subjects of the old days? Some subjects are inappropriate. Economics is not a fit subject for A-level. This is something with which the Secretary of State ought to concern himself. It is not an infringement of liberty, or an unwarranted political interference, for him to do so.

There was of course a body called the Schools Council. It was killed by the National Union of Teachers, and that is a body of which I despair. It has been the enemy of all progress in the curriculum; the enemy of flexibility, of reform, of the use of resources in a better way. I despair because I can see no possibility of change, except possibly that its membership will decline, as indeed it is declining at the present moment.

Much has been said this evening about the low morale in our schools and indeed in our higher education. I do not think that anybody could possibly deny that this is so. And yet, though the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, made much of that, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, was right when he said that there are masses of teachers who are as dedicated today as they ever were. I spent the other evening with some teachers in our comprehensive schools. I never heard anything the whole evening long about pay. I never heard anything about strikes. All I heard was absolute, riveted, devoted interest in the problems of teaching the young, a belief in the young, a total faith that good work was being done and that creditable results were being achieved.

Do not let us forget that thousands and thousands of teachers are like that, although I do not want in any way to try to paint any rosy picture when, as we know, things are not well. The Secretary of State was ill advised to try to get both changes in the duties and performance of teachers while at the same time being adamantine about the degree to which they were entitled to better salaries. I suspect that better salaries will have to come first, but this has often been done before, and the productivity, or whatever you like to call it, has not followed. There is a heavy responsibility upon the unions to see that this is done.

4.49 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to support both the terms of the Motion before us today and the spirit in which it was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. The present time should have been a good time for education. The lean years of the pressure of student numbers are being lifted. In the space of a decade and a half about a third of pupil numbers is going to decline. This decline in numbers is passing at the present time through the 16- to 18-year-old age group, and then it will move on to the university and higher education stage.

This is a time when investment could have been made in the quality and relevance of education at all levels. In my view we could have expected at least six things, the first being a reduced teacher-pupil ratio. This is long needed, particularly in state schools when we compare them with the private sector. But a reduction in pupil-teacher ratios is something which the Government are grudgingly conceding. The emphasis when this is mentioned seems all the time to be on saving money by the closures of schools. Of course, there has to be some rationalisation of the system, and not all schools can be saved. Nevertheless, the criterion which we are operating should not be the saving of money but the effectiveness and quality of education.

Secondly, there should be adequate provision of teaching materials and aids in schools. As has already been said, the aids in schools are continuing to become more and more expensive as we move into the new technological age. Yet the provision of ordinary aids in schools, such as writing books, pencils and even reading materials, as my noble friend Lord McIntosh said, is declining. There has probably never been a time in the state education system when so much emphasis has been placed by parents on the provision of materials.

Thirdly, we should have seen the development of the curriculum and reform of the examination system, with emphasis on individual achievement. This is taking place in our schools. There is much debate about the curriculum, about widening and broadening the curriculum and developing it. There is the very important reform of the introduction of the general certificate of secondary education. This is to be welcomed. But even here the money which is necessary to bring about such an important reform is not forthcoming. The £20 million allocated to help LEAs to prepare for this new examination is regarded by all those concerned as woefully inadequate. According to The Times Educational Supplement last week-end even the Association of County Councils has joined those others in saying that the new examination should be postponed due to the lack of time and resources. In the same article in The Times Educational Supplement the education officer for Oxford was said to have told his education committee that the ACC's figure of £1.20 million per authority is not adequate and that he himself will require about £2.3 million in the first year successfully to introduce the new system and £1.7 million in subsequent years. This could be a very far reaching reform in our education system and it is very sad—indeed, it is tragic—to think that this development too is being starved of resources.

Fourthly, we should have seen a widening of access to higher education. In this respect the Government have been most grudging in their future projections of the participation rate of 18-year-olds in higher education. Under pressure they have revised those projections, but both the University Grants Committee and the NAB feel that the projections are inadequate. Even for girls the Government were assuming that the growth in the participation rate would decline. This is very sad because expectation can play such an important part in setting our sights high. If the Government expect the participation rate of girls to continue to grow, the girls, the parents and the schools themselves will respond to such an expectation. If it is set low, depression immediately sets in.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred to the resource that girls could provide in some of the shortage subjects. That is absolutely true. But it is also true that as well as changing the subjects that girls are involved in at school and at higher education level, we must also change the percentage rate of their involvement.

Fifthly, there is the question of the extension of participation of mature students into the education system. Again, the Government response here, as seen in the projections and in their policies, is disappointing. We might link this with my sixth expectation, which is the growth and development of continuing education, and the principle on which the Government have based their approach here is that although continuing education is important, it has to fend for itself and become economically self-supporting.

One aspect of the way in which the Government could help with the extension of both the involvement of mature students and the growth in continuing education came to my notice in a letter from Birkbeck College only this week. The letter states:
"We at Birkbeck are the only institution in the country whose principal teaching activity is the provision of face-to-face degree level education for part-time students.
"The cost of part-time degree-level study is already beyond the means of the unemployed. We are now finding increasingly that many of those who are fortunate enough to be in employment cannot afford the costs of part-time study from their post-tax income.
"While hundreds of thousands of students who choose to study full-time are entitled to some awards to cover fees and, in many cases, maintenance grants as well, our own part-time students are not. These mature, part-time students finance themselves without benefit of grant or even of tax relief".
The Suggestion from Birkbeck is that tax relief should at least be given to students on the cost of fees. I think that is a very modest request to the Government and it could quickly be introduced as an interim measure. My own long-term solution would be more radical because I would suggest that students studying part time at degree level should receive the same treatment as full-time students studying at degree level; they should be treated on the same basis.

Those are six expectations which I would have for our education system at the present time. But they are expectations that are far from being realised under the present Government's policy. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said that there was not necessarily any correlation between the quality of education and the money spent on education. As I have indicated there are many ways in which the first priority is an increase in investment in education, and in that sense I wholeheartedly support the Motion.

5 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for giving us this opportunity of debating education this afternoon. Her timing is clearly impeccable because I am sure that she recognises that education is moving firmly to the centre of the political stage. I should like also to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, upon his excellent maiden speech and to pay him the compliment of taking his first theme as I understood it—why it is that our education system does not provide those whom industry needs, those whom industry requires. I only hope that I can deal with this in a way of which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, herself would approve.

The truth is that for generations, indeed since the middle of the 19th century, we have failed to produce the well-educated and well-trained people at every level, and especially scientists and engineers, which the country needs. In this respect we have lagged dangerously behind Europe, behind France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, behind the United States and, more recently, behind Japan. Since the middle of the 19th century our less-well-educated and poorly trained workforce has been an important factor in the continuous decline of our industry. Some of the weaknesses in education which we are therefore probing this afternoon are deeply rooted, but they have become more apparent as industrial technology has become more sophisticated and more clearly based upon science.

It is well known that this failure to produce education and training adequate for a first-class power was largely the consequence of an important cultural shift which occurred in the middle of the 19th century. It was a shift that stressed the importance of culture, of moral and social values which was excellent, but which also subordinated to them industrial expansion, profit and economic growth—concepts which it down graded. This cultural shift had a profound influence upon education. Cardinal Newman—whom I shall not quote this afternoon—produced the liberal education which rapidly became thought of as the only true education. Liberal education must not train for any particular form of working life; it must be unrelated to everything that is practical; and its aim was to produce the rounded gentleman. Science and engineering were banished to the provincial universities and colleges and the provincial universities themselves began increasingly to follow the Oxbridge precedent.

When the schools came to be reorganised after the Education Act 1902 the Board of Education, under Sir Robert Morant, refused to follow anything that suggested training or vocation. Liberal education was to be the panacea for all schools.

While all this was going on, there were frequent warnings that we were failing to produce the quantity and quality of engineers and scientists which industry needed. From the Newcastle Royal Commission in 1861 right the way through to the Finniston Committee in 1980 these warnings continued to be issued. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, made reference to our failure to train women as engineers. It was Sir Monty Finniston himself who pointed out that in 1980 of the engineering workforce only 0.5 per cent. were women. That led him to say that we were therefore recruiting engineers from only one half of our population.

The education system cannot alone be made responsible for what happened. An education system in fact in part reflects the society which it serves. Indeed, management, too, must bear some responsibility for the fact that British industry continously declined from 1850 onwards. And so we came to the war. After the war we were weak in managerial skills, in innovation and, I should have thought, in industrial relations. Qualified engineers often were not properly used and were underpaid. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, wondered why we had failed to produce enough engineers. Was it, he asked, the effect of our A-level system? If, indeed we had only paid engineers properly, we could have attracted enough able people into British industry.

It seems to me that if what I have said is correct, there has to be a great change in education, a great change of attitude. I would submit to your Lordships this afternoon that it is greatly to the credit of the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Employment that they have at any rate begun to make those fundamental changes in education and training without which the reorientation of our society cannot succeed.

In the past too much attention has been paid in education planning to structural alterations such as, for example, the comprehensive system. At any rate in now directing attention to the curriculum the Government are tackling the right area. The same curriculum is to be studied by all and differences in ability will be catered for by letting pupils have greater choice in what parts of the syllabus they cover and in what depth. Greater emphasis is to be placed on the acquisition of practical skills and on what is relevant to the experience of pupils and to the world of work. Crucial is the introduction of the GCSE, designed to improve the pupils' educational achievements by testing them and grading them according to what they can do, instead of an examination which tests entrants against each other by discovering what they fail to do.

I am delighted that this afternoon so frequent reference has been made to the excellent teaching which takes place in our schools. I am sure we should record that every day an enormous amount of excellent teaching takes place there.

The teachers are now to be given the opportunity by a series of changes to improve further the quality of their teaching. There is to be a review of all initial training and a reassessment of in-service training, which is going to become more and more important. The Government are trying to clarify the teacher's contract to remove problems which have beset the profession for far too long. I spent part of the weekend rereading the report produced by the committee of inquiry which was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. It reveals that the settlement he and his colleagues advocated was intended to cover the time teachers spent out of the classroom as well as in it; not only the educational but also the pastoral activities. Perhaps I may quote one sentence from the report. It is:
"As in other professions, these salary levels are in part recognition for the fact that the job cannot be compressed within a rigid structure of prescribed duties, hours or days".
It is to be hoped that when the final settlement is achieved the Houghton principle will be accepted and that the teacher's contract will cover the full range of responsibility.

Regular appraisal of a teacher's performance is to be offered to ensure that promotion and training opportunities are available for all who merit them.

These changes are needed in our schools, but they are merely a repetition of some of the changes which are needed in our society if our economy is to be overhauled in time, and profit, economic growth and innovation must be restored as socially desirable objectives.

The changes which are being put forward by the Department of Education and the Department of Employment will. I suspect, come to be regarded as crucial in enabling both education and society to adapt to the changes which we must bring about if we are to succeed.

5.13 p.m.

My Lords, I shall confine myself this afternoon to a few words about the current state of continuing education, and I shall do that for two reasons. The first is that it is of growing importance to the nation. Secondly, it is because I happen at the moment to be chairman of the Standing Committee on Continuing Education that was set up last year by the joint action of the University Grants Committee, the National Advisory Body for Higher Education and the Open University. Our task is to keep under review all the provision of continuing education at the higher education level in the country.

Continuing education is really a multitude of things and there is a lot of confusion about it, largely because of the semantics. It has been defined as any form of education which is undertaken by people after a gap following the end of their initial education. There are broadly three kinds of continuing education. The first is the commonest, taken by nearly 2 million people each year. It consists of courses offered by the local education authorities, the WEA and university extramural departments. The courses range from those in leisure pursuits to those in strictly academic subjects. They range from courses on chess to courses on Chaucer, and from squash to Shakespeare. All this is wholly admirable and much needed, but does very little for our industrial and economic health; so let me pass on at once to two other kinds of continuing education.

The second kind is characterised by a resumption after a break of studies which might equally well have been a continuation of initial education. For the sake of simplicity we have called this "deferred initial higher education". Those who resume higher education in this way are often referred to as mature entrants, and some institutions have made special arrangements for them, such as waiving normal entrance requirements and providing introductory courses so as to refamiliarise them with the problems of learning.

As the numbers of school leavers fall over the next few years, so the institutions will be looking to fill more places with mature entrants. But, what is even more important, the country needs to maintain the production of graduates and, in science and technology, to increase their numbers. They are bound to come to depend more and more on these mature entrants; yet there is not much sign that the urgency of the problem is being matched by steps necessary to encourage its solution.

What are the characteristics that set mature entrants apart from school leavers? They often have to support a family, they often have to study part time, they sometimes have to study at a distance from the institu- tion. They are adults, they have adult backgrounds and, more importantly, they have adult experience. They may not have entrance qualifications at all, but 800,000 people in the country form a pool of those adults who have minimum entrance qualifications.

If these are the characteristics, do we in fact take proper account of them? Do we cater for this particular clientele? If one looks at the institutions which admit mature students, one often finds that they discover that their grant-in-aid for a part-time student is not commensurate with the cost of teaching that part-time student. They do better financially to have grants for full-time students. The weighting applied to part-time students is, in the opinion of many people, too low.

Secondly, they find it very difficult indeed and very expensive to design their courses specifically for adult students. They also find that if they use their existing courses designed for school leavers, they are often not very well received by mature entrants. Also they are bedevilled by the fact that their staff have had no training in the skills of teaching mature adults.

When we turn to the part-time students themselves, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has pointed out, they for their part find that, unlike full-time students, they do not qualify for a mandatory, grant and that discretionary grants from hard-pressed local education authorities have almost dried up.

Most of these students do not need maintenance grants, but they find the payment of fees a very heavy burden. Yet to waive fees for all students, including Open University students, would cost only about £20 million. At present these people cannot even get tax relief on the fees which they pay out of their own pockets. Is it too much to expect a nation that is going to come to depend increasingly on these mature entrants to remove these various disincentives as soon as possible?

At the Open University we foresaw some of these problems and we solved them. The Open University provides for part-time students and for distance learning. It designs courses specifically for ever. Yet although its economies of scale would allow an increase of intake from 20,000 to 30,000 a year for very little extra cost, it is actually faced with cuts. It does not make any sense, my Lords.

Let me turn to the third kind of continuing education: the provision of courses for those who have already had training; refresher courses for those who have become rusty; updating courses to bring people abreast with the latest developments; and retraining courses for those whose jobs must change. It is very nice to be able to join the noble Lord, Lord Butterworth, in saying that in this field the Government have been active and encouraging and have given some limited financial help.

At the open spring 1986 conference and exhibition held by the Manpower Services Commission last week, there were over 2,000 people attending and some 85 exhibitors of open learning materials. When I spoke about the embryo Open University some 18 years ago, I felt that mine was a voice crying in the wilderness. Any mention in those days of open learning or distance learning was met with scepticism, scorn, ridicule and hostility. There has been a remarkable and quite fantastic change in attitudes. Indeed, open learning has become a sort of bandwagon, and at the moment everybody is climbing onto it.

Much of this is due to the fact that the Open Tech has been active. The Open Tech, unlike the Open University, is a very decentralised organisation. It has very little central control of standards; it operates on a relatively small budget and it has, through the distribution of grants to institutions and companies, caused the production of much excellent open learning material. But, unhappily, not all the material is of this quality and I am a little worried at the moment that inferior materials will bring the whole concept of open learning into disrepute; and it is a delicate plant still in academic circles. Certainly in the United States, where they began very early to use television as a means of education, the quality of the television they used was so bad that they led the entire academic world to reject the whole idea. I should not like that to happen here.

We must congratulate the Government on having at long last become aware of the potential of continuing education, and indeed of open learning. But awareness alone does not make things change. It is still a basic tenet of government philosophy that the costs of continuing education should be met, whatever the continuing education may be, by the employee or by the employer since both benefit from it. This is wholly defensible when employees and employers are actually taking part in continuing education on a large scale. But far too many remain apathetic; and since there is a crying need for continuing education nationally, there is consequently a national responsibility to see that it is implemented more fully, and it seems to me that there is a strong case for providing cash as well as encouragement.

Perhaps the cash should come, as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, suggested, by redistribution of the total education cake; but it must come either that way or as additional money to continuing education if we are going to make this work. Some of us have been saying these things for well over a decade. The response has been very slow—all too slow for our industrial health. Can we hope that the new awareness by the Government will be followed by the action that is needed to make things happen?

5.24 p.m.

My Lords, it is with considerable diffidence that I rise to address your Lordships this afternoon in the full knowledge that every one of your Lordships here knows infinitely more about education and the situation in our schools than I. But I am speaking as an outsider, having spent a great part of my life abroad, and it is in that capacity that I venture to offer your Lordships some observations on the situation in our schools, as I see it, speaking in this debate which was so ably introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear.

There are undoubtedly many good aspects of our educational system today. For example, in the academic sphere children are taught a range of subjects which would have been unthinkable years ago. But is this not achieved to some extent at the expense of the three Rs, because I understand that we still have children leaving our schools who are both illiterate and innumerate? As regards sport, there is much that is praiseworthy, and indeed one formed that impression looking, as I am sure some of your Lordships did, at the television showing of those youngsters taking part in the mini-marathon.

On the other hand, one understands that there is a shortage of football and cricket coaches, and I know of one West Indian school where there are masses of youngsters keen to play cricket—with the stumps, bails, bats and everything to hand but no teachers to coach them. Perhaps in the sphere of the arts the progress has been most remarkable, and those of your Lordships who attended the inaugural concert of the new ILEA, as I did not long ago, would undoubtedly have been very impressed by the very high quality of the London children who performed.

Then I must also mention a subject very dear to my heart—the blending of races, cultures and religions that one sees in our London schools, bearing in mind that there are now 161 languages spoken in our London schools. Is that not a wonderful challenge? I think that the ILEA are meeting it very well. Then there is, too, a very real feeling of involvement among our children with third world problems. One has only to look at the remarkable sums raised for Bob Geldof and so on.

All these developments surely show our schools in a reasonably good light. But it is in the spheres of moral guidance, sex education and religious instruction that our children suffer most. It is in those areas that many of our schools—but by no means all of them—fail our children deplorably; indeed, I would even say criminally. In many of our schools now one finds a situation which in some cases resembles a vacuum, in others a cesspit or a rubbish dump—in some cases both. To take the vacuum first, sex education, for example, in all too many schools is almost totally amoral. The facts of life are given with no moral context at all. Indeed in this, and in other areas, one gets the impression that teachers no longer think in terms of right and wrong. They do not think in terms of black and white, but in hazy half tones, muddy browns and dingy greys.

And so to the cesspit. The transition is not all that difficult to make, because it can surely be argued (can it not?) that emptiness breeds evil. One has only to leave a garden empty and unattended for any length of time and it is the weeds that take over and not the flowers. So it is with children's minds. If we leave them unattended, the unwholesome elements take over. But I am thinking not so much of these spontaneously generated influences. I am thinking more particularly of the injection of evil into our schools today.

That matter has, of course, been raised on several occasions with such great skill and with such great pertinacity by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for whose efforts in this direction I have nothing but praise. She told your Lordships about a horrible pamphlet which had been published recently, and indeed there were photographs of it in some of the papers yesterday. That is not at all a new development. When I had the honour to move Amendment No. 49B on the second day of the Committee stage of the Education Bill on 15th April, I deployed quite a wide range of facts, quotations from a number of booklets, quotations from letters and from various societies with which I am connected, illustrating how this horrible type of education is gaining ground.

Obviously I shall not go into details now, but many of the booklets condone, if not actively advocate, things like incest and homosexuality. There is one of these booklets which describes incest between brothers and sisters as "a loving sexual relationship". The point is that many of these booklets are issued or approved by such bodies as the Book Advisory Council, the Family Planning Association and the Marriage Guidance Council. These bodies are supported by public funds, so it is we the taxpayers who are paying to poison the minds of our children.

The rubbish dump is of course less nauseating than the cesspit. I am thinking in particular—and I hope that the right reverend Prelate will forgive me for saying so—of the state of religious education in many parts of the country. It seems to me—and I may well be wrong—from what I have heard in the London area and Hampshire and from friends in various other parts of the country that very few schools now are observing the statutory provision for a daily act of worship. Indeed, where they do so the children often receive a horrible hotchpotch, a medley of all sorts of creeds—ill-assimilated, badly understood. They are thrown at the children rather as one throws rubbish on a rubbish dump.

As a result, the children find themselves totally perplexed and bewildered. I have seen children in that position. They are overwhelmed by the vast range of moral options open to them. Many of the children seem to have absorbed the idea that there are no holds barred and that any type of conduct can be tolerated provided it is pleasurable. Some of the teachers seem to be saying to the children. "Here you are, you have this option and you have that option. I cannot tell you what is right and wrong. In all the wisdom of your eight years or your nine years, it is for you to decide".

What do foreigners think of all this? I am, as your Lordships will know, very much concerned with overseas visitors and overseas friends. They are for the most part quite appalled about this. I am thinking in particular of my Arab friends, whose approach to personal relationships, sex education and so on is in every way more powerful, more positive and more purposeful than our own. I am thinking of some of the West Indians too. It was the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, herself who indicated, when introducing that most fascinating debate on 5th February, that in a West Indian community the parents had decided to opt out of the public sector and start their own school, because they were so horrified by what was going on.

This is surely the problem. It is the problem of the all-pervasive permissive society. We seem to have become adjusted to it. We accept it but it is totally illogical. Did we in Britain rise to greatness on the back of the permissive society? I would put to your Lordships that the gradual progress of the permissive society is imperceptible. It is rather like dry rot, eating away at the fabric of a house. I know it only too well because I have dry rot in my flat. One does not appreciate it until (shall we say?) a beam collapses or the ceiling caves in. That is what is happening now in some of our schools. We read from time to time in the press of the most horrifying happenings—teenagers committing murder, eight-year-old children mugging elderly pensioners; and, perhaps the most terrible of all, only a few weeks ago there was a report of two 11 year-old boys who raped a girl of five. That is the situation.

Finally, what are the Government doing about it? I have raised this matter on two previous occasions and on each occasion I have been told that the present arrangements are satisfactory, in other words, the arrangements for discussion and so on, for the influence of teachers and parents and governing bodies. The arrangements are not satisfactory. They cannot be satisfactory. They are woefully, deplorably and demonstrably inadequate.

I would remind your Lordships of the basic meaning of education. It comes (does it not?) from the Latin word educo, to lead out, to guide. We should surely be thinking on these lines, and particularly of the injection of wholesome and constructive influences in our schools and the exclusion of evil influences. I hope very much that the noble Earl who is to reply will bear those considerations in mind and that the Government will in future devote all their efforts to the elimination of those evil influences which we find in some schools.

5.35 p.m.

My Lords, I want to speak for a few moments on the subject of schools and skills, because I think we are all deeply concerned about the need for this country to be fit in every respect to recover our industrial strength. This is Industry Year. We usually give a year to an attempt to stimulate fresh interest and to regain our enthusiasm for a worthy cause which otherwise might flag in public interest or in popular esteem. We shall not notice Industry Year in a year of another Royal wedding—be sure of that! If Industry Year is to commemorate anything, it is 40 years of industrial decline, 40 years of education for industrial decline since the Second World War.

There have been three major reviews of education in my lifetime—in 1902, 1918 and 1944. All took place either in a war or closely connected with the consequences of war, as in 1902. But what was the major issue in 1902? It was the inclusion of the denominational schools in the state system. I was not old enough to understand what that controversy was about but I noticed the havoc that it caused in my family, because my father was a passive resister and flatly refused to pay an education rate to sustain Church of England schools. All Methodists know what were the consequences of that.

It is strange that we study our education system only when we find something seriously wrong with it in war conditions. This is what happened in 1918; and this is what happened in 1944. Because the nation's conscience is deeply disturbed, probably with a sense of guilt because the country is at war, it turns its mind to the high moral line of education and makes religion the major issue of the review of education.

In the 1944 period of the much vaunted 1944 Act, R. A. Butler complained that the religious issue took up a lot of the time. He was mainly engaged on the religious issue and pacifying Part III authorities under the Bill which were about to lose their customary role in the education system. The curriculum and other aspects of the education system were left aside for study by advisory committees and specialist committees. They looked at them but very little was done about them. On structure and control, apart from religion the two most controversial issues, the main purpose seemed to be to get the vicar into the classroom and keep the Secretary of State out. What we have found over the years is, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, the determination of many in the education system to keep the hands of the Secretary of State off the curriculum, keeping him as far away as possible from the classroom, only to supply the money and to take a liberal attitude towards claims for increased pay.

While we were developing an education system within the academic traditions of parochial control, other countries were doing something very different. They were extending their education systems in the broader sense, to include training for vocation. I echo very warmly the speech made by the noble Lords, Lord Butterworth and Lord Annan, on that aspect of the subject.

We have drawn a line between compulsory education and optional training for vocation. What we have done is to make children go to school until they reach the statutory school leaving age and then turn them adrift on to the market to get what they can, ill-educated and quite ill-equipped to go into industry. These days, employers will not engage them. They cannot afford to train such young people at the money they demand. The assessment of value for work made by many school leavers today is the difference between what they can receive from social security and the wage they will be paid, less tax. To them, the difference represents the wage for the work done and it is not enough. That is how school leavers look at it. I have said before that we must get the tax structure well away from the kind of pay that young people can expect to receive when first starting work.

We are now under the pressure of another war. It is a trade war and a war of attrition. It is the war of survival for our economic and industrial strength, and so now we are looking at education again. Once more we have the revelations that we have had before in wartime; namely, social conditions that have worried us greatly, industrial inefficiency, lack of productivity, failure to produce rewards, and failure to produce excellence in style and in performance. We find ourselves lagging behind.

Under that stress of a peacetime trade war of attrition, which has shown how weak we are, we blame the recession. We can blame the Government—and many people blame the Government much more than they do the recession. Whatever we do we cannot escape the fact that, on all the evidence available, our productivity is below the standard of our industrial competitors and we are not producing the quality of goods at a price that is competitive in world markets.

To meet that situation we have created, not as part of the education system but separate from it, youth training opportunities under the centralised control of the Manpower Services Commission and a Minister who is not the Minister of Education and who is not accountable in that sense. If I may say so with great respect to the noble Earl, I should have liked to see the noble Lord, Lord Young, replying to this debate. Really and truly, the foundations of education that we are talking about now are the base upon which we must build our capacity for industrial improvement and efficiency. We ought to know more about the future of that scheme. Is it a temporary scheme that has been devised to meet the immediate situation, or does it have some long-term basis? Or are we to run the education system in one compartment and the training scheme in another compartment? I more than agree—indeed, I fully agree—with the noble Lord, Lord Annan, if he is saying that all young people up to the age of 18 should remain within the care and attention of our education system in its broader sense.

Otherwise we shall be giving those who are more gifted the opportunity of moving up into higher education, to polytechnics and to universities, where they may take their place in the wider and more rewarding opportunities of life, while we push the semi-literates out of all systems, pay them social security and leave them to it. We shall have more of them, obviously, with all our ethnic problems at the present time. It will be very difficult to avoid the spread of semi-literacy at their level, and we may as well face that fact.

I hope that the new YTS is not meant just to remove some of the social and economic worries of the moment. The scheme should be looked at as an innovation that can be absorbed into a broader and wider education system. Let those who want to do actual work do it within the education system. Let those who have an aptitude for special branches of learning or activity pursue it within the education system. Certainly I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Butterworth, about greater flexibility in the curriculum.

Let us get rid of the obsession with keeping the Secretary of State out of any influence or control over the curriculum. The other week I supported the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, in his amendment. We got only 26 people into the Lobby. I was asked outside the Lobby, "Don't you realise that you are going against the tradition of 150 years?". Somebody else asked me, "Don't you realise that you are going dead against Labour Party policy?". To hell with it! It seems to me that if one has a new and rational approach to a fresh situation, then one should not be tied down to 150 years of tradition.

Politicians are naturally far too cautious at the present time to say what they really think about the future of this country. You may meet an optimist in private. I should like to meet one in private. One hears them in public, but it is now dawning on people generally that the world is no easy place for us in Britain to maintain our standard of living and culture. We may lose that place. It would then be a very difficult Britain, both politically and socially, in which to find ourselves educating for still more decline. Our performance in industry has shown that there is much to be desired.

I sincerely hope that this debate will produce, as it has already done, much food for thought. There is a debate to take place across the boundaries of politics in this country. The trouble with the great debate that was started by Mr. Callaghan was that it was never finished. We waited for a big bang but it did not go off. All that has happened is that it has gone to the Stock Exchange. We do not have reform in the education system because nobody wanted to take it up, because of the implications that it carried with it. It is the same today. We are against change educationally. Much of what I have been saying will upset the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, but I cannot help that. I am sorry for him. When I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Butterworth, speaking as he does from experience, not only am I presumptuous but also I believe that he is absolutely right.

I have received many tributes for the Houghton Report, of which I was very proud at the time. I have been disappointed that much within that report has not been taken up on both sides of education, to bring the whole system to a higher level of efficiency and contentment. It was not enough for teachers to name their new washing machines and their refrigerators alter me in 1974. I want a better tribute for having written that report.

5.48 p.m.

My Lords, I should first like to echo with a loud "Hear, hear!" every word that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has just spoken. Then I should like to go on to add my congratulations to those that have already been expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, on his admirable maiden speech.

When I saw the terms of the Motion that were originally upon the Order Paper, I concluded with gloom and despondency that, first, it was a Motion of the kind that has become routine in another place; that it would in all likelihood be followed by the kind of arid, party political debate that would have few beneficial consequences and possibly do harm. In the event, instead of offering to the noble Baroness rather lukewarm thanks, as I would have done, I offer my very warm thanks to her, and my congratulations on a speech that must have been changed considerably from that which she originally intended to deliver. But that in no way tempers or diminishes the warmth of my thanks and congratulations.

I particularly welcomed what she said about my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for education. I have been in politics for some time. I do not think that I have met a man more sensitive, more concerned or more intelligent than he, and I was very pleased to hear the noble Baroness admitting that so generously.

Secondly, I should like to echo what she said about it being time that we turned our attention to the kind of system that we want, and then particularly to follow her appeal for an all-party approach to this most difficult and thorny of problems. If there is a wide response to that appeal—as I think there has been in your Lordships' House this afternoon—I believe that today might represent a turning point from which teachers particularly, who suffer from so much misunderstanding, might get great encouragement.

I do not want to be misunderstood—one often is—but I recall during all the years that I represented a constituency in another place being constantly surprised by the dedication and intelligence of teachers. It always came as something of a surprise because of the impression so often given by what I would describe as the mouthpieces of their profession.

I must express some regret that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, did not follow the plea of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for some kind of all-party approach. But I have been so much influenced by the approach of the noble Baroness that I have decided, in the interests of time, to leave out one half of my speech—the half that was sharp and controversial. Instead, there are three points that I should like to make particularly in conclusion.

First, that readiness which we in this country have developed to confront and accuse leaves problems not only unsolved but exacerbated and more intractable. Secondly, such attitudes may have become ineradicable in another place. If that is so, then I believe that it is the more important that we should avoid following that dismal track towards despair. I think that if we continue to supress those things which divide us and to highlight every grievance—and I believe that some of the BBC current affairs programmes do a great disservice to the country—then we shall find ourselves divided and querulous, and the high aims of which we speak will be seen as founded in mere conceit. We so often lack patience and determination and I think that all too frequently we saddle ourselves with short-term and expensive cures which hardly outlive the cheap and shiny wrappings in which they are presented. In thanking the noble Baroness, as I do, for her speech, I cannot think of a more eloquent tribute than to have cut my own speech in half.

5.55 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to speak on that part of the Motion which calls attention to the case for greater investment in education at all levels and in doing so to speak on higher education, particularly in universities. It may be appropriate to add that for the past 10 years I have been a pro-chancellor and chairman of the council of one of our smaller universities, and before that I was responsible for education and training in a large industrial undertaking.

The CBI in its response last January to the Government's Green Paper on the development of higher education into the 1990s said that the Green Paper gave the impression that it had been motivated primarily by the desire to achieve a reduction in the call that higher education made upon central government funding. It considered that increased efficiency in the management of higher education establishments was highly desirable but that to combine this with year on year reductions in funding in real terms for an indefinite period involved a serious risk of damaging the establishments themselves at a time when, by general consent, higher education had a crucial role to play in improving the country's economic performance.

The CBI considered this policy of cost reduction to be ill-judged, bearing in mind a number of factors: the much greater efforts being made by our most successful competitors abroad; the need for more science and technology places at a cost three or four times that of the places in the arts and social sciences; the increasing need for updating and upgrading courses and facilities and its belief that both the demand and the need for student places were being underestimated.

The CBI concluded that the current government policy and successive reductions in funding had seriously undermined morale and effectiveness in higher education establishments. In its view, the time had come to repair the damage and to return to a longer-term grant basis of funding set firmly in the context of a fresh, positive statement of policy towards higher education. It said that, in return for a commitment to level funding in real terms until 1995, the Government should require a commitment from higher education to pursue vigorously internal reform and reorganisation and to accept changes in the infrastructure under which it operated and in its relationship to the appropriate national and regional bodies.

I assure the House from first-hand knowledge, having those criteria in mind, that following the Jarratt Report vigorous steps have already been taken by universities to rationalise departmental and committee structures and management procedures and, indeed, to look for ways of changing for the better the overall framework of higher education. For my part, I readily accept that if there is to be level funding for universities and polytechnics those institutions must co-operate fully in helping to improve the country's economic performance. For example, the Select Committee of your Lordships' House which inquired two years ago into the education and training for new technologies recommended that more information technology courses should be made available. Along with other universities the one in which I have a stake is now responding to that demand, though more still needs to be done.

The Motion calls for attention to the case for greater investment in science. Not for the first time, however, I express the hope that in our very proper desire to encourage the scientific disciplines we do not allow the humanities to suffer unduly. I am more than ever convinced that an experience of higher education which leads to comprehension and two-way communication between the scientist and the non-scientist should be one of our most relevant aims for the 1990s.

Having said that, where does the country actually stand at this crucial point in the development of higher education in general and of universities in particular? The chairman of the University Grants Committee has made no secret of the fact that next month or the month after the committee will probably be writing to the Secretary of State for Education to say that if the Government's plans for the level of university funding are not changed the Secretary of State will have to choose between a number of unattractive options. One possible option which the UGC will have to consider listing is the phasing out of grant to a number of universities. Indeed, some time ago the committee said that there might be circumstances in which that would be the least damaging way of solving the problems facing the university system.

If the UGC did so recommend I am satisfied that, contrary to the impression conveyed by an article in The Times on 19th April last—which I can only describe with regret as irresponsible—the UGC would not go on to recommend which universities should have their grants phased out. That is because in its view (and I am sure it is right) considerations other than education ones would enter into such a choice. It would therefore be one which only government could make. It follows that in this matter it is the Government whom we should address directly. For my part, I wish simply to ask whether they are taking sufficient account of the political, economic, industrial and social effects of facing themselves with having to make decisions of this gravity at a time when the United Kingdom is making higher education available to a much smaller percentage of the population than many of its trading competitors.

The noble Lord, Lord Adrian, is not taking part in this debate, but in conclusion I should like to support in all humility the powerful plea to the Government made in his letter last week to The Times. The noble Lord wrote that the question which a skilful leadership should be asking is not whether but when to relax the squeeze on the tertiary sector of education in order to encourage the positive changes which are already taking place. He suggested that if any such relaxation were to come—and come, in his view it must if we were to avoid a reduction in what higher education could contribute to national manpower needs—it would produce better value for money if it came before rather than after the closing of institutions on grounds of immediate economy. I believe there is wisdom in that advice and I urge the Government to heed it.

6.5 p.m.

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Peyton I am extremely glad that the highly party political confrontation type of debate on education has not happened. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for introducing this debate in the way that she did. I agree that we need, perhaps more than any other country, a first-rate, modern education system. I listened very carefully to the speech of the noble Baroness and I listened carefully to the many fascinating speeches of other noble Lords on all sides of the House.

Like my noble friend Lord Peyton, I would warmly welcome some sort of all-party consideration of the subject of education. I think we need to do a great deal of collective thinking and I hope that all sides of the House agree with that. No one denies that there are many problems in education. They have been described by a number of noble Lords. Some of the most interesting were described by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, who speaks with such experience on the ground in schools, and some of the most disturbing were described by my noble friend Lady Cox. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, as ever, gave a most penetrating account of what is going on and what might go on.

I think the disappointing part of the debate has been a comparative lack of positive proposals. Most noble Lords clearly feel that the solution must to an extent be that more money is spent. I agree that we have to think of ways of getting more maths and science teachers, but they must be paid at a rate that they would be paid if in industry. The question is: how do we do that? If the noble Baroness is to respond to the debate in any detail, I would be grateful to know whether she feels that the Government should stand up to the unions and negotiate differential rates for teachers of shortage subjects so that such teachers could be paid comparatively more.

I should like to say a few words about finance, particularly for schools run by local authorities. I must say that I do not believe, from my experience, that the link between the level of spending and the quality of education delivered is as direct as some noble Lords appear to believe. My own council of Tayside—the only council in Scotland at present with overall Conservative control—is a medium-sized authority with a population of 400,000, 45 per cent. of whom live in the city of Dundee and include a high proportion of disadvantaged children. Tayside has consistently been among the three authorities which provide education at the lowest cost per pupil; yet it has also consistently had the best examination results in Scotland. Examinations are not everything, but they are an indication. Why is this so? It is because Tayside has consistently concentrated on staffing, on class sizes and on expecting the best from every pupil.

Toward the other end of the spectrum there is ILEA, which is among those authorities with the highest spending per pupil in the whole country, and yet the 16-plus examination results are 30 per cent. below the national average. I do not believe that the link between spending and quality is as close as some noble Lords may believe.

Secondly, what a local authority spends on education does not depend just on what it receives from central government and what it raises in rates. We must remind ourselves of this. It also depends on how the councillors allocate the money within their own council—what they decide to spend on social work, police, the fire service, propaganda, or witchcraft, if you like. They decide their priorities within certain statutory criteria and the amount that they allocate to education is their affair. So they have a responsibility in that matter; it is not only the concern of central government.

Thirdly, the effectiveness of education greatly depends on how money is spent within the budget of an individual education authority. Falling rolls mean empty school places and because the public is reluctant to see schools merged, moved or closed, local authorities are increasingly spending a disproportionate amount of their education budget on maintenance, heating, lighting and cleaning instead of on the heart of the educational process.

The Audit Commission has said in its report that there are now half a million surplus places in this country, but that to be cost-effective 1,000 schools should be closed within four years and this would release £200 million which could be spent on education. Are councillors from all parties facing up to that situation? I believe that they are not. I understand that in the Lothian region, where the Conservative Party is in power with Alliance Support, in fact Alliance councillors have not felt that they would support these mergers and they are going into the current election with no policy at all for the 40,000 extra school places. I do not want to introduce a discordant note, but I think one must be realistic about the real issues on the ground and we have to encourage our councillors to face them.

It seems to me that it is high time that rather than encouraging local authorities all the time to blame central government for their problems, we should be encouraging councillors to address themselves to the matters which are of great concern to the customers of education, who are the parents and the employers. If the customers are asked what they want, the answer comes back: well-trained and committed teachers, classes that are not too large, a curriculum and an examination system which motivates young people and equips them to live and work competently in the modern world. They want to see less politics in education, certainly; they want choice in the type of school which their children attend; and I believe that the vast majority want freedom to pay for education if they think it desirable. I suggest that noble Lords on all sides of the House would do well to address themselves above all to those issues.

We have to encourage the teaching profession to set about regaining the confidence of the public. We must encourage teachers, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, proposed, to commit themselves to a new, modern style contract which, as my noble friend Lord Butterworth pointed out, was the intention of the Houghton Report in the first place. The refreshing intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, reminded us all of the mood of that time. We have to encourage teachers to cease frustrating the many national initiatives that they know in their hearts to be important but which, for political reasons, they have been attempting to frustrate, such as the new examinations, the progress of the two-year YTS, and the Technical and Vocational Initiative in schools. In my own authority yet again this initiative has been postponed from Easter until the autumn because of the objections of the biggest teaching union. The involvement of private training organisations in competition with FE colleges is being frustrated by the teacher's unions. We must encourage the cessation of these things.

We have to examine with teachers ways of bringing schools closer to the customers, I believe that we have to learn from private schools which, as June Southworth pointed out in yesterday's Daily Mail, are not only increasingly preferred by parents but in many cases are better equipped and more cost-effective than the neighbouring state schools. Presumably there is something to be learned from that.

My noble friend Lord Butterworth has reminded us that the Government are giving a strong steer in changing opinion and in changing the way in which young people learn and what they learn. I hope that the outcome of your Lordship's debate will be that we can begin to encourage all-party support for the kind of direction in which the Government are leading us—critical, yes; trying to improve, yes; but not trying for our own partisan reasons, to keep frustrating those developments. That certainly is not what the people of this country intend.

6.18 p.m.

My Lords, when I announced to a group of my friends within the curtilege of this House that I intended to take part in this debate, one of them, a distinguished ex-teacher, ventured a remark to the effect that everybody thinks that he or she can contribute to a debate on education, whereas when there is a debate on the law or anything pertaining to lawyers generally only lawyers take part. I ventured to reply that if that were indeed so, it was regrettable and that lay people have a great deal to contribute to the law.

In exactly the same way I feel that education, and the educational system in particular, cannot simply be left to educationists and teachers. Like many of your Lordships, I am a product solely of state education. My wife is chairman of the governors of our local school, in which we take great pride. I have had two children who in the main have gone through state education and have been in the sixth form in the public school sector. I have many friends in education and I should like to say that regrettably I think there has been far too complacent a view expressed in your Lordships' House this evening about the condition of state education today.

My Lords, I think that the condition of our schools and the atmosphere within our schools today are a cause of the greatest concern to many parents. Most Members of this House can afford to send their children or grandchildren to public schools if they choose to do so; they can choose to contract out of the state system. But how many of us would today pay money to send children to schools in the state sector? That is the test. Yet that is the sector for which we are responsible.

A great deal has been said in the House this evening about the desirability of a cross-party approach to education, and I entirely agree. We can do no better than go back to the Butler Education Act of 1944. That great man represented much of what was best in our society. He was the figurehead for an all-party move to improve out of recognition state education in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, may be entirely correct in, as it were, his social analysis of the reasons that these crises in education come at the appropriate times, including 1944. But there was a great faith and idealism behind that Act. It was believed that if we spread education it would be a means of emancipation socially, economically and culturally. As I understand it, it was also intended that the best state schools would be of an excellence to compare with the best public schools. That was the motivation behind it, which was subscribed to by all parties.

There may be many reasons why 40 years on we have many regrets. Let me mention a few. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, was right. The exhortations of Mr. Wilson, as he then was, and Mr. Callaghan were not enough in themselves. They were not matched by deeds. I think that many of the comprehensive schools are far too big and impersonal. I think that raising the school-leaving age was a great mistake. The youngsters who did not want to stay in school should have been provided with vocational training. What has happened in so many schools is that they create many of the difficulties that face the teaching staff.

As your Lordships will agree, all that may be true, but only in the past few years have we seen a deliberate attempt to turn the clock back on Butler. There is an element of deliberation now. The Government have a perfectly legitimate right to look at our education system critically. We need high standards and cost-effectiveness in education in so far as that can be measured over a short period. Teachers should be expected to maintain a high standard and to go on refresher courses. Those who do not meet the right standards should have the same treatment meted out to them as is meted out in all other professions. They have no permanent right to stay on. All that I agree with.

I share the sentiments expressed about our present Secretary of State for Education. He is a man whom I came to know quite well when I was in another place and I greatly respect him as a person. I believe that he seeks to achieve desirable ends, but I regret to say that he often has no idea how to achieve them. Often he is remote from reality. The Government cannot be forgiven for the demoralisation of the teaching profession.

I also share the sentiment expressed here this evening that one union in particular, and it may be more than one, has been a reactionary force within the profession and has prevented many desirable changes. But anyone who has had contact with education knows that at present the best teachers are demoralised. A head-master whom I greatly respect said to me yesterday, "Of course one always expects the 10 or 15 per cent. at the bottom to be causing problems all the time and complaining, but now the 10 to 15 per cent. of dedicated teachers at the very top of the profession are demoralised". That is an inexcusable situation for a country to fall into.

For example, what attempt has been made to recruit some of our best talent into the profession? The answer is, none at all. They have been recruited into many other professions but not into the teaching profession. We have tended to take damaging shortcuts. We have heard a good deal today about the desirability of greater vocational training. I am entirely in favour of that. As I say, I believe that when the school-leaving age was raised we should have made adequate preparation for technical schools, technical training and so on on a totally different level. We should not try to encompass young people whose formal education they think, rightly or wrongly, has come to an end to be an embarrassment to schools.

We are taking damaging shortcuts. Some of the grants that should go to education are going through the Department of Trade and Industry; local education authorities have no control over it. The whole thing is becoming a mess. I cannot agree that vocational training should so get out of perspective that we do not appreciate the important balance that has to be achieved between education designed to develop a child as a person and an individual and training to meet the needs of the state for production. Of course there are economic effects of education, but they are subtle. We need to make sure that we bring up a civilised community as well as a well-trained one.

Many contributors to the debate have ignored the stark and immediate effects of government policy. Let me give an example from a school in my town. It is a post-war school, as nearly all the schools in Montgomeryshire are. It is well equipped. We live in an area that has one of the highest rainfalls in the country, but when the school was built it was not allowed to have pitched roofs because they would be too expansive. It had to have flat roofs, and they are all leaking away. If one goes into the school one sees buckets all over the place when it rains. The local education authority does not have the money to spend on repairs. The situation in that school and in schools all over the country is getting worse year by year. Nobody who owns a house would dream of not carrying out such repairs when they are needed. We all know that such things will cost twice as much next year and three times as much later; there will be dry rot, wet rot and every other rot that one can think of.

There is also the environmental deterioration of schools; the lack of paint and so on. For example, over half the parent-teacher association funds in our local school have gone to buy basic textbooks, whereas in former years such things as computers were purchased; and in the modern world those should be pretty basic anyway. We are reduced to that state of affairs.

I entirely applaud the GCSE scheme, which I believe will bring about a change. But it has been rushed through without proper funding. It is grossly underprovided for. There is a lack of training, of books and of preparation. That is going on all the time. Discipline in the schools is deteriorating. The strikes do not help, and the whole thing is a mess. It is time that we had all-party agreement on our determination to make the state system of education in this country first class once again.

The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, in an interesting speech said that money is not everything and we cannot put things right merely by money. I entirely agree. But he will recollect that when the police were in a state of demoralisation and disarray we had the Edmund-Davies Commission. The first suggestion was to restore the status of police officers, with better pay and conditions. We have done so. We also spend much more now on the armed forces. We had to improve their status and earnings. The noble Lord was hot in support of those measures. If he or any other noble Lord believes that we can restore confidence in the state system of education without devoting a great deal more money to it, he is making a great mistake.

Many things are wrong with our education system. I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, with the greatest interest. I am absolutely certain that we should take measures to put right the wrongs in the curriculum to which she referred. There are many things which money cannot provide. But surely we have reached a state of affairs by now when this House must realise that a great deal more of national resources must be devoted to state education where, after all, about 95 per cent. of our children will be educated.

6.30 p.m.

My Lords, before embarking upon what I wish to say, I want to assure the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that I agree entirely with everything he says. I think, indeed, that he must have read a little book that I wrote in 1969 entitled Towards a New Education Act. It advocated the policies that he has proposed.

I have the feeling that we have spent a good deal of time discussing the problems of the education service today. They are indeed very real. I wish to examine rather carefully the causes of these problems. They result from problems created much earlier. I start with the Education Act 1944 which was based on certain fundamental principles. The first of these was that the Act was an agreed political measure and that education would be freed from the influence of party political differences. The second was that educational opportunity should be entirely independent of place of birth or the economic status of the parents. The third was that full opportunity should be available throughout life, conditioned only by the age, ability and aptitude of the pupil or student. The fourth was that the financial system should be based on a structure of specific grants from central government to local government.

For 20 years, the principles were accepted and operated by all political parties. The Education Act was saved by Ellen Wilkinson when she got the age raised to 15. The foundation of the building programme—the envy of the world—was laid by George Tomlinson. Secondary education for all was made a reality by David Eccles. The expansion of further and technical education was made by David Eccles. The expansion of the universities was immense, perhaps too immense.

What has happened since? The first principle to be destroyed occurred with the abolition of specific grant in 1958 and the introduction of general grant. There was not too much worry for a year or two. But then local authorities began to realise that the money allocated by central government and intended for spending on education could be spent on other things if they so desired. I remember very well getting the then Secretary of State to include £8 million for the in-service training of teachers. I watched to see what happened. A sum of £2 million was spent on the in-service training of teachers. What the other £6 million was spent upon, I do not know.

The second principle to come under attack was freedom from party political dispute. This started at the Conservative Party conference in Scarborough when a resolution was passed committing the party to the organisation of secondary education on a tripartite system. Not unnaturally, the Labour Party promptly passed a resolution in favour of the comprehensive principle for the organisation of secondary education. So the party political dispute started. The demoralising effect was very great. I remember Sir Lionel Russell, the distinguished chief education officer for Birmingham, telling me, when he was 59, that he would be retiring as soon as possible at the end of the year. At that time nearly all chief officers continued until the age of 65. The experience that those officers provided during the last five years was very valuable. In response to my question asking why he was retiring, he said: "The answer is simple. I have prepared five reorganisation schemes in eight years. I have never been able to start any of them." By the time a scheme received the approval of the council, political control of the council had changed and he was told to put his scheme in the wastepaper basket and prepare another. That had happened five times within eight years in Birmingham.

Today, it will be difficult to find a chief education officer who continues for one day beyond the age of 60. That was the first demoralising effect. Indeed, the party political difficulty became so great that the Association of Education Committees, which I had the honour to serve for 30 years, and that, with the exception of London, had represented, through a single united voice, the education committee of every local education authority in England and Wales, found this unacceptable.

When local government reorganisation was going through in 1964 both parties struggled hard at local government level to obtain a requirement in law that the local authority must set up an education committee including co-opted members. They did not want to be required to set up an education committee at all. They lost. That requirement remains. However, they still found it necessary to get rid of the idea of a single voice for the education service. That was very simple. They refused to approve the minimal subscription that the education committee had to pay to the association. I remember asking the Secretary of State at that time the question, "Why?". His answer was simple and consisted of one sentence. It was,
"The association is not sufficiently party-politically committed".
In other words, that principle of the 1944 Act was as dead as a dodo. What happened was inevitable. There was no longer a single united voice. There were two voices. The Association of County Councils spoke with a Conservative voice. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities spoke with a Labour voice. So power passed to the Secretary of State. After all, when others are in disagreement, he must settle things. And he did. However, he ran into a little problem. The increase in central government expenditure was very considerable. It was moving very rapidly. Indeed, there was the danger of a need to increase income tax. This would have given the Government a very bad image. There was a simple answer—to transfer expenditure from central government to local government and to reduce the rate support grant. That reduction has gone from 60 per cent. to 49 per cent. The transfer amounts to £3,000 million a year. That put the Government in a very strong position. They could blame everything on the extravagance of local authorities, so much so that it was necessary to set limits beyond which they must not spend. That is the fundamental cause of the underfunding of the education service. There is underfunding. I do not dissent from the view that money is not the answer to all the problems in education; it never has been. But it is essential if the last principle of the 1944 Act is not to be destroyed—and indeed it has been—that educational opportunity should be independent of place of birth or the economic position of the parents.

That is the reason for the increased applications to independent schools. But even worse than that is the fact that in the maintained system it depends where a child is born. If he is born in an area where the parents are reasonably fortunate in terms of economics there will still be adequate provision of books, because the parents are contributing many thousands of pounds to the schools to secure the maintenance of reasonable standards of provision of books, stationery and equipment. However, in an area where parents are not in a sufficiently strong financial position they cannot make these contributions, and the provision of books, stationery and other equipment is less than adequate. Therefore educational opportunity is dependent on place of birth and the economic position of the parents.

I share the view of those who say that education is in a mess. It is, my Lords. I recall the words which introduced the Education Act 1944—a quotation from Disraeli—that on the future of the education service the future of the nation depends. That was true then; it is true now; and it will be true in the future. Looking at the state of education today, I am bound to say that I fear for the future of the nation. But I must not be wholly negative. What can we do? There are two things which in my opinion are fundamental. The first is to restore specific grant for the education service. The second is to stop making the education service the plaything of party politicians.

6.43 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, asked me to make his apologies for the fact that he is unable to be here at this time.

I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, on his maiden speech. I wonder whether I may say to him and to other noble Lords who have spoken on high academic attainment that in our schools high academic attainment is of course valuable and important and is needed by the nation. But I would also say that high academic attainment cannot be reached without supporting staff, administrative staff, cleaners and all those who make up an establishment. It is to these folk that I address my remarks.

I particularly confine my speech to the under-achievers in our schools, to the delinquents, the maladjusted children. I speak about the part which schools must inevitably play in dealing with their misdemeanours and problems.

First, I must pay tribute to the Department of Education and Science in that they have, in partnership with the Department of Health, shown interest and given evidence of their support by giving financial aid, for instance, to two boarding schools for maladjusted children. These schools are run by voluntary councils. They are the Caldecott Community in Kent; and Bessels Leigh in Oxfordshire. There are other such schools—Peper Harrow in Surrey, to mention only one. As a member of the councils of Caldecott and Bessels Leigh I know that these schools provide a structure of discipline, a sense of right values, a therapeutic environment, and a sound education. I pay tribute to the staff who work in them for their commitment, skill and idealism.

I use this debate—and for that reason I am deeply grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for providing the opportunity—to recommend to the Minister that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State should consider using a boarding school system to admit children whose behaviour betokens real problems, and particularly those excluded from school and the persistent non-school attenders. These children are not receiving an education. They are the children who provide very real difficulties in adult life. Well run, possibly by voluntary organisations, such schools run as a preventive measure could be cost-effective both to the social services and education departments and to the three Government departments concerned: the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the Home Office.

I am not one to want to remove children from their homes. The right place for a child is in his home. The right people to be responsible are the parents. The right place for the child to go is to his nearest school. As I think the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has already pointed out, research has shown that where there is good teaching, where children's interests are involved, where there is achievement, such children commit less offences than those in other schools. But, having said that, there are nevertheless some deeply disturbed children—perhaps they have been battered, perhaps subjected to sexual intervention, perhaps they have come from very difficult circumstances—and these children from all sectors of society need very special care. I maintain that they can only be given that care in a boarding school situation.

Under the Education Act 1944—well known to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill—parents whose children are recommended for boarding school must give their approval. What is more, they must be consulted. This gives the parents a sense of responsibility, a sense that they are being involved in decisions about their children, and a sense that the children are theirs. However, if children are left and finally brought before a court, and the court Orders their removal, I can assure your Lordships that the parents are not disposed to co-operate. They have had their responsibilities removed from them. They do not feel that they have a personal stake in the life and education of their children. When such children grow up they cost us a great deal of money and time if not properly dealt with.

In your Lordships' House a little while ago there was a debate on Grendon Prision. I used to speak at Grendon Prison and have group discussions with prisoners. They all felt that if they had had either a family or an education behind them some of them would not have been in Grendon Prison.

That brings me finally to the recommendation of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that there should be an all-party committee to look at education. I would hope that we would also look at the needs of our disturbed, difficult and delinquent children. They also have much to offer in all our establishments and in our society. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, has mentioned these children too. It is essential that we look at them right across the board. It is no good the Home Office alone looking at them, or the Department of Health and Social Security alone. They need to be thought about, and a strategy worked out for such children so that they can become really positive members of our establishments and our society.

6.51 p.m.

My Lords, I think it has been agreed on all sides of the House that my noble friend Lady Seear has done us a service in providing us with the opportunity for this debate, and not least in providing an occasion for my noble friend Lord Kirkwood to make his maiden speech, which he did with lucidity and authority.

Before proceeding further I must register our dismay on this side of the House at the immoderate personal attack made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, on Mrs Shirley Williams, who is not currently in Parliament nor able to defend herself in either House. The noble Lord condemned political rancour, and then proceeded to use it himself to a degree unprecedented in your Lordships" House. How on earth he could accuse Mrs Williams of denying the need for specialised institutions when she has been leading a campaign outside Parliament called Save British Science precisely aimed at preserving the excellence of British science, which she herself has called "the jewel in the crown", is beyond my comprehension.

When the noble Lord accuses the Alliance of "supporting socialist councillors in perpetrating hatred of excellence", he would do well to look at the actual objectives not only of the councillors concerned but also of many thousands of parents in seeking to close undersubscribed grammar schools in order to provide a really excellent and fully resourced 6th form serving a number of comprehensives. By no stretch of the imagination does that indicate hatred of excellence.

On the money point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, of course we do not believe that more money is the key to solving everything, but there are a number of areas in which the Government's own objectives cannot be achieved without it, and the noble Lord, Lord Annan, recognised this. My noble friend Lord Kirkwood said that resources were needed to attract good teachers, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London spoke of more financial Investment in the teaching profession. The noble Lord, Lord Perry, spoke of the hurdle presented by fees to mature students, and I shall come to other areas where, clearly, money is needed.

In a debate of this sort there are all sorts of things one can say about the Liberal view of higher education and education in general as a vital force in a civilised society, but I am not going to say any of them. I am going to stick to the Government's clearly utilitarian grounds and say outright that, even treating the education system as an adjunct of the economy, nothing more and nothing less, their plans are clearly inadequate. First, the supply of graduates will not be enough. In selecting revised variant Y for future student numbers of 492,000 as opposed to the present 565,000, no good reasons are given why demand should be lower. As the chairman of the UGC has pointed out in his letter to the Secretary of State of 21st November last year:
"this represents an inadequate and defeatist approach, given the Government's own policies in respect first of the schools and second of the national need for graduates".
It seems to me extraordinarily naïve to suppose that, just because there are fewer 18-year-olds, industry's demand for graduates to man the second industrial revolution will automatically fall too.

The age participation rate, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, is already lower at 14 per cent. than in any comparable industrial nation. Is it not folly to plan to keep it at about that level, which means in effect a lower absolute number of students, rather than to increase it as every single one of our major competitors is doing?

One cannot talk seriously about the demand for university and polytechnic places without talking about the schools by which they are fed. So I cannot refrain from again echoing the chairman of the UGC where he wonders:
"why the Government in the Green Paper should be so pessimistic about the chances of success of its own policies in relation to schools as to make no provision for this in its policies for higher education".
Possibly the Government have no faith in their own policies and, if so, would it not be a good idea to change them?

Both the TVEI and the GCSE have been referred to favourably, and I think that is correct. But more needs to be done to correct the deep-seated curricular faults in the secondary system to which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, referred. The Government wish to encourage science and engineering students as a stated policy aim. But owing to the uniquely early specialisation of English education the great majority of applicants for higher education have already written off their chances of following a course in engineering as a result of subject choices made at 16 and often at 14.

Only 5 per cent. of the total 18-year old age group achieves a maths A-level pass; and less than 4 per cent. in physics and other sciences. Unless there is a radical reform of the A-level system so that all candidates are required to study across the science/humanities divide, as happens in every other comparable education system and as we on these Benches have constantly advocated, the pool of potential candidates for science and engineering courses at the higher level will not increase. In this respect the Scottish educational system, with its higher certificates, is better balanced than the English or the Welsh. And, my God, they must be thanking their lucky stars north of the Border that they did not surrender their educational independence along with their political independence with the Act of Union of 1707.

Among the pressing reasons why the damaging teachers' strike must be settled—the most pressing being the disruption in the schools—is the need to attract able teachers into a currently demoralised profession, a point to which my noble friends Lord Ritchie and Lord Hooson referred. I am not saying that I support NUT intransigence or the indefensible series of guerrilla strikes in London. But I am saying that the anti state-education bias of the Government carries a considerable share of the blame for the present poisoned climate. As long as this lasts it will never be possible to attract able young maths and science teachers into the profession when they can immediately earn twice as much outside. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, gave us some telling figures directly from personal research done at his own university. There will thus not be enough school leavers of adequate achievement to meet the Government"s desired shift from the arts to the sciences in higher education.

There is also a problem over pay in universities. When civil servants get a 6 per cent. increase, how is it going to be possible to hold university grants increases to 2½ per cent., or 1 per cent. below projected inflation? I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he has seen the report by independent consultants commissioned by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and published last Friday, called Factors Affecting the Recruitment and Retention of Non-Clinical and Academic Staff. It contains come interesting findings.

For example, employers say that they will need 4 per cent. more graduates each year until 1990. That is not a need the Government are planning to meet. Universities lost 1,404 staff in 1984–85. In high technology subjects, replacements have been found only with difficulty. Of those who left, one in five went overseas and only one in 12 into British industry. I have been trying to get figures on the brain drain for some time without success, but here in this report is the confirmation of some of my worst fears.

Another thing that has to be realised is the drastic effect on the humanities that the switch policy is likely to have if adequate funds are not provided, and my noble friend Lord Rochester referred to this. This is because science students cost nearly twice as much as humanities students. A 10 per cent. increase in science requires a 20 per cent. cut in humanities, even if level funding were on offer, which it is not. And this at a time when the CBI say that we still need good generalist graduates. My noble friend Lady Seear referred to the need for people with skills in marketing, languages and communication.

Another important area where the outlook is grim is that of basic research. The budget for civil scientific research funded through the research councils is now falling in real terms, according to the advisory boards for research councils. France and West Germany are increasing theirs by 4 per cent. per annum. The Commons education committee recommended last year an annual increase of 3 per cent. in the science budget. We on these Benches have called for an immediate increase of £50 million, followed by a modest increase in the real rate of growth. And what are the Government going to do?

In this field I am not talking only about the pure sciences. I hope the Government will recognise the value of the work done by the smallest of the research councils, the Economic and Social Research Council, particularly with such schemes as the Open Door Scheme and the Teaching Company Scheme. I hope too that there is no question of these being put at risk. I should like to ask the noble Earl for reassurances on that point. Surely the CBI is right where it says in paragraph 1.7 of its response to the Green Paper that:
"there is a strong case for … level funding in real terms for the period up to 1995. This would provide a reliable basis for medium to long term planning within a framework of much tighter management methods and controls".
Later, in paragraph 3.14, it says:
"The United Kingdom must devote sufficient resources to enable a higher proportion of the total population to benefit from it (higher education) in the national interest".
On present policies we are looking at the closure of at least one and possibly more universities before the end of the decade. The University Grants Committee has made quite clear that this is the least damaging or the least worse way of absorbing a continuing decline in real terms of 2 per cent. per annum. It can of course be argued that there was an over-expansion in the Robbins era. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, has frequently argued in this House, though he did not this evening, that we had the balance wrong and that there should have been a tiered system with different institutions aiming at different things rather than new foundations aping old ones. I am sure there is a great deal in what he says. But no amount of tiering will make polytechnics any cheaper. They are already working pared down to the bone and so are the technological universities.

Also we are now entering a post-Robbins era in which we are fighting for industrial survival and in which universities are responding to new demands, including the demand for adult and continuing education and re-training for industry. We should not be closing them, but doing everything in our power to enable them to adapt to these demands. If one or more were to go it would not be the UGC that pointed the finger. It would be up to the Government to decide, as the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, said. It would be interesting to see where the ministerial finger pointed. One could hazard a guess that it would not be towards an institution in or near a marginal constituency. Of course we cannot expect the noble Earl to tell us this evening where the Government's finger will point. But I think we have the right to ask him to acknowledge that closures there will have to be if the Government continue on their present course.

Ultimately this whole debate boils down to the Government's attitude to the public education system in this country. One cannot simply dismiss the whole academic community as a minor and largely self-interested pressure group whose warnings can be safely disregarded. One cannot dismiss the misgivings of the business community. One certainly cannot dismiss the mounting anxiety of parents all over the country about school closures, school maintenance, books and equipment and thereafter about the diminishing chances of a place in higher education. Above all, one cannot, one must not, cast aside one's most powerful tool for reversing our relative economic decline vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Yet this, my Lords, I fear, is precisely what the Government are doing. It is a sorry record and I believe they will pay the price.

7.3 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure we are all in great debt to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for having instituted this extremely interesting debate. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, seemed rather to regret that having started with a Motion that promoted partisan rancour, as he put it, we had changed to something else. But he did his level best to bring us back to the grounds of partisan rancour; so he need not complain. We also join in our congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, on his very interesting and very well informed speech to which we all listened with great interest. We look forward to hearing from him again.

The Motion speaks of the need,
"for greater investment in education and science at all levels"
A number of us have been provided with a document from the Council for National Academic Awards which points out how the reduction in the funds available to it damages in many respects the work it has to do. It damages research, the opportunity of the students to learn; it damages its libraries and other forms of educational equipment. It has no doubt at all that if it is provided with less money, there will not be such a good article in the form of education.

Right at the other end of the age scale we have often had complaints from many parts of the country of the inability of the local authority, apparently, to provide the nursery schools to meet the demand that there is. In recent years we have been learning how being able to go to nursery school is of enormous help to a child in its future education. One cannot provide enough nursery schools unless one is prepared to pay for them.

At the intermediate stage in the age scale in ordinary schools we have a constant record all over the country of buildings in disrepair, of books shared one to three or one to four children, of books provided at the parents' expense and of all kinds of lack of sufficient funding.

The argument has been repeatedly put from the other side of the House by many noble Lords and noble Baronesses that there is not a direct 100 per cent. connection between the amount of money spent and the results achieved. Of course that is true; but nobody ever said there was. This approach has been the old trick of repudiating the argument that has not been advanced and imagining that one has then repudiated the argument that has been advanced.

But what we all say is that there is certainly a connection (and not a small one) between the amount of money one is prepared to spend on education and the results one will get. This was brought out very well by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, who caused me to strike out from my notes a particular section I had in mind when he pointed out that when the Government were dealing with the police or the armed forces they had not the smallest doubt that to get enough recruits they would have to pay properly for them. That is true of the police, it is true of the armed forces, and it is true of the teaching profession. Indeed, probably it is true of the human race.

It is therefore a fair criticism of this Government that they have not sufficiently funded the education system. As a result we now have a new kind of tripartite system of education. We are getting for the richest and most favoured the private system of education to which the Government now pay a certain subsidy in the assisted places scheme and in certain other ways. There are, secondly, the schools in the public sector in areas where parents are comparatively well off and can afford to pay for the things that the local authority and the Government ought to be paying for. And, finally, there are the schools in the less fortunate areas that are lacking and will remain lacking in the most elementary needs of education. That is what is coming out of our parsimony in dealing with the education system—a new kind of tripartite system.

I do no want to introduce a harsh partisan note into the proceedings. I say that because it appears to be by custom the thing to say before one makes a peculiarly partisan remark. I merely note that a number of noble Lords opposite have decided that since one really cannot defend the Government's record on what they are prepared to pay for education, one will attack the Inner London Education Authority instead. This gives one a good feel. Some truly horrific stories can be told and it may distract attention from the nationwide problem that we are really discussing. In answer to those remarks I say merely two things: first, that the criticisms they make do not chime with the report from the Department of Education and Science itself in 1984; and, secondly, that the electorate will have the opportunity of pronouncing on this matter tomorrow. This will be a very interesting opportunity because for the first time for a long time we shall have an authority that is dealing purely with education and which will be able to decide for itself what it will spend and what rate it will raise; and for that it will answer to the public. I think that this will commend itself to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, although whether we can meet his desire by creating authorities like that all over the country is another matter.

It will be a very interesting decision and we should notice this. Very often in giving their votes on local government matters the electorate are interested in national politics, and it reflects the general flow of political opinion. But when they are concerned with an authority which deals solely with education and with a matter which they know so well and are so interested in—the welfare of their own children—they are very likely to give what they think will be a vote in their children's interests. I will say no more. We shall await the results with interest.

If the Government were willing to be a bit more generous in regard to education, quite obviously one of the things to do would be to improve teacher salaries and so bring the present unhappiness to an end. They will have to do that, I think, with generosity both in the extent to which they do it and the manner in which they do it. They must try to regain the goodwill that has been so dreadfully thrown away during these last months. They have got to mend their fences with the teaching profession and with the local authorities. I do not believe that we shall be able to get anywhere unless the Government are prepared to do that.

There is one other way by which I think they could show their goodwill to the teaching profession. They could reconsider the question of the GCSE examination. I believe that the creation of the examination was a right step to take, but it is extremely unfortunate that now apparently it is being thrust upon the teaching profession without opportunities for proper preparation. It is a great pity that a good reform is being spoiled by recklessness and clumsiness in the handling of it. I believe that the Government should reconsider that.

If the Government were prepared to go that far, where could we go on from there? We are all tempted to make our contributions to the great debate on education. The particular subject to which I want to refer is the curriculum. I may remind my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby that I was one of those who went with him into the Lobby on his amendment on the powers of the Secretary of State because it always appeared to me to be odd that the one thing that the Secretary of State was not allowed in any circumstances to do was to express an opinion on what was actually taught in the schools.

I think that we ought to get away from that. I do not propose to make the Secretary of State a dictator, but it is a subject of legitimate interest to him. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, that certainly everybody up to the age of 18, if possible, ought to be continuing to learn his own language and how to use it well and to learn mathematics. Those are the two absolutely basic things. Then, in addition to that, what you learn will depend on your particular interests. It is the job of the country as a whole, the press, the government, all those who make public opinion, to see that people become more aware of creating an interest in science and in industry. It is perfectly true that those things have been neglected in the past. We have got to see how we can give them a more telling place in the curriculum.

I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, who referred to the Newman idea of a liberal education and how inadequate it was for our needs. But I must say that I myself have always interpreted the phrase "liberal education" in a rather different sense, to relate not so much to what was taught as to the spirit in which it was taught. In that sense I think you want education to be liberal so that the person who is receiving it is not being encouraged to think that he learns merely because it will help him make his living or because it will help to make the country prosperous but also because it is part of the whole adventure of mankind in the conquest of knowledge.

The scientific subjects can be taught in that spirit and the so-called liberal subjects can be taught in the very opposite spirit. There is a story, I hope apocryphal, but probably not, of a classically-trained headmaster who at the beginning of term addressed his sixth form in these words: "Boys, this term we are going to study together the great play of Socrates, the Oedipus Coloneus. It will be very good for you. It is a veritable storehouse of grammatical peculiarities". That is an example of a subject which we regard as liberal taught in a profoundly illiberal fashion.

As I say, you can have the reverse. You can have the severest scientific subjects—you can even have the workings of the Stock Exchange—taught in the manner that would show their connection, as I say, with the whole story of mankind. That is what we want education to be doing. But we shall not do it unless we solve the immediate, harsh problem of the plain fact that the Government are not providing enough money; and we hope that they will put that right.

7.17 p.m.

My Lords, this has been a debate during which concern about the nation's investment in education and science has been expressed from a variety of perspectives. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for introducing it and for introducing it in the way that she did. I shall attempt to answer some of the points which have been made and I hope that I may be permitted to begin by setting out some of the facts: first, some of the facts on expenditure.

Total expenditure on education and science in the United Kingdom has increased in real terms by over 5 per cent. since 1979–80 while pupil numbers in schools have been falling steadily. To hear some of the remarks that have been made about the cuts and the rundown of the education service, one would scarcely believe that; but those are facts. I can only think that the figure of 10·8 per cent. which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, quoted as a proportion of the total public expenditure which is spent on education is that which only applies to the Department of Education and Science programme. It is that which deals with science in the United Kingdom, universities in Great Britain and other education only in England. The true figure, which includes all expenditure on education and science in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is just over 12 per cent. of the total public expenditure.

It is not enough to consider simply the amount of money spent. As my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lady Carnegy of Lour pointed out, the value which we are receiving in return also counts. I shall therefore also speak of the measures which the Government are taking to ensure that the resources available are spent wisely and effectively. I shall start with school expenditure. Since this Government came to office, spending per pupil in primary and secondary schools in England has increased in real terms by 18 per cent., so that more is now being spent per pupil than ever before.

At the same time, average class sizes have fallen steadily and by January 1985 the Overall pupil-teacher ratio nationally was at its best ever level of 17·7 to 1. Furthermore, the Government" s expenditure plans for the present financial year provide for a further modest improvement in that ratio. The Government do not grudge these figures, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, says. We do not grudge them; we rejoice in them. Yet, despite the scope for real improvements implied by all the measures, as your Lordships have pointed out, problems remain. There are still schools where books are shared, where equipment is out of date; and there are still educational buildings in need of repairs. The cause is not hard to find. It is simply not enough to be spending record amounts of money on education if that money is not being spent in the right places on the right things. That must seem too obvious a fact to need restating yet it remains depressingly true that there are local authorities which are failing to take advantage of the scope which exists for savings; for example, through the removal of surplus school places as pupil numbers decline.

The result is that resources are spread too thin and the cracks show. That is why one of the Government's main concerns is to encourage the development of better resource management priorities within LEAs and their institutions. There is independent evidence of the need for better management. Her Majesty's inspectors have reported that more authorities need to develop effective managment policies to deal with the common problem of falling rolls and finite resources. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, quoted the HMI report. The part which particularly struck me was the HMI's finding that where schools were short of books and other consumables, this was far more often attributable to a failure of management at the school or departmental level than to a low level of capitation.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, seemed also to hint that there was some skulduggery over the date on which this report was going to be produced this year. I hope I am not being unfair—the noble Lord is scowling at me—but he said that as it had been produced by the end of May last year it ought to have been produced in early May this year so as to be available in time for the local elections tomorrow. He seemed to read some great sinister purpose in this: that it was going to come out with a most abusive attack.

My Lords, I am grateful. I did not actually use the word "skulduggery". I merely suggested that it would have been helpful in the debate, in the run-up to the local elections, if extra efforts had been made to see that the report was published so that the public could take it into account. If I may say a word in the issue of books, I do not doubt that there may be management detects, but does the noble Earl deny that the real expenditure on books since 1979 has declined by one-eighth?

My Lords, I never for a moment implied that the noble Lord used the word "skulduggery". I just said that he hinted at it; and, as is typical of the noble Lord, of course he did it in the most gentle of ways. I would just remind him in fact it was this Government who authorised the publication of the HMI reports, so we are quite prepared for the facts to be known and we are not trying to keep them hidden. As I understand it, the total expenditure on books has risen but some authorities have seen it as more appropriate to spend money on equipment rather than on books. But the total provision for books and equipment has risen.

The question of the general state of the school building stock has been with us for many years. I must say I enjoyed hearing the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, talking about flat roofs, because I remember my old days in the rather moist county of North Yorkshire and in those days it was not a question of cost but rather that the architects thought it was a smart thing to build a school with a wet, flat roof. My Lords, that was not even a slip of the tongue; I seem to remember a flat roof was a wet roof.

In a climate—an appropriate word in the circumstances—where services are competing for limited resources, we cannot move as fast as we should like to improve their condition. We know there is no easy short-term solution to this problem. Recently, due to falling rolls, the opportunity has arisen for the removal of surplus school places. This has enabled local authorities perhaps to rid themselves of some of the worst buildings, which is most welcome. We are also aware that local authorities are beginning to concentrate more on planned maintenance programmes rather than reacting to emergencies. This is a move which should achieve better value for money and which will lead to a steady improvement in the condition of the building stock.

Of course, better management alone will not accomplish everything. I do not deny that there are areas of education where more could be spent. The Government continue to declare their readiness to provide additional resources for teachers' salaries if a satisfactory agreement can be reached on teachers' duties and salary structure. I must say here that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, I believe, and another noble Lord referred to a comparison between the teachers, the police and the armed forces. I do not think it is a terribly good comparison because I cannot think of more disciplined bodies than the police and the armed forces, in so far as they know exactly what their duties are and what they have to carry out. Perhaps it is difficult to equate the two when there is nothing as yet written down about teachers' duties.

My Lords, I am afraid I cannot give way again. Your Lordships have all had your time and we are up against a time limit for the debate. The White Paper Better Schools acknowledged that it may not be possible to achieve in full the Government's policies for our schools within existing real terms provision. But more could be done if the best use were made of resources already available. A service which could point to its record on efficiency would be well placed to make its case for more. Some authorities have already shown the financial benefits of rigorous action to remove surplus school places, of reducing the subsidy to school meals and of achieving greater efficiency in catering and cleaning. All authorities need to review their policies in such areas and see what scope there is for them to do likewise. The scope for savings will vary, but there is substantial independent evidence of the national opportunities.

The Government's record is not limited to the school sector. In 1979 there were fewer students in higher education in Great Britain than there were in 1975. Also, the proportion of 18 and 19 year-olds entering higher education had fallen. Since this Government came to power, overall Student numbers have risen by almost 80,000. The participation rate of 18 and 19 year-olds has risen by about 15 per cent. over the same period, and the number of mature students is up by 12 per cent.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked me about future projections of student numbers. The Government are not committed to any one projection on this but the policy, as set out in last year's Green Paper on the development of higher education for the 1990s, is to make places available for all with the intellectual competence, maturity and motivation to benefit from higher education. To that end, the Government are committed to regular review of projections for student numbers prepared for planning purposes. New projections will be published in the summer, taking account of the most recent increases in student demands.

Within the overall total, the number of students on science and engineering courses has increased by 30 per cent. This change in the subject balance will help to meet industry's need for more graduates in science technology. There is, however, still a need to continue this shift in emphasis. To that end, the Government have provided £65 million, spread over four years, for the engineering and technology programme. This programme is designed to produce 5,000 additional places in higher education in relevant disciplines.

I hope this is good news for the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, whose maiden speech we all enjoyed so much. Perhaps I should warn him that I made my own maiden speech on the uncontroversial subject of education—and look where it has landed me! I would not wish that even on a Member from the other side of the House. The noble Lords, Lord Kirkwood and Lord Annan, asked about recruitment to training in specialised subjects. Recruitment to initial teacher training courses in 1985 was satisfactory for primary teacher training and broadly satisfactory for those secondary subject courses which have always recruited well in the past, but poor for courses concerned with scientific and technological aspects of the curriculum. Applications so far for courses beginning in 1986 also tell a disappointing story for those subjects. That is the very reason that the Government have launched a bursary scheme worth £1,200 a year on top of the normal student grant for all students entering one-year and two-year training courses in mathematics, physics or craft design technology.

This emphasis on science and technology does not mean that the Government regard arts and humanities as unimportant. I hope this will cheer up the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. Provision in these subjects has been maintained over the past six years. Rigorously taught, such courses develop analytical and critical skills of broad vocational relevance. They also help to transmit and enrich our cultural heritage and sense of civilisation.

It is a common misconception that public expenditure on higher education has been cut. This is just not the case. In 1985–86, £3·5 billion was spent in Great Britain on higher education. This is roughly the same, after allowing for Inflation, as expenditure in 1979–80. I will admit there have been reductions in some areas—for example, in the general funding of universities in real terms—but these have been balanced by increases in other areas such as spending in the public sector of further and higher education in England, where spending by local authorities has increased by 14 per cent. overall.

Given the substantial increase in student numbers, there has been a huge improvement in productivity and value for money. The Government recognise this achievement and commend it; but unfortunately some people see these achievements not as a cause for praise and congratulation but as an enormous cause for complaint. The press prefers to concentrate on cuts and forecasts of cuts. In the last month, we have seen a good deal about the national advisory body's proposals for a reduction of some 10,000 places in the public sector in England in 1987–88. The Government will not decide until the autumn how much should be allocated for spending by polytechnics and other public sector colleges in this year. Yet we have seen the NAB secretariat's proposals represented as Government inspired. My Lords, they are not.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, also mentioned that more recently still there has been speculation about university closures. It is generally known that the University Grants Committee is in the final stages of a major review of how the available money should be distributed among the institutions, However, as I understand it, the committee has yet to address the question of whether, in order to increase the funding of some universities, it would be desirable to phase out grants to others. It has certainly made no recommendation to that effect, let alone identified particular universities.

On funding generally, my right honourable friend has made it very clear that he is very willing to consider any systematic evidence of possible adverse effects resulting from the Government's expenditure plans. Such information would certainly be taken on board in the annual review of those plans.

I should like to end my remarks about expenditure by speaking about expenditure on science. I was delighted that one speaker in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, raised the subject, because I thought that I would waste my notes. Science expenditure in the United Kingdom has risen in real terms by 8 per cent. since 1979–80, though like all other countries we have to restrict our spending to what we can afford.

Nevertheless, total Government spending on scientific research distributed through the University Grants Committee and the science budget is about £1.2 billion a year. The science budget itself (£614 million in 1986–87) has increased slightly in real terms, measured against average Inflation. On the other hand, there has been an explosion of new possibilities on the reserach front; some of the science budget has to be used for increased superannuation liabilities and for international subscription exchange rate fluctuations; and the cost of advanced scientific equipment tends to run ahead of inflation. However, like other countries, we have to reconcile those increasing costs with a finite budget. In practice, this means increasing selectivity and rigoruous priorities. At the same time, the Government have made additional money available: £15 million through the science budget for carefully targeted distribution through the advisory board for the research councils and £34 million to re-equip a small number of university centres of research excellence to the very highest standards.

The Government receive advice each year from the ABRC on the level of funding required to maintain the science base. Their advice will continue to inform decisions on funding in future years. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked me for an undertaking about the Economic and Social Research Council. The Government certainly value the work of the smaller research councils and I can assure the noble Lord that the work of the ESRC is highly appreciated.

I should like now to turn to the other main issue: that of our schools. Looking first at the over level of provision which is made, as numbers in schools decline, local education authorities are increasingly faced with the need to review their schools and to consider whether changes are necessary in their areas. There are two main reasons for this. First, schools, whether primary or secondary, may otherwise fall below the size at which they are capable of providing a broad, balanced, relevant and differential curriculum, except at a disproportionate cost. Our White Paper Better Schools proposed principles for the minimum desirable size of schools of various types. The second reason for reorganisation is that retaining surplus places in the system is very expensive. After all, it costs as much to heat and maintain a half empty building, with or without a flat roof, as it does a full one, and absorbs resources which could be used elsewhere to the benefit of the service.

Local authorities have already made most encouraging progress in the removal of surplus school places: they are on target to remove 1,125,000 places by 1987. In the light of this performance new, more demanding targets for 1986–87 and later years have been discussed and are reflected in the Government's expenditure plans: these imply the removal of half the remaining surplus of primary and 60 per cent. of secondary places. The Government have in preparation revised and consolidated guidance to LEAs on the principles and procedures for reorganisation and hope shortly to consult on the terms of a new circular.

The initiative for making proposals rests with the local authority or, in the case of voluntary aided schools, with the governors. I can assure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London that the Secretary of State's duty under the Education Act 1980 is to consider each proposal on its individual merits, and not just as a cost saving exercise, taking account not only of the proposer's arguments but of any objections. In considering proposals my right honourable friend pays particular attention to the question of parental choice and to the preservation of a balance between church and county schools, though neither of these considerations can always prevail if the weight of argument lies in another direction. Meticulous consideration of complex proposals, with the need in many cases to receive deputations of those concerned, sometimes means that my right honourable friend takes some time to reach decisions. He is well conscious of the anxiety and inconvenience which may result from delay and is concerned to keep it to the minimum consistent with full, fair and careful consideration of the merits of each proposal.

The Government see parents as one of the vital ingredients in creating the better schools that we all want to see. Parents' natural and special interest in their children's progress does not stop at the school gate. Schools which fail to inspire and harness the support of parents are the poorer. I should think that schools which provide some of the types of "education" referred to by my noble friend Lady Cox do not deserve any parental support at all.

The need to increase parental choice and influence in their children's education has been tackled in a number of ways. The Government's 1980 Education Act substantially improved parental rights in the school admission process, so that a very high proportion of children now attend the schools their parents have actively chosen for them. All parents are entitled to express a preference as to the school they wish their children to attend. That preference is expressed in the light of detailed information about local schools required to be published under the Act.

The Act then operates on the presumption that these preferences will be met: they may be declined only where certain specified reliefs apply, mainly that agreeing to a preference would prejudice an efficient use of resources. For those parents aggrieved at not securing their first preference school, the 1980 Act also set up new appeal arrangements. About 10,000 parents a year take their admission preferences to appeal where between a third and a half of cases are decided in their favour. The cumulative effect of all these provisions is that well over 90 per cent. of pupils are educated in the schools chosen for them by their parents.

Parental choice of school is powerfully extended by the ability of parents to influence the way their children's schools develop as parts of local Provision. The 1980 Act made a start in developing governing bodies as a channel for this parental influence by introducing elected parent governors. This process is taken much further in the Education Bill currently before your Lordships' House which builds on the advances in the 1980 Act. I was delighted to find that even the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, managed to say that some of it was good, having done his best to say that nothing was good about education in the country at the moment.

As has been explored in our deliberations on the Bill, its intention is to complete the re-establishment of school governing bodies as the force for good in the life of individual schools and the communities they serve which was always intended under the 1944 Act but all too seldom realised. It does this by removing the scope local education authorities currently have to dominate governing bodies by appointing a majority of the governors. Instead, there will be a more balanced composition, with no one interest in the majority, but including a strengthened voice for parents.

At the same time, a new and uniform framework of responsibilities is proposed to ensure that these reformed governing bodies can play their distinctive part in running schools in partnership with the local education authorities and head teachers. In this way, the governing body will become the focus for that identity and sense of purpose which is the invariable hallmark of a successful school. Obviously, only a minority of parents can serve as governors and the Bill proposes new arrangements for all parents to have a greater say in their children's schools' operation through an annual meeting of parents convened by the governing body to discuss its annual report on the school.

We prefer to measure our aims and our achievements not in financial terms, but in terms of the real improvements that we seek in the quality of education. The Government have set out in their White Paper Better Schools a range of policies designed to improve standards and bring all schools up to the admirable level of the best of current provision. I should like to repeat that phrase—the admirable level of the best of current provision. I do so because some noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Annan, mentioned what good work was going on in some schools. While some of the criticisms made were justified, we must never forget that. These policies relate to the curriculum, to examinations, to teaching quality and to the practical management and government of the education service.

I have set out our record. On any objective measure it is a good one: spending per pupil up; overall pupil to teacher ratios down; class size down; participation in nursery education up; student numbers in higher education up. These measures, of course, reflect a national picture; national figures do not show local variations. I have emphasised the need for all local authorities to use resources well. The Government are underpinning this need in a modest way with their programme of education support grants, their specific grants for in-service training, which may come as good news to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and their specific funding of TVEI through the MSC. Most recently we have announced a proposal to use ESGs to direct £20 million towards the provision of books and equipment for the GCSE. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, will appreciate that. This will allow local authorities in England and Wales to fund a real increase in expenditure on these items.

As our record shows, the Government have been ready to spend money if it is needed and where the return which is achieved is worthwhile. Extra resources have been found for science, equipment in universities and other areas where it has been genuinely needed.

Education has many friends, not least here in your Lordships' House, as we have seen this afternoon. It has many friends in another place and in the country at large. But education must not expect its friends alone to make its case for more resources. It could be its own best advocate if it were to show that it is making the best use of what it has. I have identified the independent evidence which points to opportunities for greater efficiency in the service. That evidence is based on existing good practice and we applaud those who have achieved greater efficiency already. The Government now look to the service as a whole to make the same efforts in its own best interests.

7.42 p.m.

My Lords, it falls to me to thank all those who have taken part in what has been an interesting debate, with a number of extremely well-informed speeches based on a great deal of personal experience. Having said that, I am afraid that it is the last agreeable observation it falls to me to make.

I should like first to say how much I regret the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, saw fit to attack Mrs. Shirley Williams, who is not in this House or in another place and is in no position to reply. That was, in my view, quite uncalled for. I am also very sorry that, though from all sides of the House there was surely a strong feeling that all is far from well in education, the response we had from the Government was so totally complacent. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.