Committee (6th Day)
Relevant document: 15th Report form the Delegated Powers Committee, 13th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Debate on Amendment 83ZA resumed.
My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendment 107C tabled in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Willis. I want to add to what was said towards the end of the debate on Monday. I should say that I agree with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said. He is correct that technology is not an add-on, something it would be nice to have or that we ought to be looking at. Technology in education today is absolutely fundamental. Here I must declare a series of important interests. When I worked for the department for six years between 1997 and 2003, I became fascinated by the impact of new technology in education. On leaving the department, I became engaged with and subsequently joined the board of Promethean, a company producing interactive whiteboards. I still sit on that board. I am also chairman of Futurelab, which is an educational research charity. It is important to say that the reason I joined the board of Futurelab was to try and ensure that—
Perhaps I may intervene on the noble Lord for a second. Could I ask our expert in the corner whether the microphones are switched on because we cannot hear the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, awfully well? Perhaps I may also suggest that noble Lords make sure that their mobile phones are turned off because it is their phones which are causing that curious buzzing noise.
Thank you, Lord Chairman. I could go into detail about why I think this is so important, but perhaps I should go straight to something I read the other day which is absolutely factual. It concerns a teaching assistant and special needs teacher called Bev Evans at Pembroke Dock Community School in Wales. Bev Evans puts lesson plans up on the web using the TES Resources website. Over the past few years she has shared 276 teaching resources on the web with other teachers. As of last month, her work has been downloaded 1,345,330 times by 237,364 educators in 169 countries. Teachers save an average of 30 minutes per resource, the equivalent of 672,665 hours of teaching time, which is worth 431 teaching years. I cite that because it is a fantastic illustration of the way that technology has the ability to transform teaching and learning. These figures and indeed the whole concept would have been unimaginable a decade ago, so the role that technology now plays in education is fundamental.
To put it kindly, I am afraid that, at present, the White Paper is technology-light. I am concerned about that because the whole purpose is to start a serious conversation both at the department and with the Minister. We need the reassurance of knowing that this subject will not be like discussing the adaptation to or mitigation of climate change with someone who does not really accept that climate change is an important reality. This is a reality. The noble Lord, Lord Willis, sensibly cited the example of electricity. It is absolutely true to say that in the early part of the last century, the difference between the attainments of some children over others depended on whether there was electricity in their homes. That would allow them to do homework in the evenings, whereas those without electricity could not. Technology is as fundamental as that. That may sound like a large claim, but it is not an irrelevant one.
I am also puzzled because two weeks ago the Secretary of State, Mr Gove, made a really remarkable speech at the Royal Society. The second half of that absolutely nailed and eulogised the use of technology. He was completely clear as to how important the adequate but intelligent use of technology was to our competitiveness. He was very clear about the way technology is being used in other countries successfully and that we had to get our act together and make a success of it. He could not have been more crystal clear on that. Yet none of that speech is contained at the moment anywhere in the White Paper as I read it. It would be good for the Government, the country and, I suggest, the Minister if it were. The purpose of these two amendments is to try and ensure that that finds its way into the Bill and the Government prove for good and all that they are absolutely committed to technology within teaching and learning.
Before the Minister speaks, I unfortunately missed the last meeting of your Lordships’ Committee. I broadly support what is said here but would like, as someone who spends a lot of time using this sort of technology, to offer one or two caveats. First, I know of no other way of wasting more time than in getting on to the net. It is not merely ordinary time-wasting because it is addictive. I am keen for our young people to get involved in all this but we should not be naïve about it. When I come into your Lordships’ House, I am one of the early arrivals at 8.30. By 9.30 I am fed up to the teeth and immediately log-on. I start typing into my machine. Some two hours go by and I have looked at The Wasteland by TS Eliot—you can download it for free, which surprises me. I then begin to wonder if that is a better poem than The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. That is all good for young people except for the amount of time that it takes. Equally, one should not be naïve in assuming that they will do as I do and look for intellectual, aesthetic and scientific things. They will spend a lot of time mucking around. I am not saying a word against any of this being the right path to go down—quite the contrary. We really must go down this path but I wanted to add those words of caution.
The other words of caution already emerged in your Lordships’ earlier deliberations. For a lot of young people, we are talking about a great deal of money. As much as I support my noble friend’s Amendment 107C, it would cost quite a lot of money. Also, one should not forget how many homes still do not have computers. That was perfectly clear from the earlier discussion. It again troubled me a little that—I have forgotten where I read it now, but it was apropos of what is developing in California—increasingly if you do not submit your work via computer it ceases to be acceptable. Are we absolutely certain that we want to be completely committed to that path? I am quite certain that, were our successors to read my speech a generation from now, they would say, “Well, they really had some old fogies in those days, didn’t they?”. By then, it will just be the norm but we should just be a little cautious about the path to that norm. Nothing of what I have said should be interpreted as meaning anything other than support for technology in schools. As I say, the world wide web is a fantastic treasure trove of valuable things. We certainly want our young people to use it. I simply add the caveat that there is a little more to this than just saying what a wonderful thing that is.
First, I agree very much with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and with the powerful speech made by my noble friend Lord Willis on Monday, when we last discussed this before being rudely interrupted. My noble friend was absolutely right that the effective use of technology clearly supports good teaching and helps raise standards.
As he argues clearly, it is not an either/or between, for example, Shakespeare and technology. I have had that conversation with the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, before. He made the case powerfully to me that technology can bring Shakespeare within reach of people for whom the traditional way of books would be much harder; it can bring it to life in a way that the Arden set might not.
My noble friend was right to suggest on Monday that there has been too much emphasis on the technology itself, the kit, and the idea that we could transform teaching simply by spending money on computers or whiteboards. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, agrees with that. By the same token, I accept that there are far more exciting ways of learning than just by Latin primer.
One point that was not raised about technology is the fact that we have an extraordinarily successful market in educational technology in the UK. We are a leader, so there are strong commercial reasons why we should support it. We want to encourage sharing of evidence of effective practice in the use of technology and improved teacher skills in using it. My noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, have given me a useful nudge—I think that that is the word—or prod about the importance of that.
We are talking to a number of interested parties—school leaders, professional bodies, educational charities, industry, academics and other experts—about how the department should take forward its thinking about technology. Given the pace of change, we think it important to allow schools and teachers themselves, working with industry, to respond to the changes. We want to give teachers the freedom to choose how to use it to create lessons that engage their pupils and enable them to achieve their full potential. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, gave a powerful example of how that is happening. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and my noble friend talked on Monday about having a conversation with the department. I would certainly welcome such a conversation and invite both of them and any other noble Lords with an interest to help us develop our thinking.
Access to computers and the internet is an important point. Clearly, that can have benefits for the whole family. We know that many schools offer access to ICT before and after normal school hours to help pupils without access at home. Other schools are working with charities such as the e-Learning Foundation and the commercial sector to provide access. We want more of that.
On resources, the financial situation is obviously difficult. We seek to support disadvantaged pupils directly through the pupil premium. The premium enables schools to decide for themselves how best to spend additional resources to support disadvantaged pupils. On Monday, my noble friend gave the figures for the extent to which there is a disparity between rich and poor—unsurprisingly—of access to computers. The premium may well include providing computers and broadband connectivity if the schools think that that is the most effective approach for particular children in the circumstances that they face.
The Government certainly recognise the important role that technology can play in supporting education. We are considering that within government. I ask my noble friend Lord Willis—and, as I said, any other noble Lords who would be interested in such conversation—to help us with our thinking. I certainly accept the fundamental importance of the subject, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State set out in the recent speech to which the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, referred. On that basis, I ask my noble friend to withdraw the amendment.
I warmly thank the Minister for his thoughtful comments and for the way in which he wishes to tackle this issue and take it forward. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Peston and Lord Puttnam, for their support. I confess that the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, reminded me of St Bede, who wanted a book out of the Vatican library and set off walking from St Albans all the way to get it. You can imagine that when Caxton brought the printing press to Britain, people said, “It’s not the same as having to walk to Rome for it”. We have to be careful, and I take the comments that he made.
What excites me about the investigation—having been watching my wife recently, who has just found Google as well as most shopping sites—is the excitement of seeing children find new information and new ideas. That is what learning is about; it is not simply dealing with what you are taught but finding out information yourself. Experiments have been done in Africa where solar-powered computers have just been left for young children to explore them, and they have been able to access Google and information across the world without any further training. Youngsters today are hardwired into this technology, and to be able to use it is important.
I looked, as did the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, at the Secretary of State’s speech and was hugely encouraged by what he had to say. I mentioned in my earlier remarks that I do not believe that the Secretary of State is a Luddite. He sometimes hides his passion for technology under a bushel or behind volumes of Shakespeare but it is important to take it out. He talks about Du Sautoy, the Li Ka-Shing fellowship and Professor Khan’s work; these are remarkable initiatives to bring learning to millions of youngsters around the world. We need to be part of that, but you can do so only if you have good technology in school that is being used wisely and effectively and you have access to that at home as well. As the Government, local authorities and other statutory bodies move forward with delivering more and more on the internet—rightly, in my view—it is children who become the educators of the future. It is for that reason that I hope that this will be taken forward.
I thank the Minister for his comments. We will take up his offer of a meeting with him and his officials. With those assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 83ZA withdrawn.
Clause 20 : Requirement for schools to participate in international surveys
Amendment 83A not moved.
Clause 20 agreed.
Amendment 84 withdrawn.
Clause 21 agreed.
Schedule 7 agreed.
Clause 22 agreed.
85: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to assign point scores
(1) Ofqual shall, on request, assign a point score to each grade of a qualification that is taken at any independent school as part of their Key Stage 4 curriculum.
(2) The point scores so assigned shall bear an appropriate relationship to the scores assigned to GCSE qualifications.
(3) Ofqual may make an appropriate charge for this service.
(4) All qualifications to which such point scores have been assigned shall be recorded, in an appropriate fashion, in school performance tables.”
I move this amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Lucas, who I think is rowing for the Lords at the moment. As is quite clear from the wording, the amendment asks the Government to consider whether it is necessary for only qualifications that are accredited by Ofqual to be counted into the points score for individual schools. It is now not only independent schools but many others that offer the international baccalaureate, for example, and other professional and vocational qualifications may not be accredited by Ofqual but are accredited by other perfectly respectable and widely acknowledged bodies. As I understand it, Ofqual has within its remit only about 15 per cent of all qualifications; the other 85 per cent are variously accredited by other organisations, many of which, as I say, are themselves well accredited.
The purpose of my noble friend’s amendment is to ask the Government to consider whether they should collect data on all qualifications gained, assuming that they have proper provenance and whether or not they are within the empire of Ofqual. On his behalf, I beg to move.
My Lords, I rather support the amendment because, as my noble friend Lady Perry said, a large number of schools, not just in the state sector but in the independent sector, are considering innovation as regards examinations. A number of very grand independent schools can consider these and not worry about any point scoring that comes out in league tables throughout the country. However, many other schools cannot afford to take these initiatives in a way that they might wish to. This is a good idea. I am not certain what the minutiae of it could be, but I very much hope that the Minister will take away the point made by my noble friends Lord Lucas and Lady Perry and look at it carefully.
While we are on the subject of Ofqual, noble Lords will remember that huge difficulties were mentioned in the newspapers during the previous round of examinations which did not show some of the awarding bodies in a very good light. I understand that there were nine incidents overall. I am sure that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that Ofqual can impose two types of sanction on the awarding bodies—first, a rap over the knuckles, which may not be very effective; and, secondly, the nuclear option of striking them off the list, which may not be in any way suitable and could cause great difficulties. Therefore, will the Minister and his colleagues consider a third option that could involve a series of fines for various circumstances that would add seriously to the sanctions available to Ofqual? Perhaps some of the difficulties that arose last year and caused distress to pupils and schools will not arise in the future?
My Lords, I support the remarks that have just been made. Ofqual is in its early stages; it has set off on what is essentially a new path with new powers given on the Floor of this House, among other places. It is important that Ofqual has the powers and flexibility to maintain a reputation that will be essential if standards are to be properly observed in this country.
My Lords, very briefly, this is my maiden contribution to this consideration in Committee of the Bill. I am a former Minister, and perhaps I should formally declare that I am a fellow of City and Guilds, although I have no operational responsibilities there.
I also warm to this idea. There was a time—if noble Lords wish to look it up; as I recall, it was Section 24 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992—when it was in the hands of the Minister of the day, who happened to be me, to exercise a kind of nuclear option whereby everything that was not authorised could be extinguished. That is an extreme version and one that every year we fought off enacting. I am very glad that we did. The world is a much more protean place now. I happen recently to have had correspondence with the Minister’s colleagues in the department about some very sensible input by the French inspector general of education, which I had not expected to be made in quite the tones that it was. It certainly was not insular.
We should allow Ofqual, as a new institution, the maximum slack to pursue its interests and duties. There are concerns about the quality of the examination system, although I suspect—given the sheer industrial volume of what is processed through the system, including the number of entries and scripts—it is perhaps not surprising that mistakes are made from time to time. However, at least let us not ask Ofqual to confine its activities to a narrow schedule in presenting the achievements of schools and the options that it can take. My message to the Minister would be to keep as much flexibility as we reasonably can.
My Lords, this is also my maiden intervention in this Bill. I support the final comments that were made, for two reasons. First, I declare an interest: I work with and support EAL, a bespoke awarding body. Its view is that the extremes that are currently available are really quite worrying. Secondly, and importantly for it, if we do not have those opportunities to bring to a halt and remedy the situation, it does no good for those awarding bodies that try very hard to make sure that they work very well. For those reasons, I support those comments. Perhaps the Minister will think about whether there is something in between, but certainly something detrimental should happen if things are not working out well.
My Lords, on the core point of this amendment, we certainly want to create a system that encourages all schools to offer high quality qualifications and gives pupils and parents the clearest possible information. To achieve this, first, we are committed to giving everyone access to the underlying data on all the qualifications taken in schools, in both the independent and state sectors. We plan to publish all the information the department holds on schools in a single place in a way that is accessible to everyone. We have made some steps already in opening up information on qualifications and we intend to do more. This puts parents in a stronger position to judge whether a school is meeting their child’s needs.
However, qualifications reported in performance tables should first be accredited by Ofqual in order to secure standards. Ofqual’s scrutiny provides a safeguard that qualifications are rigorous and challenging. It is open to all the qualification-awarding organisations to present the qualifications that they offer for accreditation. The majority of qualifications taken in the independent sector and all qualifications taken in the state sector are accredited.
In recent years, school performance tables have shown schools’ performances based on a system of equivalencies, which have ascribed a points value to a wide range of qualifications, and presented information about schools’ performance based on those points. However, sometimes that approach serves to conceal more information than it reveals, and it treats very different qualifications as if they are the same. Both may be excellent, valuable qualifications in their own right but they are not necessarily the same.
We want to try to give parents detailed and specific information about qualifications and not lump it all together. It is also the case that the current system of equivalencies has created some perverse incentives for schools to offer courses that score highly in performance tables but are not necessarily in the best interests of the children concerned. That is why we have accepted Professor Wolf’s recommendation that we should replace the existing performance table measures based on equivalence points and try to introduce more sophisticated criteria for deciding which qualifications should count in performance tables in future.
My noble friend Lord Lucas is extremely experienced in slicing and dicing data and I would welcome the chance for him to come in and talk to officials about whether there are ways that we can benefit from his experience and put it to the most effective use.
My noble friend Lord Lingfield raised the possibility of Ofqual taking a more nuanced approach, with a range of sanctions rather than the current, as he described it, rap over the knuckle or the nuclear option, and that perhaps it would be sensible to have something more graduated, maybe with some kind of fine. It is clear from the comments that have been made that the Government ought to think about that and reflect on it, to see whether it could be made to work in a sensible way, and to give Ofqual this kind of power as it develops. I am very happy to take those suggestions away and see whether that is something we can do and come back to at a later date.
With that and with the earlier points on the performance, I hope my noble friend feels able to withdraw her amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply and the detail that he offered. I am particularly pleased that he is prepared to consider the possibility of Ofqual not being the only arbiter of whether a qualification is acceptable. Perhaps I should have said in introducing my noble friend’s amendment that there are many good examples, in both state and independent schools who work closely with their local industry, of vocational or professional qualifications given by, for example, some of the large worldwide computer companies and so on. I would suggest that those have a rather greater standing internationally than that of simply Ofqual. It is an inhibitor on those kinds of relationships between local industries and schools if the qualifications that could form part of the collaboration are not recognised in the school’s league tables. I am sure that my noble friend will wish to take this further and I would be happy to join in those discussions. In the meanwhile, I will withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 85 withdrawn.
Clause 23 agreed.
Clause 24 : Abolition of the QCDA: consequential amendments
85A: Clause 24, page 27, line 2, at beginning insert “Subject to subsection (4),”
Amendment 85A and Amendment 86B, in my name and that of my noble friend, relate to Clause 24. Among other things, the clause transfers some of the functions of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency to the Secretary of State—principally, those functions to do with the approval of attainment targets and the development of the national curriculum and supporting materials. Having already debated the demise of a number of non-departmental public bodies and outside agencies in the course of the Bill, noble Lords may think that, among the many important issues concerning us, it is not a priority to take up this issue with the Government. This is not simply about saving another quango. It is important to understand what the process will be for changing the national curriculum if the QCDA or some other similar, independent body does not exist—as will be the case if Clause 24 is approved unamended.
The argument deployed in the other place in support of the abolition of the QCDA was that, to quote Nick Gibb,
“responsibility for the curriculum has always rested with the Secretary of State, both under the previous Administration and this, and nothing is changing as far as that is concerned. The QCDA simply acted on behalf of Government in advising and helping to design the curriculum and, as such, no functions are transferring from the QCDA to the Department”.—[Official Report, Commons, Public Bill Committee, 24/3/11; col. 642.]
This is a partial and one-sided claim. Most importantly, it fails to acknowledge the very important element of independence and transparency, if not to the final decision which the Secretary of State of the day will take but to the process of review, and of recommendation and advice to the Secretary of State that ought in my view to precede any changes to the curriculum. There has in fact been an unbroken history of statutory advisory bodies on such matters since the Board of Education Act 1899. The first specific statutory NDPB to advise on the curriculum and assessment was established under the Education Reform Act 1988. Since then, this role has been continued by one such body or another—and for good reasons.
In 1988, in the debate on the establishment of that first statutory non-departmental body, one of the most respected educationists of the 20th century, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, drew an analogy with the role of the national curriculum in Germany in 1935 in establishing Nazism. This may be an overly dramatic analogy for the House of Lords in 2011, but the independence of advice on curriculum and assessment has always been an important point of principle for this House in its debates. Current Ministers are prepared to change or influence the curriculum without the transparency of that independent advice or evidence. For example, noble Lords may be aware of the systematic change that has occurred in the guidance to primary schools, in which every reference in the text to “phonics”, introduced by the previous Government, has, without discussion, been changed to “synthetic phonics”. Also, the Government’s unilateral introduction of the prescriptive EBacc shows unusual levels of willingness to interfere.
This clause opens the door to any future Secretary of State directly to change the national curriculum in a way that is either politically motivated or, more likely, implements the pet theories or hobby horses of Ministers. Again, there is concern that we are already beginning to witness that, with views being expressed that, for example, history should be about the rote learning of Kings and Queens and their dates, and in the view of the current Minister for Schools that education should principally be about core knowledge—and core knowledge as he defines it. I am not saying that those are not valid views—they may indeed be valid—but they are contested by a wide range of views in the profession. That contest and debate about what is important ought to be transparent during any process of review.
Amendments 85A and 85B would try to ensure that the Secretary of State must demonstrate that the process of review of the national curriculum is independent of government. That would provide assurance to parents and pupils about the content of the curriculum. Amendment 86 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who cannot be here today, would require an advisory board to ensure some independence. In their amendment, they are trying to reach the same point.
The department issued a statement which, I suspect, was meant to allay our fears, but it compounds them. Although the Secretary of State of the day will make the final decisions about the national curriculum, what matters is the process of consultation and review—its comprehensiveness, impartiality, scope, transparency, the independence of the analysis of the responses, and the recommendations then made to the Secretary of State, who may or may not accept them. Unless the process of reviewing consultation is independently conducted so that people can be assured that it is comprehensive and takes into account all the views, and that someone independent of government is trying to make sense of it to formulate an analysis and recommendation, then following the demise of the QCA with no other body taking its place, all that I have mentioned would be under the control of the Secretary of State and civil servants. They would decide who to consult, which evidence was reported publicly and the conclusions to be drawn—and all potentially supporting the decisions that the Secretary of State originally wanted to make.
I contend that that cannot be right. Whether it is the QCDA or another body, surely an independent body must be in charge of the process of consultation. The results will then rightly be handed to the Secretary of State of the day, who will make the decision and be accountable for them. It is important that everyone—all of us and the parents and public— can see the basis on which those important decisions are made.
I will draw another analogy. It occurred to me whether we would ever think about doing this as regards health. I wonder whether, if there were a review of the best and most effective treatments for cancer, we would contemplate giving the whole process to the Secretary of State and to officials in the department, rather than to a representative body of professionals and others to form an independent evaluation of the efficacy of treatments and make recommendations to the Secretary of State. We so easily seem to slip into the assumption that with education we can do things that we would not dream of doing with other professional bodies. This point has been raised before. I ask the Minister to comment in his summing up on the points I have made, but also to explain how the Government can justify this degree of control over this process by an elected politician. I beg to move Amendment 85A.
I have been asked by my noble friend Lady Walmsley to speak in support of Amendment 86, which is in her name and that of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. By laying this amendment, we wish to reiterate the importance of the Secretary of State having the benefit of independent advice on changes in the national curriculum. This picks up the points which have just been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley is very grateful indeed to the Bill team who have briefed her about the processes taking place, and above all about the transparency that currently exists between the Secretary of State and the QCDA, and the fact that these will remain under the new proposals. However, the note that the team provided says:
“Following the passage of the Education Bill, the Secretary of State will remain responsible for making proposals to change the national curriculum and will still be able to ask another body to advise him if he wishes to do so”.
It is the phrase “if he wishes to do so” that bothers us from the Liberal Democrat stance. We would like to ensure that the Secretary of State always takes advice from experts on these matters. As we heard last Monday, the curriculum is vital, and other countries are not as fixated as we are on what exactly is taught. The high level of prescription in this country goes somewhat counter to the claims that teachers are trusted as professionals. In other countries, the design of the curriculum is very different from the one that seems to be emerging in this country when we look at the remit for the expert panel which are to advise the Secretary of State.
In Singapore, for example, core values are emphasised. These are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, and responsible decision-taking. One cannot imagine all of this being delivered without the compulsory teaching of life skills, and indeed if we look in detail, this is exactly what we find: at the core are things like health education, PSHE, citizenship, global awareness and physical education. Surrounding these are knowledge skills—which include languages—maths and science, and, lastly, humanities and the arts.
In New Zealand, the key competencies are critical thinking and problem solving, using languages, symbols and texts, managing self and relating to others. In Australia, there are three core interrelated strands which include heath and physical education, personal and interpersonal development and citizenship interwoven with subject knowledge and cross-curricular skills. Indeed, thinking processes are included in nearly all these curriculums, and these are three very successful education systems which I think we can learn from.
However, none of these issues seems to emerge in the remit for the expert review panel; it mainly talks about knowledge and facts. We would like to know how the panel’s remit has been arrived at. The note from the Bill team says that the remit is always very important, and we can well believe that. But looking at it, we rather doubt whether what comes out will be anything like the curriculum of those very successful countries. This is one reason why this particular amendment has been put forward.
My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lady Hughes and to echo the words of my old friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I suppose I reveal every time I speak in your Lordships’ Committee what a dinosaur I am, but deep down, I do not believe there should be a national curriculum. Equally, I do not believe in banging my head against a wall, when I will be on the losing side. I believe in education, and I have great difficulty in seeing any connection between education and a national curriculum.
I was prompted to think about that when my noble friend Lady Hughes mentioned that the Secretary of State is keen for all children to learn the dates of the monarchs of our country. We just debated an amendment on technology and all that. To prove that my Alzheimer's is not as bad as it is, I start with Her Majesty the Queen and work back to as many Kings and Queens as I can think of, but for the life of me, these days, I cannot remember the dates at all. I cannot think of any reason why that is a problem for me, because I go to Google, I type in William IV and Mary, and up come their dates.
My Alzheimer's is worse than I thought it was. The Secretary of State must be aware of that technology. Other things are in the national curriculum that, when I was at school, I found inimical to education. Geography was the most extreme example. We were made to do geography. I was not persuaded then and I am not persuaded now that geography should be part of anybody's education. If I want to know where somewhere is, again, I go to my computer. These days, I have to type in the name of countries that did not exist in my day, but I can find out where they are.
I believe that education is about finding things out and appreciating them—all that my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said. If we all reflect on what was the best part of our education and schooling, it was things that were not merely part of the curriculum but, in my case, not something I was ever examined on. I was in the economic sixth at Hackney Downs School and the headmaster decided that economics was clearly not part of education. He told the English master to see the five of us who had taken that option in the sixth form. The English master, Mr Brierley, who was the great discoverer of Harold Pinter, introduced us to things that we had never heard of, one of which has become a total obsession of mine—philosophy.
To return to my earlier remarks, I have wasted more time reading about analytical philosophy than I care to remember, but that was part of my education. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten me, but I do not believe that those responsible for our national curriculum have ever said that rational argument and logical reasoning are what education should be about. All that tells me that the last people—having worked at the Department of Education as its first ever special adviser, I include in my admonitions officials as well as the Minister—who should be deciding these things once and for all are Ministers and their officials. We need outside comment.
I partly address my next remark to my noble friend Lady Hughes. The one thing that gives me hope is that, although I entirely support her amendment, the department should know that many of the rest of us still have our views. Therefore, if something comes up that we think is totally crackers, the department will still hear from us on this subject, whether we are officially consulted or not.
I shall take us back to the amendment. I do not have any great love for the QCDA. It was not a perfect organisation; in fact, none of these organisations is perfect. The Government’s aim in terms of the drift of the Academies Bill is that by the end of this Parliament every secondary school will be an academy. That is the reality. One of the powers of an academy is that they are able to have control over their curriculum. Will the Minister give an assurance relating to schools that become academies and this small core of national curriculum subjects? Where will they get their guidance from regarding decisions on the appropriateness of those subjects? That is an important consideration and an important function that the QCDA had.
My Lords, I am also one of those who think it pretty important that the curriculum is seen to be independent of Government. I am thinking about the future of what is planned. It is said that the QCDA may well not have been the most successful of bodies, but it did a pretty adequate job nevertheless. We do not have any clear idea where it is going, but one is told and one hopes that some of the bodies will be transferred to other organisations. If the advisory body that will be giving advice to the Government as and when required—this is important—it should be much more available on an independent basis to the emerging range of academies. There will be a need for good independent advice. I am inclined to support all these amendments, but will bear in mind what the Minister says in his reply about plans that will be seen to be more satisfactory to the Committee.
My Lords, I am happy to reassure my noble friend Lord Peston that philosophy occasionally plays a part in schools. I could take him to a couple of primary schools not six miles from here where it is argued by the head teachers that it improves behaviour in the playground. However, that is a separate matter.
On the amendments before us, it is important that we get this matter right one way or the other. I do not accept the connection to 1935, and nor does my noble colleague who proposed the amendment, but if you look at the argument and the tussle going on in Scotland at the moment over the history curriculum then you will pause and have thoughts about where decisions are finally made and on what basis. There is an issue here.
Two things are clear. First, in the end the Secretary of State has the responsibility to make the decision. That is the current decision and I rest content with that. Secondly, though, the Secretary of State, however clever, will need advice. That advice is of great interest to Members here and elsewhere. I would not propose going backwards and effectively reconstituting the QCDA. We have been there and done that, and there were problems; let us think new thoughts. My own inclination as a time-served academic is that when the Secretary of State publishes changes to the curriculum, he or she publishes, as a good academic would, a series of footnotes and references to the advice sought, who gave it, to whom it was given, what the advice was and whether it was well evidenced. That would give me much greater confidence than setting up a board.
There is no final expert opinion on what should be in a curriculum. The risk for the QCDA and any successor would be an assumption that there was a right answer. There is not; there are nuances and leanings in different directions. In the end, that should be a matter for the Secretary of State to take a view on, but we need to know what the advice was so that we can protest if necessary.
My Lords, I agree that philosophy is very helpful to young children. It helps them understand who they are and how they fit into this great big world. I hope the Minister can assure us that when we take advice about what should be in the curriculum, there will be representation of our diverse society in the approach that it takes. I believe that will go a long way to helping people from diverse backgrounds understand who they are and how they fit into our society.
My Lords, in abolishing the QCDA we are not seeking to give the Secretary of State greater control over the curriculum, nor do we wish to reduce the external expertise that can be brought to bear on qualifications or curriculum policy. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, and others have acknowledged, the formal accountability to Parliament for the curriculum, qualifications and national curriculum assessment will remain as it is now, with Ministers. I note that no one has fought for the QCDA to be maintained in its current form. By removing it, we will bring the delivery of those essential functions, which are continuing, back into the department. This will improve clarity and transparency, simplify the system and save money.
As has been pointed out, under the existing legislation, the Secretary of State already makes decisions in respect of the national curriculum. What will change is that the Secretary of State will become directly responsible for taking forward the statutory consultation process whenever the national curriculum needs to be amended. In future, the Secretary of State will have to have more direct responsibility than has arguably been the case previously, for changes to the curriculum, for justifying how the decisions to make those changes have been arrived at, and their implications.
I hope I can give some reassurance to noble Lords on the issue that I think lies at the heart of this. Consultation on changes to the national curriculum will continue to be a requirement. The Secretary of State will have to conduct a formal consultation with interested parties, including local authorities, schools, teachers and others—the kind of people that my noble friend Lady Benjamin mentions. The precise groups with which he will need to consult are, as now: associations of local authorities, bodies representing the interests of governing bodies, organisations representing school teachers and other persons with an interest in the proposals, which is a fairly broad group. Everyone would have to have a reasonable opportunity to make representations, there would have to be a consultation, and the Cabinet Office advice, as now, is that that should be for at least 12 weeks. After the consultation has ended, the Secretary of State has to consider the responses and must publish a summary of the views expressed—which relates to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood. The summary published by the Secretary of State will deliver the degree of openness and transparency for which noble Lords have argued. Then, as now, final decisions would remain with the Secretary of State.
The Government are certainly committed to ensuring that everyone with an interest in the national curriculum is given an opportunity to offer their views. The current review of the national curriculum, launched in January, is being conducted in an open manner and we are looking for views from a wide range of interested parties. Once we have published our proposals for a new national curriculum early next year there will be further wide-scale public consultation before final decisions are made.
My noble friend Lady Sharp asked about international evidence. The expert panel to the current curriculum review is looking at the curricula used in the most successful education jurisdictions, including Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, but if I can find more detail I will send that to her. My noble friend Lord Willis asked about academies. As he knows, academies are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and we think that that has been successful to date. Although they will not be required to teach the national curriculum, we hope that by slimming it down and making it less prescriptive academies will want to use it as a benchmark. All the material previously available to schools from the QCDA will be accessible to all those schools that want to use it. Finally on the national curriculum, so regards the current review, we intend to publish all the evidence we have considered when we bring forward proposals.
We think that the arrangements are in place to draw on appropriate advice as policies are developed. We do not believe that the abolition of the QCDA will lead to increased government power or control over what I accept are critical elements of our education system. There will be safeguards to ensure transparency and hold the Secretary of State to account.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. An academy will have total control over its curriculum and will not have to consult anyone about the subjects it teaches. While I take his point that most will want to follow the national curriculum, if an academy wanted to substitute creationism for Darwinism in its science curriculum, will it be able to do that without having to ask permission of the Secretary of State or to consult with anyone else? Is that correct?
It is not the case that the teaching of creationism in science, for example, is possible in academies because I believe that there are safeguards in place to prevent it. Further, there are various ways through the funding agreement by which one can exercise control. The basic point about freedom over the curriculum is that, through the funding agreement, academies need to provide a broad and balanced curriculum that includes English, maths and science. That is the degree of specificity over the governance.
The Minister’s answer to his noble friend’s question is substantially right in that if a school tried to teach creationism, something would happen to prevent that. I accept that. But I thought his comments on how that would happen were interesting. He said that something in the funding agreement would stop it. I cannot imagine that a funding agreement would be drawn up merely to prevent creationism being taught in a school, which leads me to believe that the agreement also gives the Secretary of State further influence and powers over the curriculum in academies. Can he explain what those powers are and how they might be used?
The point on the funding agreement is the one that I mentioned to my noble friend Lord Willis, which is that the agreement specifies that academies will provide a broad and balanced curriculum that includes English, maths and science. I will need to follow up on the point about creationism and write to the noble Baroness explaining what the mechanism is to prevent that happening. It is prevented and I will make that clear in a letter.
On that point, I would now ask the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, to withdraw the amendment.
I thank the Minister for his response and all noble Lords for their contributions to this important issue. The point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, is extremely important and reflects one of the constant challenges in the Bill. We are debating proposals for change, many of which will not apply if the brave new world in which every school is an academy comes into being. It is an issue that I want to raise later in relation to admissions. In response to the Minister’s offer to provide a letter specifically in relation to creationism, perhaps it could be sent to all noble Lords so as to address the broader question raised by my noble friend Lady Morris of Yardley. Precisely what control does the Secretary of State or anyone else have over other potentially unwanted developments in the curriculum at an academy? It might be some other obscure and unusual development, so it would be good to know what controls are in place.
The Minister acknowledged the point that decision and accountability rests with the Secretary of State, and I perfectly accept that. The point at issue here is the process that leads up to that. The Minister has said that the Secretary of State, not the QCDA or some replacement for it—none of us is defending any particular body; we are talking about the process in principle—would have responsibility not only for the final decision but for the process of consultation. While the Minister has given some assurances that the Secretary of State will consult with the three groups that the QCDA now has to consult—the local authorities, governing bodies and teachers—beyond that, the parameters of the review will be determined by the Secretary of State and not by an independent body. Therefore, any academics which the Secretary of State chooses to include in the process of review beyond those three groups can simply be those academics which support the view that the Secretary of State starts off with. While it may be of some assurance that the written submissions may be published at the end of the process, it will be too late for someone with alternative views to be consulted.
Officials sent round a note on how the new process would work. I do not know if every Member received it, but my noble friend and I did. It states that beyond those three groups which have to be consulted on a statutory basis, the Secretary of State will,
“need to give notice of the proposal to any other persons with whom he thinks it would be desirable to consult”.
The difference that we can all recognise is that at the moment the range of additional people is decided by an independent body, not the Secretary of State who has to make the final decision. That is a crucial difference.
There is another crucial difference at the end of that process. Whereas the QCDA at present must arrange for a full report to be published, the advice that we are given by officials is that,
“After the consultation has ended, the Secretary of State will consider the responses and publish a summary of the views expressed and a draft of the regulations”
that he wants to bring forward. In other words, it is again in the gift of the Secretary of State to decide what to publish and what to reveal about what was said during the consultation process. That is not an acceptable process in this day and age, and there needs to be some division in terms of the independence of the consultation, the analysis, the recommendations and the final decision of the Secretary of State. We may return to this matter on Report but, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 85A withdrawn.
Amendment 85B not moved.
Clause 24 agreed.
Schedule 8 agreed.
Clause 25 agreed.
Amendment 86 not moved.
Schedule 9 agreed.
Clause 26 : Education and training support services in England
86A: Clause 26, page 27, line 13, at beginning insert “Subject to subsection (7),”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 86B, 86C, 86D, 86E and 86F. These relate to concerns about the future of schools careers advice and to the increasing concern of professionals and employers that the Bill is failing to meet the real challenges facing this sector.
Before I continue, I acknowledge with thanks the letter of 8 July that I received from the Minister, which set out in more detail what is envisaged in the new career guidance service. I shall paraphrase it, although I am sure that the Minister has his own version. It says, first, that Connexions was not providing a consistently high-quality service to all young people and that it had to change. To a certain extent, I would agree with that. Secondly, the letter also goes on to argue that schools should be left to organise their own careers provision and be held to account only through what is described as a “destination measure” of where young people go when they leave school. We very much disagree with this approach and I shall explain why shortly.
First, I will deal with the end of the ring-fenced funding for Connexions and the transition to the all-age careers service, which is covered in our amendments to Clause 26. All the evidence shows that Connexions careers services around the country are closing as we speak. A desperately worrying scenario is developing of a cohort of young people being left with no careers advice at all, as one service ends and nothing substantial is yet in place to replace it. The department appears to have passed the buck on to individual schools rather than have a coherent transitional plan. As the ASCL has said:
“More than 2 million young people aged 16 to 19 could lose out on valuable careers services while the Government overhauls the national careers advice service at a time when young people’s unemployment is reaching record highs”.
Meanwhile, we are all still awaiting the detail of the design of the new all-age careers service: its duties, the services it will provide, where it will be located and how it can be accessed. In the Commons debate, the Minister said that the new service would be ready to go this September, with the full service in place from April 2012. In the mean time, the Secretary of State has stated that in 2011-12 school budgets will not rise to take account of their new legal responsibility to provide careers guidance for young people, as set out in this Bill. This lack of ring-fencing means that schools will be forced to find funds from existing budgets, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the Government intend to provide careers services on the cheap. Perhaps the Minister could explain what interim provision is being made for those young people awaiting a full careers service next year. I am sure that he will acknowledge that this is particularly fraught given the current high levels of youth unemployment. Our first set of amendments would achieve the simple but important aim of delivering continuity by requiring the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on the details of a transition plan before the new careers service can take effect.
We move on to the next set of amendments in this group, which define and improve the package of careers advice young people should be able to access in the future. Our amendments are set against a backdrop of increasingly complex careers choices being faced by young people and evidence that lack of information is seen by young people as one of the main barriers to their participation in education or training post-16. We do not accept that the quality careers guidance that we all know is necessary can be delivered simply by the publication of data on pupils’ post-school destinations. For example, there will be a terrible temptation for providers to push young people into destinations which score more highly rather than those that play to their individual strengths and interests. At the same time, there will be a real challenge to keep accurate statistics and track the longer-term destinations of young people. There may be statistics on their destinations immediately after school but surely what we are interested in is the longer-term careers choices they make as a result of the careers guidance that they get.
The Government have indicated that going forward the duty to provide careers advice may be satisfied by phone or online services. While we recognise that this may have a role, we absolutely do not accept that this is enough to ensure that young people get tailored guidance in tune with their talents, abilities and aspirations. Young people are happy to talk on the phone to their friends for hours, but when it comes to talking to someone older or someone in authority, all too often they pass the phone to their parents and ask them to make that phone call for them. I genuinely do not think that young people will be confident enough to deal with quite complicated issues on the phone. In the same way as they require a face-to-face environment for mentoring or indeed teaching, this type of contact is just as necessary when young people are discussing their future job plans and their future life. Therefore our amendments would require schools to provide high quality, face-to-face careers advice.
This advice is particularly important to children from backgrounds where they do not have access to a social network of people in a variety of jobs, and even more so when the parents do not work or where there is intergenerational unemployment. Good careers advice can make a big difference in driving social mobility, expanding pupils’ horizons and helping them to see themselves working in different environments. We believe that these matters are too important to be left to schools’ discretion. We also foresee the possibility of a postcode lottery developing, with careers services around the country varying considerably depending on the resources available, thus mirroring some of the problems we have already identified with the Connexions service.
Our amendments also address the age range when young people should be able to access advice and the frequency at which it should be provided. The Bill limits careers advice to those aged between 14 and 16. That is not good enough. EngineeringUK, for example, has identified the need for much earlier advice through what it calls the “Year 8 dip”, which is when the appetite for tough science and maths decreases in young people. The organisation goes on to say:
“We believe that at this point, and at other critical points along the academic pathway, we need well informed careers advisers in schools able to inspire and inform young people about careers in engineering and other science, technology, engineering and maths areas”.
We agree with that analysis, and it could equally apply to other subject areas. One careers advice session held during the term when a student leaves school is too late. It should be provided at regular intervals before key milestones in a pupil’s academic life, and our amendments would provide for that.
Finally, the amendments also seek to ensure that only those trained in careers guidance can provide the formal careers advice to which pupils are entitled. Without these amendments, there is no guarantee that advice would be provided by a trained professional or that it would cover the full range of options, including academic and vocational options. I accept that in the guidance the noble Lord may well refer to that it is seen as something that is “desirable”, but our amendments would make it an explicit requirement.
In a memorandum submitted to the Public Bill Committee, Careers England and the Institute of Career Guidance called for a national quality standard. It was also part of the recommendation of the Careers Profession Task Force, and we agree with this. The world of work is changing rapidly and careers guidance cannot be left to individuals whose experience of entering the job market could, in some cases, date back to 30 or 40 years ago. We all understand the need to tackle disadvantage, which all too often is exacerbated by poor education and career choices. In the Commons, the Minister referred to a report which stated that:
“State school pupils are more than four times as likely to be given bad careers advice as private school students”.
We believe that the package of measures we are proposing will go some way towards redressing this failure and give all pupils the right to high quality, individualised, face-to-face advice at critical times in their education journey. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to support these measures. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 86G which is tabled in my name and I shall touch on some of the wider issues that have been raised by Opposition Members in introducing this debate. Perhaps I should say at the outset that I am a member of the independent Skills Commission, although it is not a formal interest. It has members from different parties as well as a large number of professionals. Some years ago the commission was involved in drawing up a report on independent advice and guidance in which, interestingly, we placed quite a lot of emphasis on reporting the growth in social media and online resources as well as the conventional role of the careers service. I shall come back to that in a moment. I, too, have a strong engagement with apprenticeships. The work preparation for, or the option of, opening up young people’s eyes to the world of work is critical and, as I have already adverted to the Committee, I had previous responsibility as a Minister for progression from schools and FE.
First, I acknowledge the huge amount of good done by individual careers teachers and in guidance. That is an important distinction in the Minister’s proposals set out in his helpful letter to Members of the Committee, which draw a distinction that is often blurred between education and guidance. While I acknowledge how much has been done in the past—and it is 20 years since I had ministerial responsibility—there have, in my experience, always been patchiness, failures in the system, and a system that is less ideal than the one we would wish for now. In particular, there have always been two problems in schools. The first is the moral hazard of schools seeking to keep hold of pupils who might be much more properly referred to, and have much more successful opportunities within, further education or the private training provider route. Secondly, there is a simple cultural difficulty, which is that some of those schools—particularly if they are teaching conventional and general academic subjects—are not aware of the whole complexity of the issue. That very much centres on, for example, the offer that is now made in apprenticeship frameworks, which are qualitatively different from what was available some years ago.
We have been tentatively trying to get this right for a number of years. As a result of some of the concerns that I expressed at the time, we moved towards a system of contractorisation in the 1990s. We then came back to a measure of centralisation, or at least standardisation, through the Connexions service—although that also varied very much in its salience to the target audience—and locally, in my view. Now, my noble friend the Minister, whose initiative I welcome, is providing in this clause a new duty on schools to secure independent guidance.
We were talking in the previous group of amendments about philosophy. Probably the only lesson that I remember from my moral philosophy days—although it is important—is that there is a distinction between saying that something ought to happen and saying that there ought to be a law to ensure that something happens. In this place, we should all be mindful that it is not absolutely necessary to ring-fence and litigate to achieve everything, and that there is an important duty on schools to say, “We need to think about this, obtain independent advice, and make sure that that advice is perceptibly independent”.
It is therefore important that in drawing the distinction we are not subverting the need for schools to provide good-quality careers education or work experience. They should open up the eyes of young people to the opportunities before they make critical decisions. I was once caricatured as saying at the margins of the Skills Commission, “Oh, you are in favour of work experience for five year-olds”. It is not quite like that but there is a point at which we need to keep the two worlds of education and of work at least in touch with one another through the whole school career. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is nodding. I think we understand that we need to do that, and it is something on which schools need to continue to focus.
We then reach the point of gateway—the moment of serious consideration of the next stage. It is terribly important, for the reasons of moral hazard that I mentioned, that we make it clear that schools are expected to take independent advice and guidance at that point, in the interests of their pupils. That can be supplemented by the electronic media and all the rest of it, but it is a necessary stage.
The spirit of my amendment and my concern is that we are feeling our way in trying to provide a better service in the interests of young people—one that enables them to express their choices. The Government are right in doing that. There have been concerns from the Institute of Career Guidance and other professionals. I can understand why many of them feel very strongly about it, but I would say that the status quo has not been entirely successful and we need to look at a better way of doing this that respects the different roles in education and guidance, and mentoring and development, and moves on to the adult careers service whose introduction is to be welcomed. We need to make sure that there are no wrong doors or closed doors, and that people are given good signposting through the process. In that connection, the substance of my Amendment 86G would be to say, “Do not subvert the Government’s proposals now, but do leave it open and make it a requirement on the Government to report back within three years”. I do not quite accept the tone of the noble Baroness which suggests that everything is falling apart now, although of course I understand her concerns. I do not believe that that need necessarily be the case at all. If I am wrong about that, I would at least like to feel that Ministers are monitoring this within a finite period of time, so that we may ensure –and I hope this time to achieve—the best possible experience and support for our young people.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 86AA, 86CZA and 86DB in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford. I want to start by commenting on the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho. There is a real crisis currently in career advisers’ roles as local authorities face some very difficult decisions, and a review even in a year’s time will be too late. I therefore support the proposal made earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that there be a transition plan to make sure that we do not miss it.
Our amendments focus on very specific issues arising out of the new proposals for the careers service. The first is a slightly technical one regarding schools being the responsible body for careers advice. In theory this makes sense. However, the draft legislation removes the right of local authorities to enter the school and to ensure that careers advice is appropriate. This is particular bizarre since local authorities are specifically charged with ensuring that children with special needs and those in PRUs get the advice and support that they require. The same is also true for the National Careers Service, which has no right to check on the quality of careers advice and guidance. I suppose it could do so from a distance, but, frankly, there may be occasions when it would want to look at a specific school. I therefore hope that the Minister will look at this matter again, and will make sure that the bodies charged with responsibility for careers advice nationally, but also those locally with very specific responsibility for the most vulnerable pupils, actually have an opportunity to check what is going on in schools.
I fully support the proposal that advice and guidance must be independent. I am grateful to the Minister for his helpful letter and detailed attachment which has already been referred to. Ambitions for the new careers service are set out well therein. However, the Bill is silent on some key issues which would provide reassurance and guarantee independence and the excellence quality. First, there are no plans for quality assurance to assess whether schools secure that independent, impartial careers advice and guidance. In response to the question on how the Government will monitor the new duty, the note from the Minister says:
“Schools should be accountable to the pupils, parents and communities they serve in respect of this duty”.
I suspect that most pupils, parents and communities would find the very onerous duty of monitoring quality control somewhat beyond them. I am not sure that it fulfils what we seek to cover in our amendment.
Much has been said about the importance of technology in an earlier amendment. But we are really concerned about face-to-face advice and guidance disappearing from the Bill. Young people often do not know the breadth of what is on offer, despite the fact that some excellent web careers advice is available: for example, Careers Box, with little video snips on YouTube and young people talking about their experiences of apprenticeships or their first time in work. The difficulty is that young people often do not know what is out there, and starting to look is very difficult. I can give you an anecdote from the time when I was chair of the Cambridgeshire Learning and Skills Council, where we had a very severe shortage in the construction industry of both plumbers and electricians. If you ask most 12 and 13 year-olds who know they probably want to do something with their hands whether they want to go into construction, the chances are that they will say no, and I am not sure that many school teachers would automatically guide them in that direction.
The LSA and FE colleges worked with careers advisers and Connexions to really give young people an opportunity. I am pleased to say that within one year both plumbing and electrical courses were oversubscribed and continued to be because word went back to these young people’s peers. If we remove from the loop the very specialist knowledge that careers advisers have, we might well have a problem if advice is not independent and certainly if it is restricted to just the experience that schools have.
Thirdly, as others have said, we have to ensure that the advice is truly impartial and independent. I am sorry to say that some schools still pressure young people to stay on to continue with AS-levels even if it is not in their best interests. Again, the Minister’s note is helpful in reinforcing the key point about independent advice and guidance but this is so important that we want to see advisers having to be qualified. That would provide two benefits. First, we will have an assurance about the knowledge and skill base of advisers —they, too, will recognise that—and, as importantly, it will give careers advisers the professional status that they deserve.
Starting careers advice at the age of 14 is too late, once options for Year 11 have been chosen—whether it be the EBacc or other courses. As already commented on, the Year 8 dip is a well-known phenomenon. This country desperately needs more engineers, scientists and mathematicians but, if we look at the subjects chosen at AS-level and A2, those are consistently going down. That needs to be remedied. Starting guidance earlier is important, whether at 13 or even 12 as another amendment suggests.
Again, an illustration of this from my local area is a web advice tool about pathways—which was mentioned before. A 13 or 14 year-old can actually see how choosing a course that they do at 16 might lead on to either an apprenticeship, a vocational or even academic qualification, which might lead them into a profession. I suspect that the point about expecting outcomes from 16 to 18 year-olds to tell us whether a careers service’s advice is working well is far too short-sighted. We need something significant earlier on.
Finally, I will speak briefly in support of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Low, on information, advice and guidance for special needs pupils. City College Norwich has a special unit for pupils with autism spectrum disorders which has transformed their experience. The guidance is very wide-ranging. It has to be different from the standard one size fits all that we even had under the Connexions service. I met a young man whose experience was that, as he started at 16 at the college, he and his family thought that he would never get a job because of his Asperger’s. He was offered some work experience in the college library—simple, repetitive work that absolutely fitted in with his needs. Two years on, he is working full-time there. That is a significant success story. I know that other pupils at City College Norwich have had similar success. We have to accept that we need special provision for pupils with SEN. Thank you.
In supporting my noble friend, I start by placing this whole problem in a proper context. A five year-old going for the first time to school this autumn has a life expectancy of 85 or maybe 95 years. The thought that you can really tell them about the world in which they will pursue their working lives is rather difficult. In my younger days as an economist in the economics of education, I wrote a number of papers about relating education and what should be in education to the needs of the economy. I did not realise that they were rubbish at the time that I published them but it was obvious that they were rubbish not many years afterwards. Those days have somewhat gone, although they did not hold me back in my career.
The central point about what careers advice will have to focus on is this long period—most of which, from the point of view of the economy, is difficult or even impossible to forecast. The advice given must really concentrate on that aspect of the matter. That means that it must overwhelmingly be professional.
If I may move into anecdote mode, after I had left the LSE as a lecturer to become a professor, one of my old friends who was still a lecturer said to me, “One of the students has just been to see me. He is thinking of dropping out of his degree because he has a pop group. What advice would you have given him?”. I said, “Get your degree first and then possibly think about the pop group”. He said, “I gave him the same advice and he more or less told me to drop dead”. The student's name was Mick Jagger. That is a very good example of why giving casual, off-the-cuff careers advice to people is not the path to go down. That does not mean that the professionals can get it exactly right, but I am certain that my noble friend is right to emphasise that careers advice requires a very subtle expertise, because it is not easy to get over to people how complicated their whole lives and choice of careers will be.
Another aspect of this has always troubled me. Our young people are marvellous and lots of them are incredibly talented— particularly in the arts. We produce marvellous young actors, musicians, and so on. Our problem is that the demand for such people is—and, I guess, always will be—less than the available supply. One reason why we require not merely experts in our careers service but people with a human touch is that they must explain to people, “If you insist on going down that path—and I do not want to stop you—I ought to tell you that you will be competing against other people with enormous talent. Are you sure that that is the risky option that you want to take”. That only reinforces my noble friend's view that we cannot let amateurs take over the service. Among amateurs, we must include teachers. That includes university teachers, although we are not talking about them at the moment. Essentially, my noble friend is pressing the Minister on the point that we need a commitment to a fully professional careers advice service covering a great range of areas. We must find funds to support that service; we cannot leave it to the school itself.
I am certainly in sympathy with everything that has been said on this subject. It takes me back quite a long way to the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts, in which education was one of the areas covered. We spent quite a lot of time encouraging teachers in girls’ schools to take a more proactive role in opening up ideas of different careers for the girls than was the tradition. I am sad to say that there is still quite a gap there. On the comment made about teachers not being adequate to do that job, it would not be a bad idea as part of their training if, periodically, they had to take a job for a while in the real world to see what are the practices here and now.
In engineering, all these years later, there is a dearth of girls prepared to take on that career. It depends to some extent on the people they see out there in the real world. If not many have made it to the top of their career, are running things and are looked up to by the rest of the engineering world, they are not as likely to go down that route. I hope that we will address that aspect.
I hope that my noble friend Lord Low will soon speak to his amendment. On the responsibility for special educational needs, I entirely agree with him that there is an enormous need to start that process early—incidentally, that is true for practically all girls. It is interesting to note that the Equality and Human Rights Commission makes the point by stating that a quarter of children in primary school want to go on to higher education. Among girls, more than 80 per cent have that aspiration. If they have it already, at least it should be kept going by giving them examples of the many areas where their skills would be needed. There is clearly a role for governors here. They have a role to play in this already, so this is not providing a new one because it is all part of what needs to be made available to pupils. I am certain that parents in the local area would take that view.
One other area I want to stress is that of the role of the universities themselves. Many of them already send their students, voluntarily of course, particularly into schools where the aspiration among pupils to go on to higher education is not high. I am sure that the Government will be pleased to know that that sort of advice does not cost very much, but it is very good practice for the students themselves and helpful to the aspirations of the pupils.
I support most of the amendments in the group and I want to focus in particular on careers advice, on which many other noble Lords have already led. I agree totally with everyone who has spoken that unless careers advice is independent, it is very worrying. I hope that the Minister will consider whether Ofsted should include as part of its assessment of the effectiveness of a school how well it provides careers advice. It would not be an unusual process for Ofsted to get involved in. Although I agree with my noble friend Lord Peston that at the age of five you do not know what you are going to do, in this day and age people start taking an interest at a much younger age.
An area of concern has been raised by a number of employers who I have been talking to, along with a number of colleges. Recently I visited Newcastle College and North Lindsey College in Scunthorpe for Training 2000. What those colleges said was music to my ears. Although some careers advice is okay, a lot is obviously inadequate. But the principal at Newcastle College said that when she was a young girl—it was probably a while ago—no one had ever talked to her at school what it would mean if she went down a certain career path: how much would she earn and what would be her prospects going forward? Perhaps we have stayed away from those questions as well. For me, she made a telling point because, whether we like it or not, they are keen to know if they will have money to spend.
Through Semta I have been working with a careers adviser at BAE Systems, which has a programme in place in which representatives talk to young people about what it means to be an engineer and explain that it is not the dirty job that everyone thinks it is. There is a slide presentation to describe the earning potential at each stage of someone’s career progression. Some people might flinch at that, but in the real world of 2011-12, it is absolutely where young people are. It is the kind of information that is not always readily available. You can follow a pathway through looking at sector skills councils, but what is not often linked to it is the thought that, “If I work really hard and progress from this level to that level, what will that mean for me going forward in the sense of my future career?”.
I emphasise, as others have, the funding of this careers advice. A number of people who have supported me in these contributions have given me information. The previous Government put money into careers advice—now, obviously, two departments are dealing with this, with BIS and the Department for Education—but the DfE’s financial involvement is down to £7 million. Before, when we were working with Connexions, £200 million was put into this. The current figure will get us some computer-aided stuff and some advice. We can complain like crazy about young people not understanding where they are going and what the advice to them might be, but that does not come cheap. We need to ensure that we have a sound resource underneath all that. For me, having an Ofsted appraisal of this included in how well a school was doing would mean that we had something substantial to measure.
I agree with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, that says, “Let’s look at this every three years”. When the previous Government introduced the Apprenticeship Act, we had a lot of this advice in there but maybe it was just not robust enough in terms of coming back and checking how this was doing, because it is still a major problem.
My Lords, I preface my remarks by asking for some agreement on definitions. It is the word “school” that interests me. In its broadest sense, and I think that we would all concur with this, it is a community of people focused on the well-being and the best interests of children and pupils. It has been used in a different way in this debate, though, and it is in that different way that I would like to use it, while remaining conscious of the base meaning that lies behind it.
We have been using the word “school” to mean those who govern our schools. Schools are expected to take independent advice, and new legislation is placing a duty on schools to achieve two objectives—just two examples from this very debate. I am interested in that definition of “school”, which I think amounts to “governing body and head teacher”, who are expected, in the way that things are developing, to achieve more and more than has been done elsewhere until now.
I do not flinch at that. I am a governor and chair of a foundation that runs two schools in the inner city here in London. We try our hardest as governors and head teachers in the area of career development, particularly because we see increasingly that, if we want to achieve excellence in the provision that we offer, partnership with other schools is increasingly going to be the way forward. I do not know how every school can produce an adequate and rich service in this area. In the Borough of Islington, for example, our school operates with others and we try to pool our best efforts and to make careers advice available in a richer and broader way.
In another initiative that perhaps I might report because it is of some interest, our inner city school co-operates with a school in the independent sector, the Leys School in Cambridge, and we cross-fertilise and attend each other’s careers festivals. I have to say that the independent sector provides a somewhat narrower focus for the range of careers that it seeks to interest people in, but, for all that, it is richly provided for by those who come and help people in conversation and all the rest of it.
We have not quite got reciprocity to the point where I would like to see it, with people from the independent sector coming to us for careers advice. We are situated on the edge of the City of London, and some quite extraordinary people come to us from City institutions to offer that kind of advice, which people from Cambridge could well benefit from. If we are envisaging that schools, in the way that I am defining them, will provide an adequate service across the land, with every school expected to provide excellence all the time in careers advice, we are just baying for the moon. Those are two initiatives that I can report now.
Throughout my contribution to the discussions of the Bill, I am afraid that I will drone on about the extra expectations that are coming the way of schools—that is, governing bodies and head teachers. During this afternoon's debate alone, the responsibility for shaping and focusing the curriculum has fallen to governors and head teachers. I am not saying that they should not do that, but more and more expectations of schools as independent and freestanding bodies are coming our way. There is the curriculum, now there is careers advice. Before we finish our discussion on the Bill, what else will be expected of governors? I am a governor. I attend, as regularly as I can, refresher courses offered by my local authority. I try to be up-to-date with seminars and other things that stretch your mind about new possibilities offered for all of us. I look around the table. I see some absent places where some very busy people are feeling increasingly deskilled and disempowered to do the tasks expected of them—all voluntarily, without a single penny coming our way. As we go down this path and pass more and more responsibility to the school, under the definition I have offered, we must bear in mind that implementation of these grand ideas will be left to people who will be under greater and greater burdens.
I am very happy to oblige the Committee. As my amendment has already been referred to several times and spoken to very eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, there is not really a lot for to me to say, but it is obviously correct that I should speak to it.
Before I do that, I want to make a few comments on some of the other amendments in this large group. Some work is required on the section of the Bill dealing with careers guidance to ensure that it is effectively disability-proofed. I know that the Minister is very sympathetic on that matter, so I hope that he will be able to give me reassurances on one or two points.
First, in supporting the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, I seek clarification. When the amendment refers to “professionally qualified” careers practitioners, is it clear that the new professional quality standards include comprehensive training for all careers guidance practitioners on working with disabled young people and adults? It is very important that those working in the field should know about the barriers which disabled people experience, the perceptual barriers that often restrict their career choices.
I also want to be sure that the triennial report for which the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, calls in his amendment would include the effect of the provisions in this section of the Bill on disadvantaged groups of young people, specifically including young people with a learning difficulty and/or disability.
I should like to say a little more about Amendments 86E and 86F in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hughes and Lady Jones, because they deal with a very important issue: the age range during which careers guidance should be provided. Those two amendments would extend the age range through which schools must provide careers guidance from 14 to 16 to 12 to 18. That is particularly necessary for disabled young people, as many will stay in school up to the age of 19, and their most critical decisions usually take place between the ages of 16 and 19.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is concerned that the age range for careers guidance provided for in the Bill is too narrow. It is particularly concerned that starting careers guidance at 14 is too late adequately to address equality issues associated with subjects or career choices. It is also concerned that the new duty requiring careers guidance to be delivered at key stage 4 only, from 14 to 16, will mean a regression from the current statutory provision that requires a programme of careers education to be delivered for key stages 3 and 4, from 11 to 16.
Young people begin to develop ideas about careers at an early age, and the commission’s evidence suggests that starting careers guidance at 14 will present a major barrier to raising aspirations and equipping young people to make future decisions free from stereotyped ideas. Evidence-based reviews and research have consistently called for career-related learning to begin in primary school—as it currently does in Scotland, which is usually ahead of England in educational matters—so that high aspirations and achievement can be encouraged early. A new report from the commission indicates that primary school pupils’ aspirations are formed and are higher at a relatively young age. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, has already referred to the evidence from that report which shows that three-quarters of children at primary school want to go into higher education—among girls, this figure is more than 80 per cent. Gender influences begin very early, with boys in primary school interested in sport and girls in performance, hairdressing and nursing. Evidence from the EHRC’s triennial review reveals the extent to which particular groups continue to experience a higher level of occupational segregation, particularly related to gender, ethnicity and disability. The commission believes that school careers services have a key role in providing clear, impartial guidance to help inform young people’s choices for long-term career-related experiences and progression, free from career-limiting stereotyped ideas.
Before I sit down, I clearly need to refer to my amendment, which would place a duty on the governing bodies and head teachers of schools to provide unlimited face-to-face careers guidance for all young people with a learning difficulty and/or disability, whether or not they have a statement of special educational needs and in both mainstream and specialist settings. The amendment more or less speaks for itself. It is a good idea that the Secretary of State should prescribe standards for careers guidance, in the manner provided for in the new clause tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hughes and Lady Jones. It is obviously right that we should place on governing bodies and head teachers of schools a duty to comply with the standards set out by the Secretary of State.
I want to underline two particular points in my new clause. First, on “face-to-face”, we know that the careers service will offer web-based and telephone helpline advice for all students, but disabled learners, in particular, require face-to-face support. Secondly, I have put “unlimited” in the new clause simply to ensure that the duty is to provide as much guidance as is required and that it is not arbitrarily limited to a set amount or quota. I hope very much that this new clause will commend itself to the Minister, as it seeks to impose duties at the local level, where they can most effectively be implemented.
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment and to tell noble Lords a little story. Back in 1965, my mother and sister went to see the careers officer and my sister said that she wanted to work at a leading pharmaceutical company. The careers officer said: “I am sorry, Sandra. They don’t take coloured people there”. My mother said, “I brought my children to England to learn and to be educated, and they have worked hard to do so. Surely that is not possible”. The careers officer said, “I am terribly sorry. I can get her a job as a nursery nurse, but not one in a pharmaceutical company”. My mother proved her wrong. She got my sister to write for an interview. She got the job and she worked there for 30 years. But sadly, the myth still applies today, and there are many young people who do not believe that they will be accepted in certain places.
It is for that reason that I have set up an initiative called Touching Success. I get successful people to visit young people in schools and invite them into their organisations. This helps to help to inspire these young people to believe in themselves and understand that they can work and will be accepted outside their postcode. This is important because many of them do not often see role models they can identify with. That is why I believe we need experts to engage with young people, especially those from diverse, disadvantaged and lower-income backgrounds who do not believe in themselves. They do not see that they can succeed. Careers advice is essential to helping them understand that they will be accepted and can go beyond where they see themselves. We need experts to help them, as my mother did with that careers officer way back in 1965. Believe in yourself and the world is your oyster. Anything is possible. That is why I support this amendment.
I shall speak, if I may, to Amendments 86E and 86F, about the age at which careers advice is made available. When teaching in a secondary school myself, I remember the agonies associated with seeing how early children had to choose which subjects to specialise in. All I would ask is that the Minister should bear in mind the advisability of having careers advice available early in the year when the first choice of specialism is forced on children.
I want to intervene briefly on this. I should declare an interest as, like the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, I am a member of the Skills Commission which recommended the development of an all-age careers service. I welcome the fact that the Government have moved in that direction. Currently, two problems arise. One is the rundown of the current service, particularly in light of the squeeze on local government finances and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wall, pointed out, the reduction of money devoted to this service by the Department for Education; £7 million is a miserable sum and far too little. There is also the problem of transition, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.
Another problem is the shortage of professionals in this area. Not only have people trained to deliver careers guidance left the profession, but not enough people have been properly trained to provide the new service. One thing that the Government might do to show their earnest in setting up the new service would be to establish a crash course in training careers advisers. They are graduates who do a one-year master’s course to qualify and they are desperately needed. As I said, we have the transition problem from 2011-12; let us grab this opportunity and invest in the service as required. That would show the Government’s willingness to support it; they would be putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak. I realise that the question of money is very difficult.
My Lords, I, too, support the group of amendments so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. I support them because as a group they correct a number of the anomalies inherent in Clause 27. The amendments are consistent with good learning and with the frequency of provision. Face-to-face opportunity to discuss career needs is of very high value, and the Bill is deficient in this area. We recognise the important contribution that trained and qualified professionals can make.
Of course, when a person chooses to have career advice, it is because they are uncertain of their direction of travel. The whole purpose of it is to examine the options and alternatives available with professionals who are honest, who test one’s capability and who advise. There are many people who start out wanting to take an academic route, and who finish up taking the vocational option, or vice versa: that is the benefit of career advice. I fail to see how you will get that interaction and that positive two-way challenge—because it can be a challenge—under what is proposed. What is being proposed is an all-age careers service. I have no difficulty with that as a principle. Indeed, I believe that the Careers Service should and can extend throughout one’s working life. That happens in industry, where managers and senior professionals are supported with personal trainers from time to time, who provide career advice on whether to continue or change direction. This is why the online provision is deficient, because it does not provide the opportunity for challenge and interaction. As with so many of the education proposals which are emerging, we get a lot of promises but some degree of under delivery. I see this career provision of the Bill as fitting that area of concern: much is promised, but little substance is delivered when it is tested.
The fact is that the people who will be denied the opportunity for face-to-face career advice are actually the people who may need it most. Not every child has access to the internet; indeed, in some parts of the country, that is for technical reasons, not just real poverty. That is adding to the reality of digital poverty from which some communities suffer disadvantage.
Careers advice is vital. You must get advice, you must challenge the provider and the provider must interact with your good self. What is so worrying about this aspect of the Bill is that, to the best of my knowledge, no one has seen the careers service as broken, deficient or not meeting the needs of students. All my experience is that career advisers care about what they offer and deliver.
The Secretary of State is taking away the duty to provide and replacing it with a duty to provide access. That is a fundamental shift in the culture, the duty and responsibility of the service. There is no way at this or any point that anyone can be certain that what is proposed will lead to better advice. Local authorities, who have that duty, will not be in the driving seat in procuring professionals to provide better advice but merely carrying through what is decreed by governing boards and the school. The bond between school, local authority and governing bodies will be broken when the all-age career advice service online becomes the norm.
I indicated at the outset that I support the group of amendments moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. That was my start point. Within the context of those amendments, the points I have made refer to issues that coincide clearly with the face-to-face provisions and the provisions about experience, and so on. I am clearly satisfied in that respect.
My point here concerns the shift from the duty to provide to the duty merely to give access. There is an opportunity in the amendments for real change to improve the Bill. I support the group of amendments moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.
My Lords, we know that the most important determinant of success post-16 is attainment pre-16. I start with a simple point to explain why the Government have been focusing on investment in the early years, why we have been seeking to improve the quality of new teachers, why we are bringing in reforms to the curriculum and why we have introduced the pupil premium to help to address the gap in attainment between more affluent and more disadvantaged backgrounds, which is of concern to everyone in the Committee.
Noble Lords know that, across the Bill, we are keen to give schools more freedom to take decisions in the best interests of the pupils, to have less central prescription and focus on inputs and to provide more information about actual results. Our approach to careers guidance is based on the same principles. It draws on the recommendation of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, led by the right honourable Alan Milburn, that responsibility for careers guidance should be given to schools, who know their pupils best. That is why in the core of this clause we are seeking to move responsibility to schools.
I agree with the point made by my noble friend Lord Boswell that young people should know about the full range of academic and vocational options available to them. I know there are concerns that schools might want to steer children towards staying on in the sixth form, for example. That is why we are clear in the clause that careers guidance provided under the duty must include information on all 16-to-18 education training options, including apprenticeships.
A number of noble Lords have raised points about age, which I will now address. Clause 27 places a duty on schools in relation to young people from the start of the academic year in which they turn 14 to the end of the academic year in which they turn 16—year 11. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised the point, as did my noble friend Lady Brinton and the noble Lord, Lord Low. The case has been put for extending this age range, both downwards to cover younger pupils and upwards to reach students in school sixth forms and colleges. We are going to consult formally on the question of extending the duty down to year 8 and up to young people aged 18 studying in schools and FE institutions. That acknowledges a number of points raised here and during the debate in the other place. We have discussed these plans with the Association of School and College Leaders, the Association of Colleges and the Sixth Form Colleges’ Forum, all of which have warmly welcomed the commitment to consult. Subject to the consultation the duty could be extended by regulations from September 2012. However, I sense the mood of the Committee about this point and I will therefore discuss it further with my honourable friend John Hayes, the relevant Minister.
There have been a number of important contributions about the importance of quality. There is a clear difference between the approach of this Government and that of the previous Government. Noble Lords opposite have put the case for retaining statutory safeguards on the way in which schools fulfil their duty to ensure that pupils receive independent guidance. The Government’s approach is not to require schools to work with a particular provider of careers guidance but to make sure that they can commission any specialist support that they need from a strong market in which there is choice and diversity, backed up by quality standards. That was one of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Peston.
The National Careers Service will be subject to a quality standard for publicly funded careers guidance that other providers of careers services will be able to hold, to assure schools and colleges that they are delivering a high quality service. The Careers Profession Alliance is bringing together the main professional bodies for careers for the first time to establish common professional standards, so that everyone signs up to the same code of ethics and to the same standards of practice. The Careers Profession Alliance is committed to a register of careers professionals, and wishes to achieve chartered status for careers professionals over the next three years.
The noble Lord, Lord Low, asked whether standards would cover working with disabled people. I will of course raise that matter with the responsible Minister, Mr Hayes.
As has been mentioned, evidence shows that young people receive advice on their futures from many different sources: parents, teachers and obviously careers advisers. Some may prefer to get their support from a helpline or by researching online. A YouGov poll this year showed that nine in 10 young people were comfortable with using the internet to access that kind of advice. However, none of that detracts from the point that qualified professionals have a very important role to play in offering support to pupils that raises their aspirations and guides them on to a successful path. Clearly, many schools will choose to bring in support from qualified advisers at particular stages or to give advice to specific groups of pupils
The Government’s position is that we should trust the professionals to deal appropriately with matters such as access to careers guidance or other support services, including the sorts of partnerships referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, without recourse to legislation. We should trust them to make sensible decisions about how pupils receive careers guidance. Noble Lords know that the Government’s general position is to try to reduce the burden of guidance from the centre. However, listening to this debate, I recognise that it would be sensible to allow the scope for some short, focused guidance to be issued to schools to support them in fulfilling their new duty. We are retaining the provision in Section 45A of the Education Act 1997 to require schools to have regard to statutory guidance issued in respect of the new careers duty, and we will consider what guidance might be helpful in advance of the new duty being commenced.
Transition is clearly an important point and was raised by a number of noble Lords. The Government have set out their expectations of schools and local authorities and have issued statutory guidance to the latter under Section 68 of the Education and Skills Act 2008. We are keen to encourage the exchange of good practice between local authorities and will shortly be hosting, with the Local Government Association, a summit on shared good practice. Following that summit, we will set out clear milestones to help local authorities plan their own transition arrangements—a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch.
We have also had important contributions about monitoring the impact of the Government’s proposals. We should ensure that we do that when making these changes. My noble friend Lord Boswell will know that a post-legislative review will be conducted in three to five years following enactment. He suggested that we should do it in three years—I think we should aim to do it in three rather than five. The evidence of whether schools are succeeding will be demonstrated through pupil achievement and, crucially, through the data on progression to further learning or employment provided by the destinations measures that we plan to publish and that we are working up.
Noble Lords will know that we want school inspections to focus on overall results rather than specific inputs, but we should look closely at how schools are fulfilling this duty. We intend to ask Ofsted to carry out a thematic review of careers guidance, as recommended to us by the Careers Profession Task Force. If this shows that there are serious issues, I would expect the Government to review the position in the way that my noble friend Lord Boswell suggested. That review should also look at the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Low.
Overall, the arrangements for careers guidance that the Government propose are based on trusting professionals and freeing schools from bureaucracy, trying to give them the opportunity to secure the specialist support they need from the market, which is characterised by choice and diversity of provision. Points have been raised about age, which we will reflect upon, about reporting and about quality. I hope that noble Lords will recognise that we are taking those steps and that the underlying point of moving responsibility to schools, originally recommended to the Government in reports and which has been widely welcomed, will help take that forward. On the basis of that further information, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, we have had a very good debate on this issue. If anyone was in any doubt before we started about the complexities of children’s lives and the choices that confront them, some of the examples that we have heard from around the Room will certainly have helped to open our eyes to just how difficult it is to be a child in school today, facing, as my noble friend rightly said, 85 years of career choices that they have to make. People say—this is a well known statistic these days—that you can now face three different careers in your lifetime. It used to be that you went into one job and that was your job for life, but now people often change careers two or three times during the course of their life.
The choices for young people facing their life ahead are complicated and require specialist knowledge. To give a quick example of that in terms of giving careers advice, wearing one of my other hats, young people who qualify with a degree in film studies think that they are all going to go off to be film directors, but fewer than 1 per cent of people with a degree in film studies ever get a job in that sector. A statistic said that about 34 per cent of those young people end up working in the retail sector. All the factors that have been mentioned today underline how important it is that we get this right.
The Minister has said that there will be a professional service. We understand that we may have a professional service, but the people who are providing the actual advice, online or face-to-face, would not have to be qualified under the Government’s scheme. Our point is that young people’s future lives are so important that these people should have some sort of qualification.
I underline that again. My noble friend Lord Layard has not commented on this—I am sure that he does not like people constantly making reference to him as being the happiness tsar—but if people at this age get this wrong then it is not just about them making the wrong career choice; it has an effect on their health and their mental health. The consequences of their making wrong choices are real and serious, and that underlines the need for people to be qualified before they are let loose on children in schools.
At the heart of our dilemma here is that the Government want to be enabling and we want to lay down duties on schools and rights for pupils. There is not so much of a difference between us, though; the Government have already said that there are some duties on schools regarding what they will provide. The Bill says that there will be duties for the service to be independent, which I think we would all agree with; to be based in schools, which I think is the right place to focus careers guidance; and to have a mix of academic and vocational provision, and a number of voices around the Committee have echoed the importance of both academic and vocational choices.
All we are attempting to do is add a few more duties, and the principle that we have already established is a way of going forward. Those duties include specifying the frequency of the careers advice, looking at a wider age range at which children can access careers advice and the whole issue of people being professionally qualified. We have established that there will be some duties, and we want more. I hope that the Minister will see that we are not so far apart in all this.
I am pleased that the Minister said that he will take the issue of the age range away and look at it further. We look forward to hearing about the outcome of that in more detail. I think that I understood him to say that he would be bringing forward some more short-notice guidance. Perhaps he could specify whether that will be available to us before Report, at least in draft form, so that we might know where we stand on that.
I like to feel that we are moving closer together on these issues, but there remains the issue of what happens in the transition. The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, said that he was not convinced there was a crisis, but I hope that he has heard some of the voices around the table saying that it is perhaps more of a crisis than he might have identified. Our understanding is that hundreds, if not thousands, of people who currently have training qualifications in careers advice are being made redundant around the country, so we are losing those skills and that expertise. It seems pretty strange to set up a new structure that starts from scratch when everyone has been scattered to the four winds, so to speak, with all the knowledge and experience that they retained beforehand. We need to look again at the transition and what else we can do to make it a smooth and well resourced one.
We have had a good debate. We would welcome some further discussions on this, but in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 86A withdrawn.
Amendment 86AA not moved.
Amendments 86B and 86C not moved.
Clause 26 agreed.
Clause 27 : Careers guidance in schools in England
Amendments 86CZA to 86G not moved.
Clause 27 agreed.
Amendments 87 to 87B not moved.
Clause 28 : Repeal of diploma entitlement for 16 to 18 year olds
Debate on whether Clause 28 should stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, I will speak to the debate on whether this clause should stand part of the Bill on behalf of my noble friend Lord Knight, who regrettably has been detained outside London. He sends his apologies. I shall be brief. First, I shall explain the background of diplomas from the point of view of my personal experience with the engineering diploma. No one would dispute that it has been exceedingly successful. The drive for diplomas came from employers who, certainly in the engineering industry, were keen to have the option that the diploma provided. When we talked about careers advice earlier, we touched on the fact that teachers tend to steer pupils down the academic rather than the vocational route. The diploma provided an answer to that because it offered the option to go either way and cross over at various different stages.
My question is this: why do the Government feel the need to repeal the entitlement to these diplomas? It would be disingenuous not to say that, so far as the engineering diploma was concerned, we ran into some issues around what it might mean for other areas of the curriculum, in particular for A-levels. However, employer demand overall—I think it is the right word to use—was very encouraging, and certainly the sector skills councils, which were heavily involved in the diplomas, approached them with great enthusiasm. Why are they being withdrawn when they were proving to be hugely beneficial and provided one of the answers to the many questions raised in the debate on the provisions of Clause 27?
I rise briefly to support my noble friend. We have heard a lot from the Minister and his noble friend about burdens and requirements on schools, but as I am sure he knows, the entitlement was not designed so that every school had to provide the whole range of diplomas. Within an area, however, a young individual was able to access all of them. I am looking at this from the other end of the kaleidoscope, if you like; it was not a burden on schools but an entitlement for a young person. They could study for a diploma somewhere accessible in their local area. Therefore I agree with my noble friend that it seems perverse and unnecessary of the Government to repeal this entitlement. If there is a genuine urge to achieve parity of esteem between vocational courses and academic subjects, it is hard to understand why this clause has been included in the Bill in the light of everyone’s desire to achieve parity.
Clause 28 is the first of two clauses related to the diploma entitlement. This clause removes the duty on local authorities in England to secure the diploma entitlement for 16 to 18 year-olds. The provisions being amended are not yet in force.
High-quality vocational education, just as much as academic education, is crucial to improving England’s educational performance. In that, I am in total agreement with the noble Baronesses, Lady Wall and Lady Hughes. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State asked Professor Alison Wolf to carry out her review of vocational qualifications. Professor Wolf published her report on 3 March. In it, she found some areas of great strength. Places on the best apprenticeships, such as those provided by Network Rail or Rolls-Royce, are highly regarded by employers and more oversubscribed than the most desirable course at the best university. There are excellent qualifications available, providing clear routes for progression into full-time employment or further study in higher education. However, these examples of excellence do not add up to an excellent system and are too often provided in spite of rather than because of the structures that Government have created. The diploma entitlement is one such example where a focus on structure and process has been taken too far.
As I have said, the provisions being amended here are not yet in force. Were they to be implemented as originally intended, they would place a duty on every local authority to secure access for 16 to 18 year-olds to all 14 diploma subjects at all levels, regardless of local needs or any other educational priorities. I reassure noble Lords that this clause does not remove diplomas or any of their constituent qualifications. Nor does it prevent providers of education to 16 to 18 year-olds from offering diplomas if they so wish. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Wall, that the diploma in engineering has been the outstanding success of this particular qualification. We cannot say the same about the rest of the range of diplomas that were on offer.
The Government believe that schools and colleges should not be obliged to offer every diploma. They should be free to decide which qualifications to teach, according to the needs and aspirations of their students. Indeed, the Association of Colleges has said that it has always been uncertain about the diploma entitlement and that it has,
“always wanted greater freedom for colleges to offer courses and qualifications which best meet the needs of young people”.
The Association of School and College Leaders has welcomed the removal of the diploma entitlement, saying that,
“it was not practical to offer all lines to all students”.
Edge, which has done so much to promote vocational education, has said that,
“it was always going to be difficult to deliver the entitlement, especially in rural areas”.
Following Professor Wolf’s review of vocational education, we are embarking on a substantial programme of reforms. We have already confirmed that some valued vocational qualifications will be funded for teaching in September 2011. We have announced that industry professionals and FE lecturers will be allowed to teach in schools. We have clarified that schools and colleges are free to offer any vocational qualification offered by a regulated awarding organisation. By removing the diploma entitlement, we are ensuring that schools and colleges are free to consider which qualifications—academic or vocational—meet the real needs of their students, enabling them to progress into further study or a job. I repeat: this clause does not remove any diplomas or other vocational option for young people. It removes a bureaucratic and burdensome requirement on local authorities, schools and colleges.
I thank the Minister for her response, and some of the things which she has shared with us are really quite encouraging. Nevertheless, I think a concern remains that the opportunity will be removed if it is not widespread. Regarding the comments of Professor Wolf, she made those at the very early stages. After looking at the evidence she has in fact since said that diplomas do provide opportunities for young people to take either the academic or vocational route without feeling discriminated against in any way, and that they give equality of credence to each.
Clause 28 agreed.
Clause 29 agreed.
Regarding Amendment 88, I must tell your Lordships that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 98 for reasons of pre-emption.
88: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—
“Personal, social, health and economic education in maintained schools
(1) In section 84 of EA 2002 (curriculum requirement for first, second and third key stages), in subsection (3), at the end insert “, and
(i) personal, social, health and economic education.”(2) In section 85 of EA 2002 (curriculum requirements for the fourth key stage), in subsection (4), at the end insert “, and
(d) personal, social, health and economic education.”(3) In section 74(1) of EIA 2006 (curriculum requirements for the fourth key stage) in subsection (4) of the new section 85 to EA 2002, at the end insert “, and
(d) personal, social, health and economic education.”(4) Before section 86 of EA 2002 (power to alter or remove requirements for fourth key stage) insert—
“85B Personal, social, health and economic education
(1) For the purposes of this Part, personal, social, health and economic education (“PSHE”) shall comprise—
(a) education about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs,(b) education about emotional health and well-being, (c) sex and relationships education,(d) education about nutrition and physical activity,(e) education about personal finance,(f) education about individual safety, and(g) careers, business and economic education.(2) The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (1).
(3) The National Curriculum for England is not required to specify attainment targets or assessment arrangements for PSHE (and section 84(1) has effect accordingly).
(4) It is the duty of the governing body and head teacher of any school in which PSHE is provided in pursuance of this Part to secure that the principles set out in subsections (5) to (7) are complied with.
(5) The first principle is that information presented in the course of providing PSHE should be accurate and balanced.
(6) The second principle is that PSHE should be taught in a way that—
(a) is appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned and to their religious and cultural backgrounds, and(b) reflects a reasonable range of religious, cultural and other perspectives.(7) The third principle is that PSHE should be taught in a way that—
(a) endeavours to promote equality,(b) encourages acceptance of diversity, and(c) emphasises the importance of both rights and responsibilities.(8) Subsections (4) to (7) are not to be read as preventing the governing body or head teacher of a school within subsection (9) from causing or allowing PSHE to be taught in a way that reflects the school’s religious character.
(9) A school is within this subsection if it is designated as a school having a religious character by an order made by the Secretary of State under section 69(3) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (duty to secure due provision of religious education).
(10) This section is not to be read as requiring the PSHE curriculum for pupils in the first key stage to include paragraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g) of subsection (1).
(11) In exercising their functions under this Part so far as relating to PSHE, a local authority, governing body or head teacher shall have regard to any guidance issued from time to time by the Secretary of State.”
My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 88 and to speak to Amendments 89 and 90 in my name. They are copied, with some small changes, from three clauses in the Children Schools and Families Bill 2010, which were dropped from the Bill before it became an Act. As I said when the deletion was debated on the 7 April 2010, these clauses would have,
“given children the high quality PSHE for which they have long asked, which they deserve and to which they have a right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”.—[Official Report, 7/4/10; col. 1578.]
Noble Lords may recall the great distress of many of us when these provisions were dropped. They had been well thought out, had been consulted upon widely and had broad support. After they had been deleted from the Bill, a number of organisations, including the Youth Parliament, signed a statement making it clear that they would not give up the fight. Many of your Lordships, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Gould and Lady Massey, vowed to do the same on behalf of young people. This is not a party matter. It is a matter of strong principle and belief and I approach it in that spirit.
These amendments make PSHE part of the foundation curriculum in all schools receiving funding from the state, including the rapidly increasing number of academies, for children throughout the age range. The courses must adhere to certain important principles; that is, the information must be accurate and balanced, appropriate to the age, religion and cultural background of the children, promote equality, accept diversity and emphasise the importance of rights and responsibilities. Who could argue with that? These matters can be taught in a way that reflects the school's religious character. Guidance will secure that children learn about the nature of various adult relationships and their role in the bringing up of children, where we know that stable relationships are important.
In these amendments I have made two changes from the original, which I hope will have the effect of attracting wider support for the measure in this revised form. I have removed the clause that would have removed the parent's right to withdraw their child. Frankly, not many parents use it and I do not see why that should get in the way of the majority of children getting better PSHE education. The other thing I have done is to take four elements of the curriculum and make them voluntary for children at Key Stage 1. They are drugs, alcohol and tobacco education, sex and relationship education, personal finance education and careers and business education. Many schools will feel they want to include these elements, in an age-appropriate way, for younger children, and they are free to do that. However, I feel we can leave that to their judgment.
The reason I wish to make PSHE compulsory in all schools is to ensure that all children receive it and to give parents more confidence in it by improving the quality of delivery. This would be done by improving teacher training, assessment and inspection if the subject was taken more seriously by schools and by Ofsted. Many children tell us that the quality of the PSHE they receive is poor and that it does not equip them for their future lives. A survey of 800 young people carried out by the National Children's Bureau found that nearly half felt they had not learnt all they needed to know about HIV. This can be life-saving knowledge and must be taught in a social context, not just teaching the bare scientific facts in a biology lesson. I understand that the report on this matter by the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, to be published shortly, will strongly support my position on this.
I strongly believe that the job of schools is to help young people become life-ready, not just job-ready or higher education-ready. Children may not go on to get first-class degrees but they will all have families, relationships, friends, personal finances, responsibility for their own health and safety, personal money and jobs. Good PSHE supports all these things. Just as importantly, PSHE also supports academic learning and develops the capabilities that young people need to flourish in life and in work. Once they leave school, no one else will do this, so it is vital.
There are other reasons. Children, young people and their parents want PSHE; many surveys have shown that. It promotes their health, well-being and personal safety. Goodness knows, they live in a world where safety is often threatened and there are many threats to good health. PSHE also helps the school to promote the social, moral, cultural and spiritual development of its pupils and links up well with RE, as well as with arts and cultural education.
I see that the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, tries to achieve much the same thing, and I congratulate her on her tenacity in this regard. The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, also has merit but the matters about which she is concerned could easily be taught in the health part of PSHE.
The White Paper that preceded the Bill recognised that children can benefit enormously from high-quality PSHE. That was a most welcome statement. Since then, the Government have announced an independent review of the curriculum where PSHE is not included in the remit of the expert panel. I would like to ask the Minister how the Secretary of State would respond if the expert panel reported that it felt that PSHE should be part of the national curriculum. Would he accept its recommendation? It is a widely held view among teachers that all children should receive this education, and many members of the expert panel are teachers.
At the same time, the Government have announced an internal review of PSHE—or at least I believe they will soon. Why have these two reviews been separated? Have decisions already been made about the fate of PSHE? In the light of the enormous body of opinion that PSHE is a vital element of the education of every child, why have the Government not seen fit to include it in the remit of their independent advisers? When the internal review concludes, as it most certainly will, that the quality of PSHE is terribly patchy and many children are being let down, what do the Government plan to do about it? Will they grasp the nettle and put this subject where it belongs, in the core compulsory part of the curriculum, and fulfil the right of every child? I beg to move.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on her rowing exploits today—even though I understand that we lost—and on her speech, as well as on providing more or less a whole PSHE syllabus in her amendment. I agree that this is not a single-party, but an all-party, issue and always has been. All parties have spoken on this, including from the Bishops’ Bench, with some support for her amendment. My Amendment 98, as the noble Baroness says, is fairly similar, but I want to tweak it a bit. I will say why in a minute.
Like the noble Baroness, I ask the Minister yet again about the details of the internal review. With the delay of the review we are sending the message to teachers, parents and pupils that this is not important. The review was announced eight months ago yet we still do not know what is happening with it. We ought to know.
We know enough about the subject area of PSHE to be able to do a quick review of it. We should not be denying young people access to the information and skills that they need to be human beings and to have knowledge about their own bodies. Supported by information and skills, they will learn about this.
We know that young people want PSHE on the curriculum and that parents support it. Only something like 0.2 per cent of parents ever withdraw their children from anything related to it. We know from surveys that many young people learn about, for example—
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Before we continue, we have been given notice that some noble Lords are having difficulty in hearing the proceedings. It seems that a mobile phone is interfering not only with the loop in here but also with other equipment. I would ask noble Lords not just to put their mobile phones on silent, but to turn them off. Thank you.
We shall resume with the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, on Amendment 88.
I will refrain from testing noble Lords on what I said before the Division. I was merely agreeing with my noble friend—she is my friend, but not in that sense—the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in her amendments. I will say simply that parents and pupils support PSHE and that it is for the benefit of young people.
Sometimes schools provide the only source of information for young people on these issues. Parents may feel that they cannot provide it and, indeed, welcome the fact that someone else is giving their children this information. There will be more on that in a minute. Times change and the world has become increasingly complex. Years ago, who could have predicted a pandemic on the scale of HIV infection? I salute the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, on his courage and determination in raising awareness of the issue—in the face of much opposition at the time—and on his continued support through his committee. I see that awareness of HIV has now dropped and that young people between the ages of 16 and 24 make up 12 per cent of all new diagnoses. That is worrying.
We should also be concerned about other health issues such as teenage pregnancy, obesity, drugs, smoking, alcohol use and so on. I have read that we are in danger of facing an obesity pandemic, largely due to inappropriate diet. But these health issues are only part of the story. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, PSHE aims to foster good relationships with friends, parents and others. It aims to increase self-awareness and self-respect through an exploration of values and aspirations. It is known that young people who have good relationships along with a strong set of values and aspirations tend to be those who do not get pregnant or take drugs, and have a more confident body image.
Teaching has come a long way. I will not regale the Minister again with the full story of my own sex education when we—the girls, that is—had to knit a uterus. I would say only that it put me off knitting. I remember—
I hope the noble Baroness will forgive me. I just wanted to say that the noble Baroness did tell me the story about the knitted uterus when we completed the Academies Bill. The Bill team then kindly presented me with a knitted uterus in honour of the noble Baroness.
It was not as good as mine. I remember a story told by a very humorous Roman Catholic nun. She was on a health education course with me some years ago. She said that she had been told to say that a girl should, when she danced with a boy, have the width of a telephone directory between them and that, if she got into difficulty, she should yell, “Stop it! I am a young Ursuline”. Incidentally, some excellent PSHE education takes place in Catholic schools, to which I shall come in a minute.
So I say yes to the amendments, but I want some modification. The notion of what I call the spiral curriculum gets lost in the amendments. By spiral curriculum, I mean teaching an issue very simply when a child is young and going into more detail as the child matures. Young children are able to grasp what foods are good for them and which are not without going into detail of nutritional bases and chemical formulae. Young children can explore the notion of friendships and good, respectful relationships without details of sex—they would not grasp them anyway, and that would be inappropriate teaching.
I remember the story of a little boy asking his mother where he came from. She thought, “Right, this is the teaching moment”, and went into stories about daddy's seeds and mummy’s seeds meeting. After a while, the little boy said, “Yes, but did I come from Birmingham or Luton?”. When I was teaching my two year-old grandson to play cricket, I did not toss a Michael Holding fast ball at him first thing: they were gentle lobs. Then they got faster. My point is that I would not exclude any stage of education from certain teaching; I would make the teaching suitable to the child and then build on what had been learnt. That is why a curriculum of PSHE is necessary—just like in maths or English—which builds on knowledge and skills that children learn gradually.
The other area where I have some difficulty with the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, is in paragraphs (7) to (11) concerning faith schools and SRE. Although faith schools will still be required to teach SRE, they are exempted from teaching it in a balanced way which promotes equity and diversity. The amendment would give faith schools the right to allow the tenets of religion to override the principles that must guide the teaching of SRE in other maintained schools. That could lead to narrower teaching. The amendment tabled by me and my noble friends Lord Knight and Lady Gould would not prevent faith schools teaching SRE in ways that reflect their religious character, but it would guarantee pupils a right to teaching about all aspects of PSHE.
To return to Roman Catholic nuns, I have talked to many of them on courses. They say, “We can be very clear about our boundaries in what we teach in personal, social and health education. It does not mean that we cannot talk about contraception, abortion, homosexuality and what they mean. It means that we must give the perspective of our faith on those issues”. How sensible. That is all I am looking for.
We all have a particular perspective on all sorts of issues. We can make that perspective clear to young people. However, they should be given full and comprehensive education. I am a humanist, but I believe that young people should be taught about different faiths and cultures. Otherwise, we are in the dangerous territory of indoctrination—a word disliked by my noble friend Lord McAvoy. Indoctrination is not education. Education seeks to bring out the best in young people.
I say to the Minister: please say yes to the principle of having PSHE as a statutory right for all pupils of whatever age or faith. Let us get the appropriate curriculum and teaching sorted out.
I certainly can. If the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, were here, she would give the example of a particular school where they learned the Koran for about 80 per cent of the curriculum, and very little else. I think that is indoctrination. Education should consider all aspects of a particular faith, of other faiths, of personal, social and health education, without restriction. Trying to persuade young people to adhere to a particular thing, which they may not be ready to adhere to anyway, may influence them in unfortunate ways.
I am grateful to my noble friend for that clarification. I am sure she is fed up with me, but perhaps I could test her patience further. She considers indoctrination to be a set percentage of the curriculum by a Catholic school, for instance. Does she not accept that parents choose to send their children to Catholic schools or a particular faith school? I cannot grasp why people making legislation should restrict people’s choices. People are not dragged into these faith schools. People choose to send their children to these faith schools.
My Lords, with all due respect, I think my noble friend is misunderstanding me. I am not saying that parents should not send their children to the school of their choice. All I am saying is that, as a parent, I would not wish my child to have his or her education limited to a particular doctrine or creed or particular way of teaching or particular aspects of teaching. I would want my child to have a very broad education. Earlier I gave the example of a Roman Catholic school where the nuns say they will teach in a broad sense but within the ethos of their own faith. That is fine by me.
My Lords, I support wholeheartedly what my noble friend Lady Massey has just said, particularly in relation to children learning about different faiths and so on and that being part of general education. Amendment 85B is very good and extremely well intentioned. The only problem I have is with its wording. Subsection (7) outlines the principles of PSHE, which of course are absolutely admirable, that it “endeavours to promote equality”, of course; “encourages acceptance of diversity”, of course; and,
“emphasises the importance of both rights and responsibilities”.
Of course we all agree with that; it is absolutely right. However, subsection (8) says:
“Subsections (4) to (7) are not to be read as preventing the governing body or head teacher of a school within subsection (9)”—
that is, schools with a religious character,
“from causing or allowing PSHE to be taught in a way that reflects the school’s religious character”.
That gives me a problem because subsection (7) could lead us into difficulty when it says, “endeavours to promote equality”. We are all aware that there are religions that, if you look at their precepts, are in dispute with the equality law that we have, and we want all citizens of this country to accept the rights that the equality law gives them. That sort of wording might lead us into some difficulty.
I do not have the same problem with Amendment 98, which has just been spoken to by my noble friend Lady Massey. Frankly, I would prefer that wording and that amendment to the wording in the amendment that is presently before us. However, I support the feeling behind both amendments, I think that it is right, and I congratulate both noble Baronesses on their commitment to these ideas, which I wholeheartedly support.
My Lords, I congratulate the proposers of these amendments because they deal with one of the central purposes of education. In surveys, when parents are asked what they most want for their children in school, they say they most want children to be happy and to learn how to live. Secondly, they say they want them to learn their subjects. The tragic situation is that many people, including some senior politicians, think that these two objectives are in contradiction to and competition with each other. Of course, the opposite is true. These objectives are mutually reinforcing and this is really the essence of the point that needs to be made today. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred to it and I want to give you a bit of evidence that by the teaching of PSHE we serve two objectives: teaching children how to manage their lives but also enabling them, through being happier and more balanced, to learn their subjects better.
Here is one piece of interesting evidence. Some 207 programmes in imparting life skills that were developed mainly in the United States were surveyed in terms of their effects on young people. Each programme covered a part of the PSHE curriculum that has been outlined in the amendment and was rigorously evaluated in comparison with a control group. From the so-called meta-analysis, one obtains the average effect of all these programmes on the well-being of the pupils and their academic achievements. Here is the effect on the emotional well-being and balance of the child: the average programme lifted the average child by 11 percentile points—11 places in the ranking in which children are ranked from 0 to 100—and that represents a substantial effect. Guess what the effect on academic performance was. It was also 11 percentile points. So it is not a question of either life skills or academic attainment, it is both. If noble Lords are interested in these programmes, information on them can be found on a wonderful website, casel.org. The other point that emerges from these surveys is that the better of the 207 programmes have much larger effects.
The future of PSHE, particularly in secondary schools, has to involve a much greater use of such programmes because it is an extraordinarily difficult subject to teach. We have not talked about that very much but most people, if thrown in at the deep end, would have a lot of difficulty in teaching most of these subjects. We need much more serious teacher training in these areas and much better materials. There is some progress in this country in this area, but very little. To achieve progress in the quality of the teaching, these subjects must be firmly established in the curriculum. That is what these amendments are about. I welcome them and hope that the Government will take them seriously.
My Lords, I should like to speak in support of these amendments and to talk briefly about the critical importance of relationship education within the PSHE curriculum and its links to pupils’ wider emotional health and well-being, which we have just heard about. Before doing so, I should declare an interest as chief executive of the charity Relate, which delivers relationship education to children in all four key stages in about 50 primary and secondary schools across the country.
I often feel that I am on a personal mission to try to change the terminology in this debate to “relationships” —in capitals—and sex education, rather than the other way around, which very much puts the cart before the horse in a rather unhelpful way. That is because when sex education and relationships education are coupled together in that order, the debate too often gets bogged down and polarised, and focuses almost solely on parents’ right to withdraw their children from sex education. We should be focusing on children’s emotional health and well-being.
Relationships education, when delivered appropriately by experts in the field—classroom teachers are the first to admit that this is not often their specialism and can feel uncomfortable in this role—has many benefits, not least when it focuses on the quality of relationships whereby young people learn how to distinguish a good relationship from a bad one. This is crucial because, sadly, too many children see few examples of good relationships in their home life and, without help, are likely to repeat these patterns in their own relationships. It is also critical that young people understand, for example, how to manage conflict and cope with family breakdown, how to recognise and understand abusive behaviour in relationships and what they need to do to seek help in those situations.
As we have heard today, survey evidence shows that young people want opportunities to discuss things that feel relevant to their lives, like their emotions, relationships and their sex lives or sexual health. In addition, research from the Sex Education Forum showed that 84 per cent of parents see both school and home as the main source of sex and relationships education and that both should be involved. To me, this is the nub of the matter. With regard to school or the home it is never a question of either/or but very much both/and.
I wish I had time to tell the Committee about the various projects that we are involved with across the country, working with boys, girls, teachers and parents, trying to provide high-quality information about both relationships and sex. We are helping to support young people in making important personal choices within a framework that emphasises their values. At the end of these projects, the feedback that we get from young people is often that they feel much more confident and less embarrassed talking about relationships and sex. We also get positive feedback from parents and teachers.
There are wider reasons for supporting the universal teaching of relationships education in schools, which is related to the duty on schools to promote children’s well-being, and I am delighted to see that that remains firmly in place. As we have heard, there is a growing body of evidence that good emotional well-being is strongly associated with good educational attainment and improved employment prospects; indeed, there is some evidence that it can increase earnings potential. The reverse is true as well. From our work at Relate providing one-to-one counselling to around 15,000 children in some 650 schools across the country, we see at first hand how problems with relationships at home mean that children are often unable to learn.
We have not heard much in today’s debate about teenage pregnancy rates. Although they are slowly declining, we still have the highest rates in Europe—a matter of profound concern to us all. I remind the committee that the final report of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group warned that teenage pregnancy will rise again unless there is better provision of sex and relationships education. It put a particular emphasis on giving young people the knowledge and life skills to resist peer, partner and media pressures, and that is very important. My lasting memory in this area is of talking to one of our expert trainers delivering sex and relationships education to young people in school who told me, and I quote this word for word:
“The problem is that they know everything about sex and nothing about relationships”.
We have a chance through this amendment to ensure that all young people learn about the importance of relationships now and in the future.
My Lords, I shall speak to my amendment in this group.
First, though, I shall address a small point just raised about relationships. In new Section 85B(1)(b), perhaps we should also insert, “bereavement reactions in grief and loss”. There are some fantastic programmes that help children prepare for the inevitability of experiencing bereavement, grief and loss, which are tailored for different ages. We know that by the time children leave school, 10 per cent of them are going to be seriously bereaved, but we are just ignoring that when we talk about other aspects of development. Those children do very badly if they do not understand their emotions.
My amendment is focused on community resuscitation. In the UK we have over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests a year, and currently fewer than 10 per cent of victims survive to leave hospital. That means that we have 27,000 sudden deaths in the community. To put that in perspective, about 12,000 women a year die of breast cancer, 3,000 people die on the roads and 270 people die from knife crime. The number of sudden cardiac arrest deaths out there is huge. It takes around five to 10 minutes for an emergency ambulance to reach someone and for every minute that passes in cardiac arrest the chance of successful defibrillation decreases by 10 per cent, so time is of the essence. Immediately administrated cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which I am now going to call CPR because it is much shorter, will prolong the time that the patient remains shockable and therefore can be put back into a normal rhythm. It increases the chance of survival by a factor of around three. If there is a defibrillator nearby, survival rates of up to 50 per cent from a baseline of under 10 per cent have been reported.
Other parts of the world have already addressed this. It is part of the curriculum in Norway, Denmark and France. The American Heart Association has advised that no pupil should graduate from secondary school without being proficient in CPR, not just learning it. In Seattle, schools have taught CPR in PE lessons for over 30 years, so now half of the population of Seattle and the surrounding area are trained. In 2009 the survival rate for witnessed cardiac arrests was 46 per cent, while ours is under 10 per cent. The difference is dramatic.
Here in the UK, the British Heart Foundation has put Heartstart into over 2,700 schools, 700 of which are secondary schools or colleges. It trains thousands of children every year. British Red Cross and St John Ambulance also run training schemes, but the trouble is that the provision is patchy. There are 3.6 million children in secondary education in England, but only around 14 per cent have any training in CPR provided by one of these organisations. It is estimated that around 3 million secondary school pupils are not trained, even though the voluntary organisations are very ready to offer this training. By contrast, a poll taken by the British Heart Foundation at the beginning of this year found that 86 per cent of teachers, 70 per cent of parents and 78 per cent of children want to be trained. There is no resistance anywhere; it is a question of making the link. The campaign has wide medical, nursing and teaching support, as well as from the charities that deal with bereavement following cardiac death.
Training and support for teachers would enable them to deliver emergency life support. Currently, the British Heart Foundation spends around £800,000 a year on teaching resources, including mannequins, school packs, teacher supply cover and so on. It is estimated that it will be necessary to increase the provision of community resuscitation development officers, who are linked with the 12 ambulance trusts in England, by around five people to ensure that every child in every school is taught. With additional resources, the models could be successfully applied across all schools. There are over 3,000 local authority maintained secondary schools in England. The amendment aims to amend Section 84 of the Education Act 2002 so that this training becomes a community requirement at the first, second and third key stages.
I know that the Government can be much more prescriptive with the curriculum for maintained schools and I hope that they might consider adopting this training because that will influence the academies to take it up. However, I am well aware that the Government cannot be prescriptive for academies. Sadly, this is not part of PSHE at the moment. First aid training in the curriculum covers some parts of emergency life support but not emergency CPR, which is what can save lives. We could go from 27,000 sudden deaths in the community to approximately half that number if we spent a few hours on training all children in CPR. It has been estimated that the training takes only around four hours. It would mean that when they come across someone who has collapsed and is effectively dead on the street, they will know what to do.
My Lords, I know that there are quite a number of people who, like me, should declare an interest in this, having been identified as a potential victim. I shall just tell my noble friend that he will have to argue very strongly against this amendment to stop me supporting it at a later stage.
My Lords, I do not have an amendment and I do not have a speech, but I have a question: how do we come to be where we are in this debate at all? The Government have made it absolutely clear that they have an agenda about well-being, particularly about well-being for children. They have also made it clear that, when findings show that children in our country are less happy than in other parts of Europe, they want to do something about improving that position. They, like the previous Government, have also undertaken that elements of PSHE are very important in the curriculum. With due humility, the Minister might do well to go away with those people who have long lists of amendments and talk them through. I do not think that the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Massey, are likely to give up. We will get somewhere that way.
Many of the arguments I would have made have now already been made but I intervened to put one argument particularly for a group of children who, without this education, will not have any benefit in these areas—that is, very poor and vulnerable children who come from some of the deepest, darkest estates in our country and with whom I spend quite a lot of time. These children are subject to relationship breakdown or find themselves in care. They do not get this kind of education in their homes. People will try and give it in residential care—foster carers will give it—but they will have interrupted relationships and care. They will not have that kind of secure relationship and understanding that many other children will have. It is for this group of children that I plead. They are children who are in conflict.
As the chair of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, I work with a young people’s board. I do not give many anecdotes when speaking in Committee but those children often talk about teachers in school giving them some of the elements that help them hold themselves together through extraordinarily conflicted experiences in their homes. Teachers are at this moment attempting to give this kind of education. It needs space, skill and structure. I cannot understand why we are at this point in the debate because this is what the Government want as well.
I support the Education Bill and particularly the determination to have a slimmed-down national curriculum. In the fascinating debate on Monday, the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, was right to advocate,
“a balanced education with a minimum core”,—[Official Report, 11/7/11; col. GC 224.]
which allows room for the professionalism of teachers. I strongly approach that approach.
In the same debate on Amendment 83, the noble Lord, Lord Knight, who unfortunately is not in his place and we know why, expressed the wish that children would get up in the morning wanting to go to school. The aim should be good teaching on core subjects that encourages all pupils to feel involved and indeed excited by a love of learning and increasing their knowledge. Maths would even bring alive the dreary subject of economics—I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is no longer with us. History could be expanded to show how social structures evolve, informing pupils on how to react to differing situations. What better way to develop good communication skills than to learn lessons from the best communicators of the past by studying works of the great poets, authors and orators?
However, Amendments 88, 89, 90 and 98 would take us in a completely different direction. As we have heard, their effect would be to expand the curriculum to introduce statutory personal, social, health and economic education for all maintained schools. As we have already heard this evening from the noble Lord, Lord Layard, PSHE is extremely difficult to teach. Now we have a situation: how can we have a slimmed-down curriculum and yet put in it more and more issues that are extremely difficult to teach?
PSHE is a subject which, given the ethos and support for it in school, can run across all subjects in the curriculum. That is the focus for it. The noble Baroness is of course perfectly right about communication. However, it needs a core, even if it is a small one, of personal social and health education so that that core can expand into other subjects and be beneficial for the child. There is no denying that if we want good academic results in our schools we have to give a focus to relationships education and young people feeling comfortable with themselves and their own learning abilities.
I am grateful for that intervention and the noble Baroness is absolutely right that all of that can be taught through the other ways. However, why are we going to duplicate and have a special core subject called personal, social and health education as well as insisting that it is part of the maths curriculum, the English curriculum, the history curriculum and whatever?
My greatest objection is to Amendment 98. If agreed, Amendment 98 would extend sex education to all children from five years of age upwards. I find this deeply concerning and even abhorrent. Many of us were very thankful that the previous Government ran out of time for similar plans before last year’s election. Among other measures, detailed sex education lessons for children as young as five were proposed.
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness again. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, is saying they were not and I will leave her to deal with that. What I would like to say—and I did say earlier—is that the curriculum should be appropriate to the age and stage of the child. I gave the example of not lobbing cricket balls fast at my two year-old grandson, but to start slowly. I should not mention the press but this popular newspaper thing about sex education at five is quite inaccurate. Teachers do not do this. Teachers talk about relationships and friendships at five, they do not talk about HIV/AIDS and all the rest of that. It is simply not true.
That is a marvellous statement that is simply not true, because it is actually said that you want to repeal the statutory requirement that sex education is not taught between the ages of five and seven. This amendment would repeal that statutory requirement. In other words, if you are saying that you want sex education for five to seven year-olds to stay exactly as it is, I have no problem.
I support Amendment 98, in particular new subsections (6) and (7). We live in a nation of many cultures and several faiths. I declare an interest as a vice president of the British Humanist Association. These many cultures and several faiths are a huge asset for our culture, understanding of the world, trade, regeneration and enterprise—lots of things—but to realise these assets we need to be at ease with our fellow citizens, to understand their culture and their faith, especially when we do not share it. If we do not have this opportunity in school, we risk losing out culturally and economically but, almost more importantly, we risk increasing bigotry and prejudice.
I have been mentioned. I have not resiled from the position I took on Monday and I continue to have concerns about the overcrowding of the required curriculum, as I am bound to say in talking about these amendments. None the less, I accept that PSHE is a very important part of education for many young people and that it will continue in schools, and rightly so. However, it seems that we are trying to impose the shape of education through legislation, whereas the shape of education is a matter of balance and balance is never formulated in a set of clauses in a Bill. The real issue is how well this is done and whether a balance of attitude is preserved. This applies to PSHE and to the teaching of religion and about other faiths in faith schools.
I have reservations. First, I do not think that we do PSHE very well. We have already had mention of the fact that teenage pregnancy numbers may be falling but we are still the worst in Europe. STD admissions are rising among young people. Whatever we are doing, and we have done a lot more of it the last two years, we are not doing it well. I am not sure that legislating in this way will change that. Secondly, it is very much a delicate balance. Thirdly, one of the ways in which you try to deal with delicate balances in schools is by having an adequate inspection system. I am not saying that the one we have is good enough yet, but if there were an adequate inspection system one of the things it would ask is, “Is the balance of sex education in this school, in this community and in this culture right?”. That is what you would expect from a good school inspection. It looks as if, in this Bill, many schools will be exempted from that kind of inspection and that is where I see the gap. I would be reassured about all this being written down in an Act if there were some way of ensuring that it were well done in schools. It is a delicate issue. How this is taught varies from one school and one community to the next and that can only be properly assessed by trained and qualified inspectors.
My Lords, I entirely agree what with the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, just said. I would have said it myself if I could have said it as well. It is crucial that children learn these things at school. It is daffy to prescribe that individual items should be learnt. One should look at the outcome. The only sensible way of looking at the outcome is inspection. This Bill is setting out to destroy that aspect of inspection rather than building on it, so I am entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, in my concerns. The only other thing I would like to say is that this is a great subject to be debating in this room, under a picture of a PSHE lesson.
This whole business of PSHE is almost written on one’s brain because the argument for it has come up again and again in all the education Bills. Relationships are so crucial in everything that we do. I am very much of the view that it certainly does not need to be prescribed and in the Bill. I go along with the approach of my noble friend Lord Sutherland on this. Nevertheless, the whole area is crucially important.
I wish the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, was here because when the previous Government introduced citizenship lessons, there was at last great hope that children would be introduced to the business of parenting—not just getting on and understanding their difficult relationships with their parents but actually what a child needs: love, support and caring. That never happened; it got shunted around to different lessons, if it ever took place at all. I would not at all mind having an inspection with that written into it: how is it doing and is it increasing the happiness and the general well-being of our children?
Returning briefly to the business of teaching religion, and what was said just now, it is crucial for all of us to know about the different religions in the world—and none. It is essential that we accept and know and are tolerant about this. One of the horrors in the rest of the world is that that form of tolerance does not exist. So we must do whatever we can in that direction. However, I hope that in the process we are not going to end up with ways that actually restrict the excellent work that many of our religious schools are doing. I am not thinking of these amendments but perhaps some that will come subsequently.
My Lords, in response to the query raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, about inspections, as I understand it, Ofsted will continue to conduct inspections in academies and other schools as part of national surveys of particular aspects of education. I rise simply to say to our two Ministers that surely the issue of PSHE would be top of the list of priorities for Ofsted in terms of a national survey of what is actually happening. Its report would tell us what is really going on in our schools across the country.
My Lords, I should like to make three brief points. First, I join in the general applause for the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, on the application of the law of diminishing returns in this area: the more you specify, the more you tend to lose. My second point may also relate to later debates. As far as possible in education, we should try to maintain one framework that covers all schools. There may be some adaptation in schools of different character, but it is in the spirit of our educational system to aim for a framework that brings a Church of England school, a Roman Catholic school, a Jewish school and a local authority maintained school under the same umbrella. We are one society, and it is important to make that point in our education system.
Finally, and perhaps more significantly, I suppose that a Bishop would have to comment on sex and relationships, but sometimes I think that people get obsessed with this area. Generally, the debate has been skewed too much towards it. I also think that linking sex and relationships, while I understand entirely why we do it—we do not want to disentangle sexual relationships from relationships—we do not want to get into the way of thinking that all relationships are therefore fundamentally sexualised as an outcome. I read Frank Field’s report to the Government on children in our society, which is a serious issue. Surveys show that one of the things that children most want to learn is how to be good parents. There is something of a lacuna in these proposals in the area of what I would call parenthood, quite apart from the issues of sexualised or sexually related relationships. I rather agree with the right honourable gentleman down the corridor that what is key to our society is how we hand on civilisation to the next generation. There is some wisdom in the observation in his report that children want more than anything else to learn to be good parents. However, I do not see that coming through, and I certainly do not want to see this education reduced to sex and relationships.
My Lords, all the contributions have reflected positive attitudes and have contained many positive words. The danger is that if someone like myself dissents from what I consider to be the main thrust of the amendment of my noble friend Lady Massey, they are portrayed as dinosaurs, male chauvinists and all the litany of abusive terms that suggest discrimination against women. However, let me declare my credentials from when I served in another place because they will totally contradict that kind of attitude towards me. I voted for the equal age of consent. I voted for civil partnerships. Even when there was a free vote, I voted for every single equality measure. It was not a case of being whipped to vote for something because the Government said so. I hope that if that attitude has been inculcated, it will have been quickly dispelled by my record. Perhaps I would carry more credibility with my noble friend Lady Massey if she took into account the fact that the Roman Catholic church attacked me for those votes, but as far as I am concerned, it establishes my independence.
I would like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, to turn to page 6 of the Marshalled List, which sets out the proposed new section. Subsection (6) states:
“The second principle is that PSHE should be taught in a way that”—
as outlined in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of the amendment. Subsection (7) also has three paragraphs.
However, I worry about the practicality of that. The practicality is that new Section 85B(8) says,
“Subsections (4) to (7) are not to be read as preventing the governing body or head teacher of a school within subsection (9) from causing or allowing PSHE to be taught in a way that reflects the school’s religious character”.
Who decides? Who judges? Who makes a judgment if someone objects to the way in which that has been done at a school?
I think the answer is that a school does; and it would be held to account for that by Ofsted and by individual parents. If individual parents did not like what was going on, they would retain the right to withdraw their child. Of course, in all the best schools parents are involved anyway in the design of the curriculum covering sensitive issues like this.
I am delighted to hear the noble Baroness say that she supports the rights of parents. If parents send their children to a particular school, she will obviously support them in that, and she will also support them in ensuring that the ethos of that school is maintained, especially one of a religious nature.
When it comes to the new section in Amendment 90, the difficulty is that I maintain—I will no doubt encourage further contributions with this—that the common threads of the amendments are designed to minimise, damage and gradually remove the religious element of faith schools.
I am so sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again but I think that he has misunderstood a great deal of what I was saying. I am not trying to damage the ethos of faith schools. I am saying that the ethos of faith schools may well exist but children have the right to know about other faiths. I was talking today to a friend from Northern Ireland who said, “Look at what damage has been done in Northern Ireland by people not learning about other faiths”. I say no more.
That is the second time that my noble friend has accused me of misunderstanding her. I fully confess that I have a very limited formal education but I do not have limited intelligence, and it is my responsibility to make a judgment that I see a thread in maybe one or two contributions from my noble friend, seeing as how she has introduced this subject. It is my opinion that there is a common thread to the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and my noble friend that are designed to—I withdraw the word “damage”—minimise or devalue the existence and practice of faith schools.
I apologise for intervening on the noble Lord, but we have a group coming later that is all to do with faith and religious worship. I think the comments that he is making might possibly be more appropriate when we come to the next group. Given the lateness of the hour, we might perhaps let the Opposition and the Minister wind up this particular debate, but focusing on PSHE rather than the broader issues of faith.
Very briefly, in response to the Minister, I have not said much different from my noble friend Lady Massey, so it seems to me a strange distinction that she is making. But if it is the will of the Committee that I shut up and sit down, tell me. It is? That is fine.
I am not going to sum up on what has been a wide-ranging debate; I just want to make a quick comment. First, I want to put on record my support and that of my noble friend for the amendment on PSHE in the name of my noble friend Lady Massey, and those in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Secondly, I was disappointed that such provisions disappeared from our legislation in the wash-up before the general election, because we were proceeding with this. Thirdly, these amendments appeared in our legislation following a wide-ranging review that my noble friend Lord Knight conducted over a long period and which involved all the faith schools, other schools and lots of interested parties. It reached a remarkable consensus on the way forward. Provisions similar to these amendments appeared in our legislation. I should like to ask the Minister: given the progress that was made, what else could the review that this Government are now carrying out possibly be looking at? Could they not move a little quicker to get these provisions into legislation, given that that work was already completed?
I totally agree with my noble friend Lady Walmsley and I support her amendment and the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. We need to teach our children to develop social and interpersonal skills and, most of all, to help them to understand what unconditional love is. We have talked about sex, relationships and family life, but lots of children do not know what true unconditional love is. They also need to develop a kind of strategy whereby they can think for themselves. Helping them to develop interpersonal and social skills will go a long way towards achieving that. That is what the amendment is all about.
My Lords, I will not be quite as brief as the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, but I shall do my best. As she said, it has in many ways been an extremely interesting and engaging debate. At its heart, apart from a few outliers, it boils down to a judgment that one has to reach as to whether the best way forward on addressing these important issues around PSHE, which we all agree need to be addressed, is through the statutory prescriptive route or through a different approach by trying to slim down the statutory provisions and the national curriculum, and leaving more space and opportunity for more skill—words used by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth—for teachers to give children and young people the support that they need. Almost my first debates in this House just over a year ago were about PSHE and faith. Whoever said how tenacious my noble friend Lady Walmsley and the noble Baroness, Lady Massey—with whom I have had many discussions—have been on this subject was absolutely right.
We know that in a recent report on the subject, Ofsted found that PSHE education was good or outstanding in three-quarters of the schools visited and that pupils’ personal development was good in most schools visited and was outstanding in about one-third of the schools. However, that same report also found that there were weaknesses, particularly around sex and relationships education, and in some other areas that we need to find ways of addressing. At heart, therefore, is a generally broad agreement on the ends to which we are working but disagreement about the means.
The Government’s aim is to shrink the curriculum and to leave schools and teachers more time to decide for themselves what to teach—a point of view that received a fair amount of support from a number of noble Lords. Teachers have said that they feel that their professionalism is undermined by the overall degree of prescription to which they have been subjected. By stripping the curriculum back we want to give schools the space they need to offer a rounded education, including of course PSHE.
We know that PSHE covers a range of important areas and schools teach it in a variety of ways. It seems to me right that schools should have the discretion to teach it. They know their children. Different schools have different circumstances, and different kinds of children will need different support from their school. Ofsted has said that the most effective curriculum model seen was one in which discrete, regularly taught PSHE lessons were supplemented with cross-curricular activities. That point has also been raised. We are keen to see good practice being shared with the minority of schools that are not teaching the subject as well. Our priority should be to support schools in their efforts to do better by their pupils. That is why we are carrying out the internal review which we have heard about, which has two main objectives: to consider what should be taught; and to look at how schools can be supported to improve the quality of all PSHE teaching. That may be a new element, different from the work previously carried out by the noble Lord, Lord Knight.
I completely understand the impatience of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and my noble friend to hear from the Government when this fabled review will heave into view. I have been saying for some time to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, that it will be soon or shortly; I think it is very soon or very shortly, and as soon as we are there, I will of course circulate that to all Members of the Committee.
I know that the noble Baroness is keen that the review should be as short as possible and that she thinks that much of what it covers has already been covered—we have had that discussion before. I hope that it will start soon, and then aim to conclude by the end of the year.
On the points made about sex and relationships education, as part of our review we will determine how we can support schools to improve the quality of their teaching in this area. As I mentioned, Ofsted’s report on the matter says that sex education is one of the weaker aspects of PSHE. This is perhaps a sign that legislation of itself is not a necessarily a guarantee of good quality teaching, since that is the part that is statutory.
On as emergency life support skills are concerned, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, that equipping young people to be able to step in where lives are at stake is extremely important. I know that many schools, and organisations such as the British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance, do absolutely brilliant work. My own wife is a trained first-aider, something which she needs for the work she does for Riding for the Disabled; so I know how important it is. That is one reason why we are so keen to review the national curriculum: so that the statutory content will take up less of the timetable, which in turn will enable many more schools to get involved in things such as the British Heart Foundation’s Heartstart programme.
We know that there are many things—and my noble friend Lady Walmsley spoke about them with great experience and passion—that pupils need to learn about and can benefit from. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Layard, who sadly is not in his place, about the link between well-being and the ability to learn. Of course that is true, but attempting to define those things from the centre, and be prescriptive about what schools must teach, removes teachers’ and school leaders’ ability to use their professional judgment.
We had an interesting exchange about inspections. Of course the new school inspection framework will cover the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, was making a point echoed by my noble friend Lord Lucas about the frequency of inspection—we will come on to talk about that under later groups. We will also come back to discuss thematic reviews and the risk assessment process, issues mentioned by my noble friend Lady Perry of Southwark. We know that the majority of schools already deliver good PSHE education, which is not currently a statutory part of the curriculum. I agree that we need to look at how the quality of PSHE teaching can be improved and what its content should be; that is what our review will look into. I know that I will disappoint my noble friend Lady Walmsley who has clear and strong views on this, but with these comments I ask her to withdraw her amendments.
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, especially my noble friend the Minister. He may have disappointed me, but he has not surprised me. Perhaps I may make a few points to follow up on what noble Lords have said. First, I turn to the Minister’s response. The noble Lord, Lord Knight, achieved a very wide consensus, and that is why I took the three clauses from the Bill that was lost before the general election. The reason I took them as the basis for my amendments is the wide consensus that they had achieved among people who run schools of all faiths. I felt that those clauses struck the right balance.
My noble friend says that he does not want to be prescriptive about what should be taught. I do not think that my amendments are prescriptive. They talk about areas that should be taught, but they certainly do not set out programmes of work which, personally, I think should be quite spare and leave a great deal to the discretion and professionalism of teachers. However, we are prescriptive in other subjects. Before long, when the review of the national curriculum reaches its conclusions, there will be prescription about what children should be taught in physics, English, geography and all the rest. We are going to get that, so why not PSHE, too, which is so fundamentally important?
I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, that I understand where she is coming from in her comments but, as I have just said, these amendments came from her own Government’s Bill which, before the general election, she supported. What we have to do is get the balance right between the principles I have laid down in my amendments—I think most people would agree with them—and the rights of parents to send their children to schools in the faith that they themselves uphold, and for those schools to teach PSHE in the light of their own faith. I do not see anything wrong with that.
I was quite disappointed that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, could not support me. In order to address the issues that she and others of her opinion expressed when we discussed this matter before the general election, I made modifications to the clauses. I absolutely deny that five year-olds are taught the details of human sex. They are not. But it was in order to take account of some people’s fear that they might be taught in that way that I made that area and one or two other areas of the curriculum I am proposing voluntary. Schools can do this in an age-appropriate way, as set out in the amendments, but if they do not want to do it, they do not have to.
I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. The point I am making—I am finding it hard to speak because I am not very well—is that at the moment there is legislation which states that sex education cannot be provided for five to seven year-olds, but these amendments would repeal that. That is what I have been informed. If I am wrong, I apologise, but that is the basis of my objection.
I accept what the noble Baroness has heard, but it is not my understanding that that is the case. However, I am sure that we can look at it outside the Committee.
What I am really saying is that we want children to be learning-ready. PSHE is not an extra subject that I am trying to put into the curriculum. I agree absolutely with the Minister that we need to slim the curriculum down. However, PSHE is not any old subject; it is a fundamental underpinning. None of us ladies would go around without foundation garments because they make our fashions look better on the outside. It is really important that children have the skills and understanding that enable them to benefit from all the other subjects that we decide that they must learn—the core ones they must learn or the additional ones that they may take.
I understand where the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, is coming from. I would not want to load the curriculum with a lot of extra subjects, but he did make the point that we do not do this very well. That is exactly why I would like to make PSHE statutory. People would then train as specialists. As the noble Lord rightly said, without training, some of these areas are difficult to teach. I myself was thrown in at the deep end—many teachers are. I would certainly have benefited from training but, if that were a statutory part of the national curriculum, Ofsted would have to inspect it at every school level.
I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester for raising the subject of parenthood. As far as I am concerned, that would come into the relationships and sex part of PSHE. Parents have relationships between each other and with their children. It is particularly their relationship with their children that would be important there. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and his passion for getting young people taught some parenting skills. That is very important.
Finally, on the voting record of the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, I am quite sure that he would want to support my amendments. I reassure him that what he seeks would not be precluded by my three amendments in any way whatever.
Amendment 88 withdrawn.
Committee adjourned at 8.06 pm.