Education and Society
That the House takes note of the role of education in building a flourishing and skilled society.
My Lords, I am grateful to the usual channels for making time once again for me to lead a debate in your Lordships’ House. It is now something of a tradition for an Archbishop’s debate to be held in early December. Though a little later and less well established than the John Lewis advert, the appearance of an Archbishop on the order paper is a sure sign that Christmas is just around the comer.
Last year, I led a debate on shared national values, which featured some extremely impressive and thoughtful speeches. I am sure that today’s debate will be equally impressive, and I am grateful to so many of your Lordships for making time to attend. I look forward to your contributions, and it will be an especial pleasure to hear the first speech from the noble, reincarnated and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres. I am also delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, will be speaking today. He has told me—and obviously we all understand—that he will have to leave before the wind-up to get home in time for the Sabbath. But it is very good that he has come here at all.
There is a link between today’s debate on education and the previous one on shared values. What I hope to give today is an outline of the sort of values that we suggest, from these Benches especially, should underpin our education system, and the structures that might support them, so that we might create a society where individual and mutual flourishing become the norm. As in so many areas of our public life—if noble Lords will excuse a little bit of trumpet-blowing—it was the churches that pioneered the idea of a universal system of education, free for all. In 1811, Joshua Watson founded the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in England and Wales. Fortunately, our titles are shorter nowadays. The then Bishop of Oxford described Joshua Watson as “the best layman in England”—a title long overdue for revival: applications please in sealed envelopes to Lambeth Palace. What was started by Watson and others in 1811 lives on today as the National Society. I declare an interest as its co-president. My right reverend friend and colleague the Bishop of Ely, who I look forward to hearing speak later, chairs its council.
Watson set a values framework that was as important to the principles of free universal education as was the imperative, also in his ideas, to improve productivity and fight embedded squalor. By 1870, there were too many children and schools for the churches to cope with alone, and the first of the great Education Acts brought the schools under state control, although still with a very strong religious participation from different Christian churches and Jewish groups. Today, the Church of England alone educates over 1 million pupils each year in England, with 26% of all primary schools and 6% of all secondary schools.
Joshua Watson and his friends conceived their plans at a time of great national crisis and upheaval. The Luddite movement, which also began in 1811, was a response to fear of redundancy because of growing technological advances. Two centuries later, the advances that threaten long-established patterns of work are different—but they are still there, in what we are now calling the fourth industrial revolution. As the World Economic Forum describes it, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century is today accompanied by emerging technological breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing. How our schools and our further and higher education institutions can equip us for this seismic shift, and how our systems of social security and support can enable us to keep our society cohesive and healthy, are among the greatest challenges facing this generation, and the generation to come. And, of course, there is Brexit, with unforeseeable changes, challenges and opportunities.
We need an educational system that can bear the weight of the changes that are coming. We must be sure that, while we might find some inspiration in our past, we do not waste our time rummaging there for the solutions of tomorrow. We must also challenge anew the pockets of deprivation and underachievement that still exist across so many of our communities; and we must face the poverty of aspiration that so often comes with it and which forms such a barrier to human flourishing in every form.
At its most basic, for the past two centuries the Church of England has looked to promote an education that allows children, young people and adults to live out Jesus’s promise of life in all its fullness. That means enabling every person not only to grow in wisdom and to learn skills but to develop character and the spiritual, intellectual and emotional resources needed to live a good life, as an individual but also in a community.
In listening to a debate recently in your Lordships’ House about our science and innovation strategy, I was struck by an observation made from the Front Bench by the noble Lord, Lord Prior, who, echoing other speakers in that really extraordinarily good debate, said that,
“the cultural divide that we have had between academic and technical education has been a disaster for this country since 1944 and probably earlier”.—[Official Report, 23/10/17; col. 830.]
The truth is that the myths of a golden age or a disastrous misstep are both wide of the mark. The noble Lord went on to describe how our universities are some of the best in the world for academic achievement, but where we excel in research we often fail in development. The commitment to raise the UK’s spend on research and development from 1.7% of GDP to the OECD average of 2.4% is admirable and necessary—but, as the noble Lord pointed out, Germany already spends 3% and is aiming to spend 3.5%. This is an area in which we cannot fall further behind, but in which progress can happen only through the effective work of our education.
We have neglected the value of further education within our overall educational landscape for far too long, over numerous Governments and at least since the 1944 Education Act. That neglect is a legacy of the class system, especially in England. The children of privilege are continuing to inherit privilege and this is true not only in our educational institutions but the whole country. It is also true globally, by the way, as seen in the USA and China. Unless we embark on cultural change, involving partnerships in education between businesses, local and national government and the entirety of our education services, I see little prospect of remedying this wrong. Human flourishing, and an opportunity for fullness of life for all those in education, requires flexible and imaginative training that is based on aptitude.
Our trend towards a more inclusive approach to those with disabilities or special educational needs is witness to the way that comprehensive education has improved, and is a welcome step towards an education that seeks the fullest and most abundant possible life for each human being, regardless of their ability—one which draws the best out of every person and leads them out into life. But the academic selective approach to education, which prioritises separation as a necessary precondition for the nurture of excellence, makes a statement about the purpose of education that is contrary to the notion of the common good. At its best, education must be a process of shaping human beings to reach out for and enjoy abundant life, and to do so in such strong communities of widely varying ability but distinctive approaches to each student that they and all around them flourish. An approach that neglects those of lesser ability or, because of a misguided notion of “levelling out” does not give the fullest opportunity to those of highest ability, or does not enable all to develop a sense of community and mutuality, of love in action and of the fullness and abundance of life, will ultimately fail.
One area that I am most concerned about, which we on these Benches see most clearly through our parish system across the whole of England, and which was highlighted in Dame Louise Casey’s review into opportunity and social integration in December 2016, is how the handing down of poverty and deprivation between generations presents a barrier to achieving social cohesion as well as social justice. Of those receiving free school meals, only 32% of girls and 28% of boys in the white British category achieve five A* to C grades at GCSE. That is third from bottom out of 18, above the Traveller and Gypsy/Roma communities. One might conclude from this that white British children brought up in economic poverty stand a high chance of being among the least well-equipped to integrate into a rapidly changing world where skills in science, technology, numeracy, literacy and IT will be essential. Not enough has been done to break down entrenched disadvantages or to improve integration and cohesion. The Church of England with its wide—and widening—schools network can and must do more to address this problem. This is the Joshua Watson challenge of our generation.
The aim of the founders of the National Society was to be universalist, unapologetically Christian in the nature of their vocation and service and committed to the relief of disadvantage and deprivation wherever it was found. Ours must be the same. Two hundred years on, the role of the Church of England in education can be to encourage and support excellence and to provide a values-based education for all, with a laser-like focus on the poorest and most deprived. That means a renewed vision that focuses as much on deprivation of spirit and poverty of aspiration as did our forebears on material poverty and inequality.
What follows from that is a clear move towards schools that not only deliver academic excellence but have the boldness and vision to do so outside the boundaries of a selective system. The Church of England’s educational offer to our nation is church schools that are, in its own words, “deeply Christian”, nurturing the whole child—spiritually, emotionally, mentally as well as academically—yet welcoming the whole community. I pay tribute to the immense hard work of heads, teachers, leadership teams, governors and parents associations who make so many church and other schools the successes that they are. With the strong Christian commitment of heads and leadership teams, the ethos and values of Church of England schools, which make them so appealing to families of all faiths and none, will be guarded and will continue.
A major obstacle, though, to our education system is a lack of clear internal and commonly held values. We live in a country where an overarching story which is the framework for explaining life has more or less disappeared. We have a world of unguided and competing narratives, where the only common factor is the inviolability of personal choice. This means that, for schools that are not of a religious character, confidence in any personal sense of ultimate values has diminished. Utilitarianism rules, and skills move from being talents held for the common good, which we are entrusted with as benefits for all, to being personal possessions for our own advantage. We see this already in our universities, in the economic sword of Damocles that dangles over the heads of so many students who have vast financial investments at stake in their degree qualification.
The challenge is the weak, secular and functional narrative that successive Governments have sought to insert in the place of our historic Christian-based under- standing, whether explicitly or implicitly. Functionalism or utilitarianism offers neither a meaningful alternative to those who are threatened by pedlars of extremism nor a confident framework within which to educate those of different cultures and beliefs. It is no great surprise to those of us familiar with church schools—I should say that all five of our children went to state schools, both church and non-church—that their strong values-based approach remains so attractive, especially to communities of other faiths. Over the last 60 years, in many Church of England schools in areas of high immigration, although in some cases almost all the children are of a non-Christian faith, the narrative of the school has remained Christian while respecting religious diversity, including no faith at all.
Schools, FE and HE institutions are important intermediate institutions positioned between individuals and the state, which exist to bring fullness of life and to be nurseries of community living. As well as to inspire, they need to develop stories of the common good and of community, not merely of tolerance. This is achievable so long as our education system remains diverse in provision but accountable and well funded, enabling different streams and approaches within its overall ecosystem. Lifelong learning and training and developing the prestige of technical education are vital for giving us the flexibility and capacity necessary for the fourth industrial revolution.
The Church of England has recently set up the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership to begin to tackle the need for deeper and more effective training in issues of values and practices, as well as in the hard skills of leading schools and nurturing new leadership talent. Education must combine the provision of skills with the creation of values and practices that enable those values to be developed and to become virtues. Where that happens, “life in all its fullness” becomes accessible to all young people. It is not a magic wand to solve all society’s problems but it is an essential building block for achieving an education system that can help to build a more prosperous and cohesive society. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Once again, we are all greatly in the debt of the most reverend Primate. As with his words on British values last year, which many of us reflected on throughout the year, so today his words about education are deeply important at this moment. Speaking as someone whose three children—and six of our grandchildren—attended the same church primary school, I warmly applaud the work that faith schools do to create the citizens of tomorrow and the work that they do for the local community.
One hundred years ago, my grandfather wrote a book, Education and World Citizenship. He worked closely with the father of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and went on to found a series of programmes under the Council for Education in World Citizenship. This lies precisely at the heart of the issue that education is about not only skills and qualifications but preparing the citizens we need for tomorrow.
I would argue that over many decades we have deeply failed very intelligent children from impoverished backgrounds. My early professional years were spent in Brixton, Peckham and Bethnal Green, where children did not even take A-levels. Teaching reading and writing was described as imposing middle-class values on working-class children. A wonderful book produced by a team from the Maudsley, Fifteen Thousand Hours, showed that the dimmest, least-achieving children at one school did better than the most able children at a bad school. Sir Keith Joseph, my noble friend Lord Baker and many others in this House worked hard to improve the curriculum, achievements and teaching, and we have seen a dramatic change in the ability of young people to fulfil their potential, but it is still not enough.
I also applaud the most reverend Primate’s words about education being not only functionalist. The Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, whom I greatly admire, spoke only the other day about the importance of not reducing education to a functionalist level. She said that our job is,
“to prepare young people to succeed in life … broadening minds, enriching communities and advancing civilisation”.
If noble Lords come with me to the University of Hull—it was never going to be long before we got there—they will see on the main staircase a wonderful engraving with the words of Winston Churchill:
“Religion has been the rock in the life and character of the British people, upon which they have built their hopes and cast their cares”.
In today’s multicultural, multifaith world, this issue is more complex, but there is no institution better than the Church of England, and the words of the most reverend Primate, to lead us forward.
As the chancellor of the University of Hull, I speak with great pride of this anchor institution in an impoverished region. The university believes in transforming the individual as well as positively impacting society. It is place based in an area which in the past has had low aspirations and low achievement, but the university is globally engaged.
Last year, I invited the most reverend Primate to visit Hull during its year as the City of Culture. I do not think that he was able to fulfil that invitation, but I am delighted to say that two weeks ago the Queen came. She opened the new medical school and met all those involved in the City of Culture event. I say that as the news comes through that Coventry is to be the next City of Culture, and I know that the most reverend Primate has very close connections with that city. The ability of such things to give people hope, optimism and a sense of collaboration is quite remarkable.
The University of Hull trains doctors and nurses in a modern, patient-based, community-focused manner. It leads entrepreneurial activities and has pioneered environmental, maritime, renewable energy projects, bringing prosperity, skills, investment and success. The City of Culture status has given inspiration, encouragement and energy to the city and the individuals who live there. The university has a leading department on modern slavery. Last year, Kofi Annan came to speak there. Its campaign, “Hidden in Plain Sight”, tackles the current situation of modern slavery, focused on by the Prime Minister. It is place based but globally engaged, and it is a model to so many.
The most reverend Primate reminded us of the importance of teachers and head teachers. The head teacher is the closest thing to a magic wand in education, and I applaud all those new routes into education—Teach First, Now Teach and many others. There is no more important obligation than preparing the next generation.
When the House starts in another place, the prayer asks that we govern wisely and avoid “love of power” and “desire to please”. Research, innovation, the fourth industrial revolution and all the great achievements of our universities are important, but if we do not have the wisdom, the judgment and the moral basis to make decisions, we will be lost. At a time when democracy is fuelled by social media, soundbites and the short term, it is all the more important that we retain a moral compass, a faith-based approach and the principles of citizenship.
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to speak at this moment in this debate and to thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for creating the possibility for all of us to look at this important sector and aspect of our national life. His was a tour d’horizon; the rest of us must content ourselves with cameo contributions and will do our best here and there. But I am sure that together we will take a multifaceted look at this vital subject.
I add my expression of delight at the presence in the Chamber of a noble friend, although he sits on other Benches—the second coming of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, to this House—and I look forward so much to his speech later on. We have collaborated for 20 years in London.
Here we are, discussing this vital subject of education, which is at the heart of all other activities that we envisage and seek to build. I have been a school governor for over 35 years, at schools in the independent as well as in the maintained sector, in rural, suburban and inner-city settings—where these days I tend to specialise. I was a member of the board of what became the University of Roehampton, and I am currently chair of trustees of the Central Foundation Schools of London, so I have that vantage-point from which to speak today. We have two remarkable schools: one for boys, in the Borough of Islington, and the other for girls, in Tower Hamlets.
Through the decades of my involvement in education I have read countless papers, books and articles, and, distilled, they come to the same conclusion that was offered in the paper prepared for us in the Library to brief us for this occasion, with an incontestable definition. Any education worthy of the name,
“embraces the spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, moral and social development of children and young people”.
I would add adults to that, since education is a lifelong affair. The catholic spirit of this definition is surely self-evident. We could all ascribe to it without any hesitation and, therefore, we could wonder at the need to have a debate of this kind at all, since we have such a common platform to stand on. And yet it is more complicated.
I have just received a letter from Professor Edward Gregson, a leading British composer. He complains about the narrowly defined curriculum of the English baccalaureate, which concentrates on core subjects in a way that makes it virtually impossible for schools, concentrating on league tables, to give their proper attention to the creative arts and the spiritual subjects, to say nothing of personal, health and other related topics. He asks whether pressure cannot be put on those who make decisions to take a more flexible view of the way in which our curriculum could not only include but be forced open to include, or could actually welcome, as an essential part of education these creative and spiritual subjects. It is not only he who has written to me in this way.
Schools, at the same time as having to do with the curriculum, are also dealing with the restriction of constraints on their budgets. They have to absorb extra costs, and the schools with which I am involved faced the need either to increase productivity, as it were, or to cut what is delivered—15% from their budgets over the next three years for our girls school, which is two teachers a year for the next three years. So we may well agree without any hesitation on the definition, but the practicalities on the ground work against our being able to make that real for our children.
In the briefing paper, a frequently recurring word is “character”. For a Methodist to do a bit of Bible study with the Bishops is a glorious temptation not to be avoided. The word “character”, a Greek word, appears just once in the New Testament. Of course they all know—I can see it on their faces—where it appears: it is in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Of course—it takes a lay person to say “of course”—character in the New Testament sense is an attempt to describe the divinity of Christ. No, I do not bring before you a lesson on Christology. In an attempt to show that Christ was imbued with everything that God was, he is “stamped” with the character of God, “impressed” by all that God is, and therefore his personality exudes everything that can be said about God.
I realise that, for some, that particular part of my presentation will not resonate, but I draw from it the need in our educational system to stamp all those under education with everything that is good—the values to which the most reverend Primate alluded. In that way they can be not just the recipients—empty vessels, receiving knowledge, information, cognitive facts and skills, in those objective senses—but be brought to life to become the people they were meant to be and to have brought from them what is intrinsic to them. Character in that sense seems eminently worth while aspiring to. Here ends the lesson.
However, the real world in which—I beg your Lordships’ pardon; I have noticed the clock and I will finish—our two schools that I mentioned operate is, for the boys, knife crime, drugs and violence on the streets. Eleven of our children have been in court, having witnessed crimes on the streets, and one boy has been found guilty of murder. The school has to incorporate those dimensions into its very being. For the girls’ school, 85% of our girls are Muslims—they wear the hijab to school—and the Prevent programme has to be applied with imagination and flair, not simply in an espionage-like kind of way.
Therefore, I want the Government please to reassure us that PSHE, for example, which could accommodate a lot of what is missing from our educational system, could be made a mandatory part of the curriculum; that we look again at the Prevent programme to humanise it a little; and that we look to enrich the EBacc curriculum so that, flourishing alongside the core subjects, can be the creative, innovative and spiritual dimensions of education, as mentioned in that original definition that I quoted.
My Lords, I join in thanking the most reverend Primate for introducing this debate and for his insightful words. Education is not only essential in building a flourishing and skilled society but for maintaining it. Increasingly, there is an economic and social imperative for lifelong learning. Education has a seminal role to play in ensuring that children and young people acquire the skills for life and work. It should engender a love of learning, a sense of excitement and self-worth in young people as they explore and develop.
Children’s education starts in the home. We have all seen the joy on the face of a young child who takes its first step, catches its first ball or recites its first nursery rhyme. That is the sort of satisfaction which education should continue to generate, building confidence and aspiration. Sadly, our education system is not always the happy and productive experience it could and should be.
I pay tribute to the Church of England, which plays a key part in education at all levels but a particularly valuable part at primary level, where C of E schools tend to be sought after by those of all faiths and none, as the most reverend Primate has set out. They have an ethos of care and encouragement, which makes for a good start for little people and certainly plays its part in helping to fight embedded squalor.
When formal schooling starts, the Government should ensure that this love of learning continues. Too often, curiosity and enthusiasm are trumped by testing and assessment, with children measured not against where their talents and interests lie but against academic yardsticks, which for many prove difficult and a source of failure. I have asked Ministers before—without getting a satisfactory answer—what importance the Government give to love of learning and fun in the curriculum. What credit are teachers given for stimulating ideas and aspiration in the young, particularly in those who prefer doing and making to thinking and studying?
Constant assessment and measuring play havoc with building skills and knowledge, and can generate feelings of failure even in the very young. If education becomes associated with hopelessness, it becomes increasingly challenging to build up self-respect and aspiration. I taught in numerous secondary schools in England and Germany during a peripatetic life as an RAF wife. I remember only too well the challenges of capturing imagination and encouraging even the slowest and the worst behaved. Teaching can be very satisfying but, my goodness me, it is hard work.
Enthusiasm for learning can be generated in the most unlikely pupil if they can see a purpose in a practical pathway and grow in self-respect with the confidence that they too can be achievers. Dare I ask the Minister to impress on his colleagues the immense value of good careers information at the earliest stage in education? If young people are intrigued by cars, cooking, care or computers, they will see a purpose in learning. Engagement in a practical subject can lead to grasping its academic counterpart. Calculating measurements for building or cooking can clarify the purpose of maths when maths lessons have previously been impenetrable.
Schools can, and do, aim to encourage learning of all sorts but are often held back by oft-changing Ministers and policies—the remorseless “churn of government”. It is pernicious that incoming Secretaries of State seem to feel it imperative to enforce their own new bright ideas, regardless of the impact and unproductive workload on teachers. Can the Minister persuade his education colleagues to hold fire, to consult and to undertake cost and benefit analyses before introducing changes which all too often are politically driven and have little to do with improving the life chances of young people?
I worked for City & Guilds for 20 years. I have asked before and ask again: what steps are the Government taking to incentivise schools to promote apprenticeships and other work-based skills by celebrating pupils who achieve in those areas? League tables and financial incentives lead schools to channel students into GCSEs, A-levels and university, even when their talents, skills and motivation are practical and work based. We face acute skills shortages. We need people with those practical skills.
I recall years ago writing a pretentious A-level essay on Adam Smith’s comment that every man is a student all his life and longer too. This of course was well before political correctness, when “man” was deemed to embrace “woman”—I think that that is how the Romans put it. Education should be lifelong. Adult education and our wonderful and hard-pressed further education colleges have such an important part to play.
The overall number of students from lower participation areas entering higher education in England has fallen by 15% since 2011-12. While figures for full-time students have risen by 7%, there has been a simultaneous 47% fall in part-time students from those same areas. Therefore, overall, fewer people from disadvantaged backgrounds are now going to university.
The adult skills budget has been reduced. Gone are many of those life-enhancing evening classes which could broaden minds, enrich lives and promote aspiration in a wide variety of ways, leading to the flourishing and skilled society we are addressing. It is well proven that learning as an adult brings benefits such as better health and well-being, greater social engagement, increased confidence and better employability, as well as benefits to family and community life. Further education colleges are essential to this progress, with valuable contributions too from great institutions such as the Open University and Birkbeck. The services which they provide enable adults to fulfil their potential and to contribute to the economy. However, all of them are concerned about funding, qualified teachers and certainty about the future to enable them to plan their work to full benefit. Part-time learners have been heavily hit in changes to funding, and colleges have struggled to keep up staffing numbers, along with the wide range of courses they are expected to provide.
I hope that the Government will listen to all those who work to enhance learning, and that they will provide more generous and more reliable funding to ensure the fulfilment of individual potential and the prosperity of the country. I look forward to hearing the other speakers and, again, thank the most reverend Primate for giving us the opportunity of this debate.
My Lords, I too am grateful to the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate on a subject that is vital to the future flourishing of our children and grandchildren.
Perhaps I may be allowed to speak personally as a Jew. Something about our faith moves me greatly, and it goes to the heart of this debate. At the dawn of our people’s history, Moses assembled the Israelites on the brink of the Exodus. He did not talk about the long walk to freedom; he did not speak about the land flowing with milk and honey; instead, repeatedly, he turned to the far horizon of the future and spoke about the duty of parents to educate their children. He did it again at the end of his life, in those famous words: “You shall teach these things repeatedly to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the way, when you lie down and when you rise up”. Why is there this obsession with education that has stayed with us from that day to this? It is because, to defend a country, you need an army, but to defend a civilisation, you need schools. You need education as the conversation between the generations.
Whatever the society, the culture or the faith, we need to teach our children, and they theirs, what we aspire to and the ideals we were bequeathed by those who came before us. We need to teach them the story of which we and they are a part, and we need to trust them to go further than we did when they come to write their own chapter.
We make a grave mistake if we think of education only in terms of knowledge and skills—what the American writer David Brooks calls the “résumé virtues” as opposed to the “eulogy virtues”. This is not woolly idealism; it is hard-headed pragmatism. Never has the world changed so fast, and it is getting faster every year. We have no idea what patterns of employment will look like in two, let alone 20, years from now, what skills will be valued, and what will be done instead by artificially intelligent, preternaturally polite robots.
We need to give our children an internalised moral satellite navigation system so that they can find their way across the undiscovered country called the future. We need to give them the strongest possible sense of collective responsibility for the common good, because we do not know who will be the winners and losers in the lottery of the global economy, and we need to ensure that its blessings are shared. There is too much “I” and too little “we” in our culture, and we need to teach our children to care for others, especially for those who are not like us.
We work for all these things in our Jewish schools. We give our children confidence in who they are so that they can handle change without fear and keep learning through a lifetime. We teach them not just to be proud to be Jewish but to be proud to be English, British, defenders of democratic freedom and active citizens helping those in need. Schools are about more than what we know and what we can do; they are about who we are and what we must do to help others become what they might be. The world that our children will inherit tomorrow is born in the schools we build today.
My Lords, I too thank the most reverend Primate for this important debate on education, and I remind your Lordships of my registered interest as chairman of the Chartered Institution for Further Education.
I was particularly pleased to see the right reverend Primate’s choice of words—“a flourishing and skilled society”—and it is about the provision of those skills that I want to make just a couple of points this morning.
For many years, colleges of further education in this country have had a strong tradition of developing technical skills, working alongside employers. The outstanding Dudley College, for instance, has its roots in the 1862 Dudley Public Hall and Mechanics Institute. There are many more with equally venerable origins, just as the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, reminded us the church schools have. However, successive Governments have seen their most important task for young people as pushing them towards university entrance. Consequently, fewer young adults and their parents have come to view further education colleges as providing a viable and creditable vocational and educational path.
The prestige of the FE sector has therefore declined, being often considered as a second-tier alternative for those who did not do too well at school. This is at complete odds with the valuable work that it does, as the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, reminded us, and the opportunities it creates for its students, business and the economy of this country.
Concomitantly, the FE sector has progressively had its remit altered through changes in government policy. I have mentioned to your Lordships before that the sector’s main mission, which should be the provision of high-quality technical skills, has been too often distorted by its having to teach kindergarten competences to teenagers who have been most seriously failed by primary schools that have neglected to teach them literacy and numeracy properly. Of the 2014 students transferring from schools to FE at 16, some 28% were functionally innumerate—that is, their arithmetical abilities were those normally associated with an 8 year-old—and some 15% functionally illiterate by the same criterion.
For several years it has been the obsession of Governments that too few of these students at 16 have passed GCSE English and Maths at grade C level. Ministers are right to be concerned that secondary schools, like their primary counterparts, are failing these young people, but they are wrong to insist that further education colleges should be the places where the pieces are picked up. This is not a task which should skew the vocational mission of further education. Often, the largest departments in colleges are now those devoted to fulfilling the Government’s directive of getting students from D to C grades in GCSEs; the largest departments should be devoted to engineering and the technologies and not to school resits.
For these students, passing GSCE at grade C in English and Maths, when they have had a history of bad teaching and failure in these subjects at school, is often inappropriate and difficult and the success rates are very poor, especially for those with free school meal entitlement. In some areas such as Wealden in East Sussex, Wyre Forest, Maldon and Ashford, fewer than 4% of students without a C in English and maths at the age of 16 went on to achieve this by age of 19. The average success rate seems to be about 25%. Instead of these resits, such students should be allowed to prepare for vocationally oriented tests of literacy and numeracy, which will seem to them more relevant to their lives and future work. The Government have talked about alleviating the current requirements; perhaps the Minister would let us know when this will happen.
Secondly, an article a few weeks ago in the Times Education Supplement showed that the average funding figure available per student aged from 11 to 16 in secondary schools is £5,700 per annum, and in universities it is £8,500, whereas for providers of further education from ages 16 to 19 it is only £4,500. This disparity is very worrying and suggests that the FE sector is insufficiently funded to deal with the challenges that it faces at a time when skills development is at the heart of the economic agenda. Perhaps the Minister would comment on the worrying £1,200 yearly gap between school and further education funding.
Productivity levels in the United Kingdom remain stubbornly low and have not improved in real terms since the 2008 economic downturn. We are currently ranked 16th out of 35 OECD countries in the international productivity league table—way behind our major trading partners such as the United States, France and Germany. Productivity is of course a factor of investment, but it is also most importantly a factor in the training of young people in technical skills. Yet the Economic Affairs Committee of this House identifies this country’s,
“lower emphasis on technical and vocational education”,
as a major contributing factor to low productivity.
As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us, Brexit will bring great opportunities and our workforce must be well prepared to use them. The further education sector in this country must be better resourced and better used by government policy if it is to help this country face the economic challenges that the next decades will surely bring.
My Lords, anyone with their wits about them realises that we are in the grip of a social crisis. Half or more of the country have been left behind, while the rest of Britain went to university, modernised and globalised.
This is not just about individuals and families, but communities, even whole towns and cities. The ultra-respectable Financial Times last month carried a heart-rending article by Sarah O’Connor, who had immersed herself in Blackpool and reported on what GPs there called SLS or “shit life syndrome”—deep poverty, pervasive drugs, obesity, anti-depressants and mental illness, in a large, isolated town exhibiting alarming signs of disintegration, including the largest encampment in Britain of children expelled from school. It is euphemistically called a pupil referral unit. Even more euphemistically, it is run by an organisation called Educational Diversity, but it is basically a dumping ground for 330 children whom schools want nothing to do with. That is 330 who have been expelled from schools in one northern town and sent to what is in many respects a giant training camp for the criminal justice system, in addition to hundreds excluded from school day by day for lower-level misbehaviour, who simply roam the streets.
Those noble Lords who have had the misfortune to attend party conferences know why we stopped going to Blackpool. But for Blackpool today read also Hull, Grimsby, large parts of the north and the Midlands, and large towns in the south, including Hastings, Dover and Folkestone. Poor education is at the heart of this social crisis. Schools, secondary schools in particular, are too often bleak and low-performing in virtually all the communities I just mentioned. There are not nearly enough good teachers. Apprenticeship numbers, incredibly, are declining, despite the apprenticeship levy. The private schools are separating themselves ever more from mainstream society. Only yesterday, Westminster School, a wholly owned charitable subsidiary of the Church of England, which occupies fabulous charitable premises adjoining Westminster Abbey, announced that it was setting up six elite schools in China. Its social outreach should be to the poor of Bradford, not the super-rich of Beijing. And our universities are racked by controversy over sky-high student fees and debts, run by vice-chancellors who have become latter-day prince bishops, paid up to £500,000 a year and likening themselves to Maradona and Richard Branson.
I do not have time to offer more analysis, so I will get straight to the six things that I believe now need to happen as a matter of urgency. First, the Prime Minister should appoint a Minister for good schools, based in Blackpool or Grimsby, with direct responsibility and funding for school improvement in areas of very low educational standards. The Government’s policy at the moment is basically waffle: they have published a list of 12 so-called opportunity areas, which include Blackpool. However, there are only 12 across the entire country, nothing much is happening on the ground and, even for these 12, the department’s website cannot do much better than say that they receive,
“prioritised access to a … support package”.
A decade ago when I was Minister for schools, I was also the Minister specifically responsible for London schools. With the inspirational Tim Brighouse, I led a team to radically improve schools in the capital, including extensive funding and planning powers. I reproach myself for not persuading Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to adopt the same intensive place-based approach to other parts of the country where school standards were and remain deplorable. This now needs to be done. I sense that the Minister is a man of action and I am sure that he would be highly effective at mobilising the considerable resources of Her Majesty’s Government from Blackpool or Grimsby.
Secondly, we have to tackle the cancer of school expulsions, which is such an important cause of young lives going completely off the rails. This is a difficult issue but, after much consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the right course is to forbid schools from expelling pupils or even temporarily excluding them unless they have broken the law. Instead, schools should be required to make appropriate on-site provision for disruptive pupils, even if, for good reasons, that cannot always be in mainstream classrooms, and they should be given extra funding to do so.
Thirdly, bold action is required on apprenticeships. Within a short period, the Government should require every large public service organisation, including the Civil Service, the NHS and local authorities, to recruit among their new trainees at least as many apprentices as graduates, while across the public and private sectors, the new apprenticeship levy should be tied contractually by the state to the provision of a minimum number and quality of apprenticeships each year. I suggest to the Prime Minister that the Government immediately grant this contracting power to Andy Street, the highly capable Mayor of the West Midlands and former managing director of John Lewis, and ask him to report within a year on a system for deploying the projected £3 billion income from the apprenticeship levy to transform apprenticeship numbers and quality nationwide.
Fourthly, after decades of Government after Government urging private schools to behave like the charities they legally are, but seeing nothing happen beyond tinkering at the edges, we need bold action here too. In my judgment, the easiest and most effective intervention is to tax private school fees. An educational opportunity tax of 25% on private school fees would raise around £2.5 billion, which could be used to boost teacher pay in hard-to-recruit areas; fund one-to-one or small-group tuition for children in danger of not getting English and maths GCSEs, the absolutely indispensable passports to skilled work and further learning; and fund free music and sports tuition across state schools, offering the wider curriculum that private school parents and children take for granted.
Fifthly, on tuition fees, the right thing to do is to cancel the trebling of these fees that took place in 2010 and reduce them to around £3,000, reduce the extortionate interest rate the Government are now charging on debt, and cancel the absurd controls on overseas student numbers, which hold universities back from competing internationally.
Sixthly, on the scandal of vice-chancellor and senior university pay, it is clear that self-regulation is no longer working and that the state’s own regulators, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Students, are toothless because they too are dominated by the very vice-chancellors they should be regulating. The best course is an independent inquiry to recommend limits on top pay in universities and governance reforms to ensure better controls. I cannot think of anyone better suited to conduct such an inquiry than the most reverend Primate himself. He is paid only £80,000 and he runs an organisation much like a university. Like many vice-chancellors, he lives in a palace, and since the Almighty seems to be the only higher power recognised by the vice-chancellors, he is in a good position to sort that one, too.
Among the bishops of my youth, my hero was David Sheppard, the former Bishop of Liverpool. The Faith in the City report was a great influence on me and my generation. Back in the 1980s, social disintegration was advancing upon us and it is doing so again today. We cannot walk by on the other side.
My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the most reverend Primate for introducing this debate which signals the coming of Christmas and, dare I say it, of Hanukkah, too. I should also say that although we Jews do not believe in the Second Coming, it is a great pleasure to see the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, in his place to speak in today’s debate. He was a huge support to me in my days at the King’s Fund. Here I declare an interest and noble Lords will see why in a moment. I am a former chief executive of the King’s Fund and vice-president of the Centre for Mental Health. I am also a vice-chair of the independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983, chaired by Sir Simon Wessely.
I want to address what the most reverend Primate has described as human flourishing and what I would describe as the emotional well-being of children. While congratulating the Government on their announcement that mental health support will be available in schools from 2022, I should like to ask the Minister why the date cannot be brought forward, given that we know how serious the issues are around the mental health and well-being of young people, something alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and others.
On average, in every classroom three children aged between five and 16 will have a diagnosable mental health problem. We know that over half of all mental ill-health starts before the age of 14 and that 75% of it has developed by the age of 18. Studies suggest that when problems which start in childhood and adolescence are not addressed early, there is often a lifelong trajectory of mental ill-health. Rates of depression and anxiety among adolescents have increased by 70% over the past 25 years, which places huge costs on the economy, let alone on individuals. We know also that supporting mental health in schools is not just about responding to signs of emerging mental health problems. It is also about early education and support. We now know that helping children to become emotionally literate is a vital part of any social and emotional well-being focus and needs to be part of how we think about education. You shall teach your children and they shall teach theirs; it is not only about getting GCSEs.
In a recent report on school readiness by the National Association of Head Teachers, school leaders noted a decline in young children’s school-readiness over the past five years, with concerns about personal, social and emotional development high on the list. If children are starting school already at a disadvantage socially and emotionally and are unable to catch up, this increases their vulnerability in terms of their emotional well-being and their potential to achieve and succeed. A lack of social awareness, understanding and the ability to regulate emotions underpins many of the behavioural problems we see in schools. Studies have indicated a link between better academic outcomes and a reduction in behavioural issues in those schools that deliver an effective social and emotional curriculum.
We know that we need to do more. We know that emotional literacy education needs to be embedded in approaches to teaching all children about their mental health. Over the years, a range of social and emotional intervention programmes has been delivered in schools, often as part of the personal, social, health and economics curriculum, but it is not a statutory requirement in state schools. Although most faith schools provide it, many state schools do not. I hope to persuade the most reverend Primate that one day we should have multifaith schools as well as single-faith schools, much as I admire Church of England schools. We know that it works well. When social and emotional learning is a key area of focus for all children, it makes a huge difference as part of a whole-school approach. Whole-school approaches have been shown to work and we have many examples in the UK. I am indebted to the voluntary organisation Place2Be, which provides such support, for the education that it has given me on how it works. It is a charity that both I and, indeed, my congregation support wholeheartedly.
The approach not only involves teaching children about the nature and recognition of emotional states in themselves and others, but also promotes social competence and well-being. A good deal of research evaluation has gone into how to do this in the United States, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand, but much less in the UK. A systematic review several years ago concluded:
“Positive evidence of effectiveness was obtained for programmes that adopted a whole-school approach, were implemented continuously for more than a year, and were aimed at the promotion of mental health as opposed to the prevention of mental illness”.
Can the Minister tell the House whether this is the approach that the mental health support announced by the Government this week will take? Can he also tell us that he supports investing in a curriculum that values emotional understanding, communication and problem solving with regular and well-delivered lessons that address emotional awareness and understanding?
Of course we need teachers, school leaders and governors to promote a “mentally healthy school” and, like others, I pay tribute to teachers, school governors and leaders—I am the mother of a teacher. We need them to foster warm relationships, develop pupil and teacher autonomy, and maintain clarity about boundaries, rules and positive expectations. We need them to prevent bullying and identify those with problems early. But the Government and educational leaders need to give a steer in this direction. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House that this is the approach the Government support and will foster, and that emotional literacy education will be as much a part of what schools need to provide as passing GCSEs.
My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests as a patron of the Marriage Foundation, and as a former governor with 21 years’ experience.
I am privileged to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, whose sentiments I share. In a recent report, the Marriage Foundation found that family breakdown is the biggest factor behind the UK’s child mental health crisis, and that more than a third of children whose parents have split up reported poor mental health, compared to only a fifth with parents who were still together. Only half of today’s teenagers will marry, although it is said that a lot more than that aspire to it. The report analysed Millennium Cohort Study data on 10,929 mothers with 14 year-old children. It found that children whose parents were married had reduced rates of suffering mental health problems, regardless of whether their parents split up or not.
The Marriage Foundation’s research found that a child born in the UK today has only a 50:50 chance of being with both their parents by the age of 15. Children are more likely to have a smartphone than a father at home. This think tank, dedicated to promoting stable families, commented that,
“mental health problems during childhood cast a long shadow over future life chances, affecting work, relationships and well-being on into adulthood”.
Children need two parents, committed to each other in a stable relationship. The Marriage Foundation believes that genuine early intervention means encouraging couples to make a clear commitment to their future together before having children. It believes that that is the best way to give children the best possible chance of a happy and healthy upbringing, which of course has an enormous benefit to society.
I would go even further. I believe that to be genuinely effective, early intervention means equipping children—the parents of tomorrow’s children—with sufficient knowledge and understanding of two crucial points. The first is the crucial importance of making a commitment to a partner before deciding to have children together; the second is knowing how to work on their relationship so that they stay together once they have children.
While practising as a divorce lawyer, I have seen first-hand the effect of family breakdown on children and the untold misery it causes. I have worked in a law centre and in private practice. Marital breakdown is faithless and classless, albeit that the super-rich are more buffeted from the financial consequences. The effect on many children is devastating. It is all too common a cry from the many and diverse people I have represented that their marriage breakdown was a result of simply marrying Mr or Mrs Wrong, Lord or Lady Wrong or, since the introduction of same-sex marriage, Mr or Mr Wrong or Ms or Ms Wrong; that is, someone with whom they were fundamentally incompatible from the outset—someone who was wrong for them.
Putting on my school governor’s hat, I looked into what schools do to educate children about the most important decision they are ever going to make: choosing a life partner and raising a family. Schools now teach life skills, which plays a vital role in the national curriculum. Life-skill teaching tends to specialise in the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, sex education and career advancement and choices. These are obviously all very important. However, there seems to be an enormous vacuum, even in the private sector, and a real lost opportunity for educating tomorrow’s parents about relationships and parenting. That is particularly important for children who are victims of the breakdown of their parents’ relationship, as they have nothing to emulate and no domestic blueprint to encourage them. The endemic pattern of family breakdown has to be broken. As I have already said, if current trends continue, a child born in the UK has only a 50:50 chance of being with both their parents by the age of 15. I believe that earliest intervention, or indeed pre-intervention, is the best. Educating our school-age children in an attempt to cure this emotional illiteracy is the best way to equip them with the tools to help them make a wise, or at least informed, life-partner choice and how to work on staying together afterwards.
For over 35 years, the RSPCA has been sending out its seasonal message that “a dog is for life and not just for Christmas”, yet there is no such compelling message relating to the commitment of marriage. In this context, I have sponsored a three-year research project at the University of Exeter to discover what lessons can be learned by children in a school context about relationships; for example, what makes a good marriage and what is likely to make a bad one. This has been done with a view to providing material, either by video or by an app, to be introduced into the national school curriculum. I urge the Government to consider seriously the benefits of introducing such advice and instruction as a mandatory part of a child’s education, to be rolled out nationwide. If this can encourage some of our country’s future parents to avoid disastrous and unhappy unions, with the fall-out for their children, it will have been money well spent. It is my humble view that prevention is always better than cure and that tinkering with what happens when there is fall-out is inferior to making a truly well-informed and educated decision in the first place. It is my dream that through this particular kind of education, a contribution will be made to a flourishing and skilled society.
I conclude by thanking the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for bringing about the debate and enabling a light to be shone on this neglected and unfashionable area of social policy.
My Lords, I have spent much of my life in public speaking, in a university context. If you were lucky or you did a good job, students would look up at you. Recently, that has all changed. Now, you look at a lecture audience and half of them are looking down at their devices. I noticed that the most reverend Primate was, if I can put it this way, fiddling with his iPhone quite a bit in the last few minutes.
That sounds like a trivial observation, but this is fundamental. We are on the edge of the some of the biggest changes that have ever transformed human society, which are happening much more quickly and much more globally than ever before. [Interruption.] I hear that I have some help from the outside world, it must be said. Those changes are driven by the digital revolution. I was pleased that the most reverend Primate placed so much emphasis on that. If we cannot compete in this area, all levels of education will be dead in the water, internationally. [Interruption.] There is some continuing disturbance outside.
With being too didactic about it, it is important to understand what the digital revolution is. It is not the internet, nor robotics, nor supercomputing power—it is all of those things, bound up together in a huge rush of change going through our lives.
That is already transforming universities. One of the most notable examples is the emergence of so-called MOOCs—mass online open courses. They are amazing. There is one at Harvard-MIT and one, Coursera, at Stanford. They reach millions of people across the world, who can take part in seminars. You can take part in an online seminar with students from Africa while sitting in London, for example. Those courses are free. There is a huge tension between the emergence of free mass courses such as those and the huge fees charged in full-time higher education. That tension will be very difficult to resolve. My noble friend Lord Adonis was quite right to draw attention to it. To me, the issue is not vice-chancellors’ salaries, which is marginal, but the wholesale marketisation of higher education, with a time bomb of student debt and no thought to the future or to the transformation of labour markets, which, if I get time in my six minutes, I will briefly mention.
What is happening in universities is also happening in schools. Schools are going to change just as dramatically as businesses have changed over the past 15 to 20 years. I will quickly mention some changes that are already happening. First, traditional-style teaching, with the teacher standing in front of the class disciplining children sitting at desks, still exists and will go on, but alongside it and even more important these days is children huddled around computers in groups. It is no longer a simple didactic model with a teacher. The teacher is no longer a repository of all knowledge because all of human knowledge is in the device you have in your pocket or hidden away under the desk. Already the structure of schools is changing.
Secondly, we have radically different models emerging around the world—even though they are in the early days, they are in some sense the future—of collaborative education. For example, in the US you have the home-schooling movement. There are 2 million children in the US schooled at home. It is not legal here, but it is there. It is growing apace. It is mostly done digitally and in collaboration with schools. The idea that school is a fixed place will tend to break down, just as has happened with the workplace. It is already happening in education across the world, even if we are just in the early phases.
Thirdly, as other noble Lords have mentioned, the digital revolution has a very dark side. It has to be a fundamental part of primary and secondary education to allow children to deal with this dark side. I do not know whether noble Lords know this, but it came up in our AI select committee—at least I mentioned it and someone went to look it up on the internet. You can buy an infant’s potty with a bracket on it where you can put an iPad for a newly born infant. [Laughter.] That is supposed to get a laugh, but it is really frightening. A neuroscientist described the effect of iPhones and iPads as crack cocaine for children. They are so addictive and compulsive. All human knowledge, bad and good, is there. This is a huge challenge for education. It must start early on with parents, but it must be embedded in primary school education too.
Finally, we have to look again at the usual things said about lifelong learning, which are a bit crass and simple. Digital skills are not really relevant; they are relevant to people working in the digital industries, but mostly this will be a process of deskilling, as happened in other areas. Unlearning is just as important as learning. We therefore need a completely different model of what the unfolding of a child’s or an adult’s life will be in this imminent future—in fact, it is already here.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak about education, which we know is the lodestone of all the prosperity of our society. I will describe a very interesting ecosystem called poverty. What it takes for it to prosper is the failure of education to be written so large that, of the 9 million children in school at the moment, we will write off 3 million. Some 37% of our schoolchildren go through school and come out the other end, and you would never know they had been to school. That is a really interesting thing, because if you then go to the A&E department across the road and talk to the doctors and the patients, you will find many people there—in fact, the vast majority of them—were people who failed at school. Look at the cheap jobs that pay £6, £7, £8 or even £10: they will be done by people who did not do very well at school. If we spend £40 billion a year on our kids, we just throw away about £13 billion every year. This is a recipe for disaster.
We can go into our prisons and find that 80% of prisoners will be people who failed at school. I know this from my own experience. I declare an interest in that I am a failed child. I had an enormous amount of money spent on me when I got nicked and put into boys’ prisons and places such as that. As I said in the House before, they spent twice the amount of money on me that they would spend on sending someone to Eton.
We have this really weird thing. After the Second World War, a kind of inept socialism came in to join the inept capitalism we run. Our capitalism is a poor, underinvesting one and our socialism is equally inept. We have these two functions going on at the same time. We have a society that is an ecosystem for social failure. We do not have a bullish capitalism. We do not invest money in new businesses. Some 87% of all money lent by banks goes into buying and selling property. We have a really perverse world where we do not educate our bosses—our ruling class, if you would like to call them that—and our property classes into taking more risks with their money. They would rather put it into property and getting thousands of people flipping hamburgers. We are in this strange, self-defeating world.
It is interesting that when we joined the European Common Market in 1973, our productivity was about 30% behind Germany’s. It is now 35%. At that time we were ahead of the French in productivity but now we are behind them. We were well behind the Italians and now we are about 10% behind. All these strange things come together to produce this really weird world where we produce underachieving children who fill up our social security halls, prisons and A&E departments. We are sitting on this ecosystem and we are talking about it, but is there a Government brave enough to stand up and say that whatever amount of experiments and projects, however we rearrange the Budget, there needs to be enormous investment in getting us out of this situation? I do not want to be too dramatic, but I am sorry, I cannot help it.
If we look at what happened between 1939 and 1945, we see that we borrowed the future. We stopped paying off for that future only in 2006, when the man signed the last cheque to the American Government over the lend-lease. We borrowed the future to have a future. Unfortunately, we now need to declare war on our lack of education and on the strange way in which we think we can leave things to market forces. The most successful economy in the past 100 years has been the German economy. That was established in the 19th century by mass investment by Governments. If we look at the United States and all the new technology, we see that it has all grown out of stuff developed by government money given to universities. We need to wake up to this bell ringing, this tocsin: if we do not grab the opportunity, we will be having this discussion in 10 or 20 years’ time and saying, “Isn’t it a pity that we have so many poor people, that we have so many people failing at school?”. The one thing that I suggest we do is to have an enormous plan for how we get out of the grief, and to look at where the problems have come up thus far and what we are going to do about them. We need some real, big strategizing, and that is what I am suggesting we do.
My Lords, many of us will have noted the 2017 report of the Social Mobility Commission published last week, with its sobering analysis of Britain’s alienated and socially marginal communities. It documents the widening gap in educational attainment between London and the English regions, with the worst “cold spots” for social mobility now in former industrial towns and coastal communities. It is striking that the map of low attainment, and of high levels of young people not in employment, education or training, matches so closely with those areas which voted heavily to leave the European Union 18 months ago. These areas, the report concludes,
“feel left behind, because they are. Whole communities feel that the benefits of globalisation have passed them by, because they have”.
We have become a more socially divided country, not so much along ethnic grounds as between the more successful and better educated cities and suburbs and the unskilled white working class. Worse, sections of our media and some of our politicians have written these British citizens off as a feckless underclass sponging off benefits and reluctant to work. Furthermore, part of our country’s dependence on immigration from the rest of Europe has come from employers’ preference for recruiting already trained and motivated workers from abroad as against the harder task of training and motivating poorly educated local people.
Broader and better-quality education will not be enough on its own to bring those depressed and deprived communities back into harmony with the rest of Britain. We need, as the Social Mobility Commission also remarks,
“a more redistributive approach to spreading education, employment and housing prospects across our country”.
We need a reinvigoration of local government and local democracy. We need investment in transport links outside the south-east. We need local industrial regeneration, and we need locally available finance to support the growth of local enterprises, which our banks have been so poor at fostering. It goes without saying that Brexit will do nothing to better their chances and is likely to make their situation worse.
However, education, and training are essential to social as well as economic recovery, and early years education is the most important priority for children from poor and often vulnerable families, often with only one parent and without the support of a wider family group. I am proud that the Liberal Democrats in coalition successfully introduced the pupil premium, which teachers in these areas tell me has made a real difference to the resources they have at their disposal. I regret that the Conservatives managed to cut back on the Sure Start programme, and I am concerned that continuing cuts in local authority grants have led to some places that most need to provide early educational support leaving many vulnerable children without it.
I say to the Labour Party that increasing public spending on the 50% who do not go to university, all the way through from nurseries to apprenticeships and continuing and further education, should be a higher priority than cutting fees for university students. I dissented from my party’s official line on tuition fees for this reason more than 10 years ago, and I hold to the same view today. Any progressive politician should put improving the life chances of the least advantaged first, before answering the pleas of the more confident and more successful.
There are many other measures we should be pressing to encourage children from those communities to learn, to gain life skills and employment skills, and so to grow up feeling that they are included in our national community. Teacher turnover in such areas is too high; we need not only to grant them more respect but to offer them higher pay and perhaps bonuses for extended service. Teach First has shown how to bring bright graduates with enthusiasm into schools; we should extend that, perhaps by writing off student loans at a progressive rate for those who teach in priority areas.
School partnerships are clearly important in encouraging teachers to stay and in lifting performance. Multiacademy trusts are one way to provide such partnerships, but local authorities should also have a wider role in encouraging schools to work together. The independent schools sector should also do more to support school partnerships, partly, but not only, to justify the public benefit obligated by their charitable status. I have seen some excellent independent/state school partnerships in action, but I am conscious that best practice does not extend across much of the independent sector.
Schools do not operate all year round: disadvantaged pupils fall back every summer. Liberal Democrat councillors in north Bradford have been running a summer school for children between primary and secondary school over the past two years, with, so far, excellent results in helping them make the school transition successfully and continuing to grow and learn. We need both non-governmental groups and local authorities to provide more opportunities for disadvantaged children out of school hours and terms to widen their perspectives and raise their aspirations. Middle-class children benefit, after all, from a range of out-of-school activities from an early age; working-class children miss out on that. I was saddened to discover that the visit to the Lake District which the north Bradford summer school included was for some children the first time in their life that they had been outside Bradford.
Low aspiration flows from low expectations of worthwhile jobs to work for, so the transition from school to work is a vital aspect of successful secondary education. Some employers and chambers of commerce now work closely with local schools to provide work experience and the prospect of training, but, again, best practice does not extend far enough across the country. Further education colleges, which should work in partnership with schools and employers, have been, as the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, and my noble friend Lady Garden have said, financially squeezed and sidelined. We also need to strengthen the idea of continuing, lifelong education for all, which means strengthening the role of FE colleges in providing it. I wish I could believe that the apprenticeship scheme will help in this respect; much of what I have heard suggests that it will fail to provide the most crucial element, which is a path into skilled work for young people.
The Church of England already plays a constructive part in limiting the disintegration of our divided society. I too recall the Faith in the City initiative, which I understood as an appeal to middle-class and rural congregations to care about and support the Church’s work in deprived communities. Church schools have a good record in providing more than just the national syllabus in education and in providing children in schools with a wider sense of community. I thank the diocese of London in particular for the support it gives to the musical education charity which I chaired for 12 years, which takes singing into state schools that have lost their music teachers and takes musical children out of their neighbourhoods to sing and perform with others—to raise their eyes and voices beyond what they thought was possible.
The Church of England, and many other institutions within our civil society, have much to contribute to repairing the weaknesses of our country’s education and so in rebuilding an inclusive society, but the prime responsibility lies with our public institutions, our state and our Treasury to invest in the quality of education needed to rebuild a flourishing and inclusive national community.
My Lords, as the lead Bishop for education in this House, I am grateful to my most reverend friend for the opportunity to address the crucial place of education in providing value and enabling every member of our society to contribute and flourish. We must continue to develop the curriculum to suit our developing industrial and commercial needs. This means that we must work to nurture and support our children and young people so that they may be employable on the grounds of their skills and their rich and steadfast character, and give them the support and foundations for good mental health that will be necessary throughout their lives, as we have already heard.
We are currently experiencing a period of great uncertainty politically, socially, financially, industrially and morally. While we may not know exactly what things might look like come March 2019, we do know that we must continue to prepare for the longer term to meet the demands of our changing industrial and commercial landscape and be ready to face the competitive markets we will engage with. People therefore must be skilled, adaptable and resilient. This will be possible only if we tackle inequality of access to the acquisition of life and technical skills. Inequality of access is the scourge of our generation. I applaud the commitment to social mobility and the tackling of educational disadvantage of the Secretary of State for Education and the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, the Minister in this House, but we are not doing anywhere near enough.
Faith in the City, the report that came out in 1985, inspired me, as an ordinand, to seek ordination in the north of England in a poor community. The Church continues, with other institutions, to be passionate about seeking to reach out to the most excluded to relieve need and to renew dignity in the home, school and workplace. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, about the challenges faced by schools in some of our northern towns. I was visiting church schools in Blackpool myself earlier this year and saw the challenges that they face. Severe deprivation, of course, does not happen only in urban areas, but also in some of our coastal towns and more remote rural areas, where I live. As this year’s Good Childhood Report from the Children’s Society shows, disadvantages accumulate. For example, children living in poverty or family debt are more likely to experience mental and physical health deficits, as well as an impoverished life of the imagination. All these factors have an impact upon a child’s educational and life outcomes. We must seek out those in need and use education provision to fuel and enable aspiration so that we can ensure that no member of our society is hampered by their background.
I am very encouraged by the policy of Her Majesty’s Government for opportunity areas, with targeted funding to tackle disadvantage in education. The Church of England is a recognised partner in the working of this policy, not least in east Cambridgeshire and Fenland, where I live. Her Majesty’s Government are working hard to develop a curriculum and qualifications that meet our future industrial needs, most notably through the recent introduction of T-levels and the continuing development of apprenticeships. I am thrilled that the diocese of Chelmsford is a founder member of the London Design and Engineering UTC in London Docklands, the country’s first school to be an approved apprenticeship training provider. The Church of England is committed to opening more secondary schools, such as the free school we have won in Huntingdon in my diocese, to take to the next stage the model of a single campus providing academic and innovative technical pathways on the same site, with a special school which we have also created a partnership to run. We aim to foster a student-focused, economically ambitious approach to education. It must also be prophetic enough to equip young people for an agile and robust 50 or 60 years of wholly human adult productivity in a global setting not yet visible to us.
However, education is not simply about imparting skills or knowledge. As the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, said, this is fundamentally about character and about creating an educational environment that goes beyond the metrics of the core curriculum. We need a holistic attention to each individual child and young person, a large part of which includes being attentive to their mental health needs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, said. The arrival of the Government’s Green Paper on mental health provision and schools is timely. I am pleased to read that the Government are committed to ensuring that every school and college will be able to play a vital role in identifying mental health needs at an early stage, as well as promoting positive mental health practices from the very beginning of a child’s education. I regularly visit the students at the Phoenix Centre in Cambridge, where they can continue their education while in hospital receiving treatment for their self-harming and eating disorders. It is a constant pain to me to see these children, whose needs might have been met sooner.
The work of St Catherine’s College in Eastbourne, a disadvantaged coastal community, is a perfect example of a school engaging with children’s mental health needs at a very early stage. As part of the Church of England education office’s national project, Unlocking Gifts, St Catherine’s is running a project to help overcome mental health disadvantage through early identification and targeted support for children who have mental health needs.
It is very easy to dwell on the negatives, but the Church of England’s vision for education is rooted in hope, the hope offered by Christ to us all and the opportunity we can all have for fresh starts and the full dignity of our humanity in Him. We do not despair in the face of cumulative deprivation. We seek to tackle it head-on and make a significant difference to the lives and confidence of young people and their families.
We are all very grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating this debate. I add my personal vote of thanks to him for what the Anglican Church has done for me. We were evacuated during the war to Southport, where I went to a Church of England primary school, Holy Trinity, next to Holy Trinity church at the end of Lord Street. It was a wonderful education. It was a red brick Victorian school with a red brick yard and a large red brick wall all around it with concrete on the top and glass stuck in it to stop people coming over—that was our security. The more challenging students, on Friday afternoon, would climb up and chip the bits of glass away. That was not why I liked it; it gave me a very good, basic education—learning tables by heart, learning poetry by heart and tests every term. They say that tests are oppressive; I had tests every term at this Church of England primary school and it was really the basis of my education, so I thank the most reverend Primate very much for that.
When it comes to education, I am no longer in favour of single-faith schools. The Labour Government and the coalition Government provided those and I think it was a big mistake. Children of all creeds, races and nations should work beside each other, play beside each other, eat beside each other and go home on the coach beside each other. However, I shall not speak any more about religious schools. The education system of our country is on the cusp and will be changed fundamentally by the digital revolution to which the most reverend Primate referred. It will reduce, first, unskilled jobs on a massive and unprecedented scale. The only thing that has maintained the English education system since 1870 has been the large reservoir of unskilled jobs at the bottom, which the 30% of the students who do not do well at school always filled—the drivers’ jobs, the messengers’ jobs and the warehouse jobs. You know that when you buy anything from Amazon today the only time a hand has touched it is when someone knocks on your door. Mercedes is now perfecting the driverless lorry, which will decimate the 3 million truck drivers in America and the 8 million people who run stopovers and sandwich bars. It will happen in this country on a massive scale.
It affects not only unskilled jobs: middle management will be decimated by it. When RBS says it is to close 279 banks, it is not bank clerks who will lose their jobs; it is all middle managers—people who have taken humanities degrees and have a job in a big company, expecting to live the rest of their lives very comfortably. Artificial intelligence and big data will largely destroy those jobs.
I come to the conclusion that we need a fundamental change to increase the technical education of our country. I know that the most reverend Primate is very keen on this, but we are not doing it on a big enough scale. As the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, said, EBacc and Progress 8 are squeezing all technical education out of schools for those below the age of 16. We are the only large country following this policy. The numbers taking the design and technology GCSE, which I introduced in the 1980s, have fallen for the last seven years. That means that fewer and fewer people at 16 have any experience of technical education. By the age of 18, 70% of German students will have had some technical education; in Britain, only 30% will.
Something has to be done about this, which is why, for the last seven years, I have promoted university technical colleges. These are 14-to-18 colleges where we operate from 9 am or 9.30 am to 5 pm every day. I tell the youngsters when they join that this is the beginning of their working life and for two days a week they will be making and designing things with their hands. The great virtue of these colleges—we have 49 of them but should have many more—is that we have the best employment rate of any schools in the country. We have 13,000 students at the moment and will probably have 20,000 by the beginning of next year. Last July, we had 2,000 leavers of whom only 26 were NEETs. Only 26 needed jobseeker’s allowance; that is an unemployment rate of 1%. The unemployment rate for 18 year-olds—a government figure the Government do not talk much about—is 12.2%. Our 1% is a clear demonstration of how successful these colleges are. I am very glad that the new Minister, my noble friend Lord Agnew, knows a great deal about schools and appreciates how important these colleges are. He wants the ones we have to do well and get better. The economy of our country needs many more UTCs. In 1945, we had 300 technical schools, all killed by snobbery. That was a massive mistake. We have to reinvent a large number of technical schools in our country.
I want to say something about computing. As several speakers have said, computing will fundamentally change education—there is no doubt about that. The Government moved one small step forward by saying last year that primary schools should teach coding. I warmly welcomed that. The most successful digital country in Europe is Estonia, whose biggest export is computer scientists. The former President of Estonia has now been employed by the European Commission to determine the digital policy for Europe. I think Estonia has taught coding in its schools for two decades. That whole country is a digitalised advanced economy, and that starts in its primary schools.
Some people ask, “Is it too early to start teaching computing in primary schools?”. After Christmas, I am meeting the headmaster of a school in Telford who has got his students aged 11—in an ordinary primary school, in an area that has 66% disadvantaged pupils—to get through GCSE computing level 2. If he can do that, any primary school should do it. Once I have met him, the Government should find out exactly how he has done it and make sure it can be spread throughout the primary areas. Primary schools should also have 3D printers; those who have seen them realise how important they are for inventiveness and creativity.
In secondary education, the Government are not really doing enough to expand computer studies in schools. Last July 60,000 students took GCSE computing at 16, which sounds a lot, but that compares with the 300,000 who took a foreign language. The Government say that a foreign language should be compulsory at 16 but I do not believe that is necessary. It should be voluntary, but a computer language should be compulsory. It is more important for youngsters today to understand a computer language than to pick up smatterings of a foreign language. That is one change that should be made.
The Government are moving, but at too slow a pace, and this has to be taken in hand. Without it, I am quite sure that youth unemployment at 18, which went up this year by 0.5 percentage points to 12.2%, will increase in the years to come. Brexit will make it even more difficult for us to do this. We have an enormous skills gap: we are 750,000 digital technicians short and 45,000 STEM graduates a year short. This requires fundamental change and a whole new vigour in increasing technical education.
My Lords, I join everyone else by thanking the most reverend Primate for securing this debate and for introducing it in a way which was stimulating and challenging. He set a very high bar for the rest of us.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Baker, my own early education was in a Church of England village primary school. Although I am of no settled faith now, I acknowledge the huge debt that I owe to my early introduction to the Bible—the King James version, Old and New Testaments—and to the liturgy of the English Church as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer. I am still strongly attached to them both, albeit by what one might call more aesthetic than theological ties. From them, I got most of what I needed to gain access to the huge treasury of art, music, drama and literature produced as part of, or in response to, 2,000 years of Christian belief and practice—and out of that, I got a wonderful career so I have much to be grateful for, unbeliever though I be.
I want to raise one matter, which many other noble Lords have touched on, about the relationship between education and democracy. We live in dangerous times: democracy is threatened everywhere, sometimes physically but, more seriously, intellectually and emotionally. If we believe along with Churchill, as I do, that democracy is not perfect or all-wise but that it is none the less preferable to all other forms of government that have been tried, then we must defend it and our first line of defence is the education of our children. As I have said before in your Lordships’ House, I believe our definition of education as expressed through what we expect our schools to provide has become far too narrow, focused far too much on examinations and therefore on formulaic teaching to the test. I mean no disrespect to teachers when I say that—I had better not, because my family is full of them. Education has become far too concerned with asserting the need for a direct connection between educational inputs and jobs.
Education, as the most reverend Primate and others have said, is not just about knowing stuff. It is also about thinking and feeling stuff. As the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, so eloquently put it, it is about emotional literacy, which is about understanding how others think and feel. It is about learning to deal with complexity, ambiguity, contradiction and the frequent absence of right answers. Now all our young people also have to deal with a daily avalanche of unmediated information—the most reverend Primate referred to unguided and competing values and narratives—which comes at them via the internet. In other words, education is about the exercise of judgment, critical thinking and empathy. These are all vital to exercising our democratic rights as citizens responsibly, as well as—and not instead of—knowing our times tables, how to create an algorithm and how to spell “algorithm”.
The responsibility for ensuring this breadth cannot just lie with schools; they need support. Here comes the stuck record bit in relation to other interventions I have made in your Lordships’ House. The study of the arts provides matchless opportunities to develop these capabilities. The dramatisation of human dilemmas and aspirations helps us to understand them. Shakespeare is a great way to start learning about human beings: metaphor, allegory and characterisation in fiction help us to grasp the wide differences between people and to tolerate those differences. Participating in music, particularly by singing in choirs as I do, teaches us that there is, as they say, no I in team.
The UK has many wonderful cultural organisations large and small, national, regional and local. Most are already contributing widely to the education of the next generation of citizens through their core work and through a variety of imaginative collaborations with schools and communities, especially in disadvantaged areas. I refer in passing to my connection to the Royal Shakespeare Company. It has done excellent work recently in Blackpool, which was mentioned as one of those most deprived areas.
I would also like to mention the excellent work of the Chickenshed theatre in north London where my nine year-old granddaughter is currently appearing in its extremely professional—I mean professional in the very best sense—Christmas show in which she is appearing on stage with children in wheelchairs, children who have learning disabilities and children who have Down’s syndrome and with every other kind of human being you can think of, old and young. What is she learning from that? She is learning a great deal.
Schools are able to participate in partnerships that these organisations offer them, and they value them enormously. Evidence shows that they have a beneficial effect on all aspects of learning, but school leaders are often confused by mixed messages from government about the value of cultural education and they struggle more and more with budgetary constraints, as do the arts organisations themselves. We are missing a trick here, and in doing so we are contributing to the weakening of our democratic values. Please will the Government take the lessons of this debate seriously?
My Lords, I declare my interests as a former chairman of the Local Government Association and a current LGA vice-president. As a former teacher, I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to speak in today’s important debate, and I thank the most reverend Primate for initiating it.
The importance of education in providing our young people with the skills they need to flourish and ultimately to lead challenging and rewarding lives is something I am sure we can all agree upon. I am pleased to note the Government’s achievements in education over the past seven years, which are giving millions of children a better start in life than they could have expected a decade ago. Thanks to the school reforms such as the establishment of free schools and academies, and changes to ensure a more rigorous curriculum, there are now more good and outstanding schools today than ever before. Indeed, there are now 1.8 million more children in schools rated good and outstanding than in 2010, while the proportion of pupils taking core academic subjects at GCSE has almost doubled.
However, too many children are still not receiving the start in life that they deserve. In order to ensure that ours is a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talent and hard work will allow, we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, can have a world-class education. There is a wealth of evidence to show that what really determines a person’s life chances is the opportunities they are offered very early on. Early years learning and targeted support for families are two areas of education policy that I am therefore particularly passionate about, due to the transformative impact they can have on young lives.
As a former leader of Bradford Council and a vice-president of the Local Government Association, I am delighted that local government is leading the way in these areas. To highlight just one example that I am familiar with, North Yorkshire County Council became the first local authority in the country to take the national troubled families model and introduce it as a mainstream approach for its children and young people’s services, with one plan and a dedicated social worker for each family in need. Prevention teams provide highly targeted support at times when families are most in need in order to stop problems escalating, and in doing so they are backed up by support from a variety of external agencies. This programme builds on the successful “developing stronger families” scheme which helped 850 families and resulted in significant reductions in truancy and exclusions, youth crime, anti-social behaviour and youth unemployment in the most challenging households. The current programme is also making a real difference to the lives of people living in troubled families, as evidenced by a 20% reduction in the social care population. I believe that if we are to give our young people the best possible start in life, it is programmes such as these, delivered at a local level and tailored to individual families and their individual circumstances, that truly have a transformative impact.
Moving on to formal education, if we are to have a system that works for everyone it is important that the way funding is distributed to schools is fair. This is currently not the case, since across the country children with the same needs and expectations receive markedly different rates of funding for their school places. The Government are addressing this through the introduction of the new national funding formula, which I welcome. Of course, a reform such as this is complex and will inevitably produce winners and losers. That is why I join the LGA in welcoming the Government’s announcement of £1.3 billion in funding to ensure that no school will lose out under the national funding formula in 2018-19 and 2019-20. I am also pleased that the Government are committed to protecting the pupil premium, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, to ensure that children and young people who need the most support receive it. I am sure that Ministers are aware of the LGA’s current lobbying on the funding of children’s services and the pressures that council budgets are facing; no doubt they will be carefully considering this in the run-up to the local government finance settlement, which is expected shortly.
I have spoken about early years education and formal education, and I will conclude by highlighting the importance of offering real opportunities to the 200,000 young people who chose to enter full-time vocational study after their GCSEs. Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity for young people who are keen to enter the world of work, and I am delighted that councils are playing an active role in promoting them. For example, Kent County Council offers a range of apprenticeships to help local young people start their careers. As part of the comprehensive offer, apprentices supported by the council receive £140 per week during their apprenticeships, support for all the qualifications they are required to study for, access to a mentor and to the council’s training schemes, and support in looking for a job when the apprenticeship is finished. The council also offers support, advice and access to relevant funding to local businesses that are interested in taking on apprentices. Apprenticeships represent a potential transformation in the life chances of the young people who participate by boosting their self-esteem and giving them the skills they need to enter the world of work.
In conclusion, a good education and a decent start in life are not luxuries; they are rights that should be enjoyed by everyone. I am delighted to have taken part in this debate and I look forward to hearing from the remaining speakers.
My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate for the opportunity to address a subject that, as he said, is fundamental to our nation’s future. In the time available, I will restrict myself to one area in which I can claim some personal experience.
The last time the subject of skills was debated in your Lordships’ House was almost two years ago on 28 January 2016. During that debate our greatly missed colleague Lady Williams of Crosby, in her valedictory speech, referred to,
“the special genius of the United Kingdom for great public sector imagination; for a commitment to the idea and ideal of public life”.—[Official Report, 28/1/16; col. 1469.]
She also described the BBC and the Open University as two examples of that public sector imagination in action. Two years on, I am forced to question whether the commitment she referred to still truly exists. For example, were it not for the care and attention shown in this House, it is very possible that the BBC would simply be allowed to atrophy, but right now I would like to focus your Lordships’ attention on that other great leap of imagination, the Open University. It is an institution to which I am certain everyone present would pay at least lip service. I declare my interest here, which is a pretty passionate one, as both a former chancellor of that institution and the beneficiary of a part-time education, although in my day it was simply called night school.
I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of the speakers in today’s debate entered a world of work in which they could confidently put education behind them, having developed a single skill set that would last a lifetime. That no longer remains remotely the case. I spent yesterday morning, along with a number of other Members of your Lordships’ House, at techUK, in conversation with almost 50 representatives of the tech industry, from both large and small companies, who offered us the self-same message. They said that the prospects for their companies, and therefore this country’s future, were being seriously hampered by a shortage of skilled and confident people. Their critical need was not just for more young and talented graduates, but for people already within the workforce to be upskilled and re-trained to contribute to what is a rapidly changing working environment.
That public imagination I mentioned earlier created the world’s first distance-learning institution, an organisation perfectly suited to addressing the reskilling challenge I have just referred to. But through a process that I can only describe as benign neglect on the part of successive Governments, the mission of the OU to address exactly the type of crisis we face and give people of all ages a second chance of contributing to a modern economy has become seriously endangered.
Funding changes under different UK Governments since 2007 have led directly, in just the past five years, to a 50% fall in the number of part-time learners in England. This is significantly worse than for those nations and regions which have avoided the same funding changes. In data terms, the OU now has 554 students per million of the population in England, whereas in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, the equivalent figures are 764, 861 and 1,211 respectively. In fact, England accounts for 90% of the total decline in part-time higher education in the UK. Will the Minister take a crack at explaining those discrepancies and the fact that there are over double the proportion of part-time students in Scotland compared with England? What do they know that we south of the border seem to have failed to grasp? Is there simply a greater determination in the devolved Governments to enhance learning opportunities for people of all ages?
So let us look again at the problem. If the Government agree with the most ambitious of our companies that we have a serious and growing skills gap, then a potentially transformative step would be to develop a system of personalised learning accounts, offering financial support to employees as they seek skills training closely tailored, by industry, to their needs. Unlike the Government’s apprenticeship scheme, this could drive an overdue culture change in lifelong learning and help deliver the Government’s industrial policy. This concept was laid out in compelling detail by the vice-chancellor of the OU, Peter Horrocks, in a recent article which I would thoroughly commend to the Minister and his officials.
In a world in which the World Economic Forum can report that last year, China had 4.7 million new STEM graduates, as against 568,000 in the US, with the UK not even making it on to the list, we surely cannot afford to leave a sizeable proportion of our workforce cut adrift by the inexorable march of technology, most particularly when we have a world-class institution wishing to be encouraged and repurposed to address what is so clearly a developing crisis.
Finally, all of this goes well beyond cold economic considerations. For me, it was an almost unimaginable privilege to spend five years presenting degrees and diplomas to people who in many cases had worked for years on their kitchen tables at the start of a journey towards improved lives for themselves and their families. Why on earth would any Government not wish to play a part in making that opportunity possible for the very greatest number of our fellow citizens?
My Lords, what a fascinating and moving debate this has turned out to be, with so many interesting and great speeches, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam.
In my contribution, I will to focus on the academy movement. At the turn of the century, I became chairman of the United Church Schools Trust, a group of independent schools which then numbered about 12. When the then Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his intention to create the academy programme under the leadership of Andrew Adonis—now the noble Lord, Lord Adonis—the United Church Schools Trust was among the first to engage with the programme. Sir Ewan Harper, then CEO, asked of our trustees: “What would our forebears do it if they were alive today?”.
Formed in 1883, the United Church Schools Trust was created to provide excellent education for girls. In 1999, the trustees decided that a social conscience demanded that we, too, should engage with the programme, and we raised something like £20 million to show our commitment. Now known as United Learning, our group is one of the most successful multi-academy trusts, with more than 60 academies. Now led by Jon Coles, formerly of the Department for Education, United Learning has taken on failing schools in the most deprived areas of the country, providing them with the support, expertise and assistance to transform them into thriving, popular schools where pupils make excellent progress. Successful sixth forms in a significant number of our schools are providing students with life-changing opportunities to go to university. Many of those students are the first in their families to do so, and a goodly number of our academies this year have seen students securing places at Russell Group universities including Oxford and Cambridge.
Perhaps one of the most striking features of United Learning is that our response to the academy programme arose from independent education. We now have schools such as Guildford High School for Girls, Surbiton High School and Caterham School working with our academies to raise standards. One of the most exciting links is that of Marlborough College working closely with Swindon Academy. I am aware that other links exist, but I wonder whether the Department for Education is doing as much as it should to encourage such partnerships as part of the social duty of independent education. In this, I echo the view of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire.
Although many good things are happening in education, the pressure on state schools—I suppose on all schools—is raising sharp questions about educational policy and resources. The first is whether the academy programme, created by the Labour Government and taken up with great enthusiasm by the Conservative Party, is still the ultimate goal of the Government. The White Paper of March 2016 suggests that it is, but with the Prime Minister’s desire for increasing the number of grammar schools—although that has possibly been kicked into the long grass—there remains a question about the Government’s long-term plans and commitment. Are the Government in favour of full academisation or not?
A second and crucial issue is that of teacher shortage. The most reverend Primate’s Motion focuses on the role of education in building a flourishing and skilled society. However, the latest figures for recruitment into teacher training show targets being missed in almost every subject, in many cases by a long way. It is worse in some subjects, especially maths and physical sciences. Whenever there is a shortage, it is always the schools in the poorest areas that are most affected, so it tends to widen disparities between schools and affect social cohesion. Of course, it is not impossible for heads to recruit teachers, but some schools find it difficult to get specialists in all subjects. The important point about teacher supply is that education is a people business, and schools need the right skilled people teaching every class. Given that initial teacher training targets have been missed again, what is the Government’s strategy to address the problem?
Finally, a flourishing and skilled society needs far more than young people passing academic tests—something that has been emphasised again and again. Education must be grounded in strong values and character building, as the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, reminded us, in which the partnership between families, schools and local communities is a covenant—yes, that is a strong word—based on the fundamental importance of the child.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be able to take part in this debate, which was so splendidly introduced by the most reverend Primate in his own inimitable way. It is also a great pleasure to be able to follow a former much-loved Archbishop. I know something of his work in United Learning because Lincoln Minster School is one of the schools over which he had overall responsibility.
It is approaching 50 years since I last was a schoolmaster. I spent 10 years in various schools, and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis is not here now because much of my teaching and most of my learning was in Grimsby. It was a different age in every possible way. My noble friend Lady Shackleton, who, again, is not here at the moment, spoke movingly about the family and the effect of family breakdown on children’s lives. I taught throughout the 1960s—a difficult era—but in those days there were commonly accepted norms and standards, and most children attending schools were the children of two parents who were of different sex and married. I make no value judgment; I merely state a fact.
Now we live in an age in which the moral compass by which life was lived in those days and for some considerable time afterwards no longer functions. That moral compass has been destroyed—I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, in his place and nodding at this point, because he made a powerful point here—by social media. Whatever advantages social media and the internet have brought to our lives, there are also—I speak of the grandfather of four grandchildren—very real dangers. There is a downside that we have to combat.
It is in that context that I will make a few remarks about what should be the ultimate purpose of education today. It should be to educate, both from the point of view of learning and emotionally, the citizens of the future. What we need to come out of our schools are responsible young people who take pride in their country and who, reverting to something that the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, said earlier in the debate, imbibe through their learning what this country is all about. How increasingly necessary that is going to be after 2019 when we begin the tortuous process of extracting ourselves from the European Union.
What is a responsible citizen? Above all, someone who has a sense of community cohesion and an obligation to serve that community. This is why I am delighted to be a supporter of Church of England schools and what they have brought to our nation over the years—the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, referred very eloquently to this. We have to recognise that there is a continuing responsibility on these schools, and of course others, to teach the lesson contained in the words of the King James Bible, which the noble Baroness referred to so lovingly—it is of course also one of the epistles for the day; is it for Trinity 20?—in 1 Corinthians 13:
“Faith, hope, charity … but the greatest of these is charity”.
We need young people who have a sense of belonging to a community and a sense of obligation to commit to that community. Citizenship education should be given a far higher priority than it is at the moment.
I want to end on another point that has been referred to by several noble Lords during the debate, and it is one to which I attach enormous importance: it is not a failure if our young people do not go to university. Vocational qualification is itself a noble aspiration. I have the honour to be the founder chairman of the William Morris Craft Fellowships. Just a week ago we had our 30th annual fellowship awards—we have been going for 30 years now—where young crafts men and women are rewarded not only for what they have achieved but for their potential. One of the obligations upon a William Morris Craft Fellow—a fellow for life once appointed—is to go out among the young and encourage them to aspire to master one of the crafts.
The word “apprenticeship” has been bandied around quite a bit during this debate, but true apprenticeships are those that give rigorous training over a long period so that the young person concerned can indeed be a master of the craft. As we move to 2020 and beyond, if we could have young people, despite all the diversions, problems and threats of social media, coming out of schools equipped to be not only good citizens and members of their community but masters of whatever they have studied and whatever vocation they have followed, we would indeed be achieving a great deal for the educational system in this country.
The most reverend Primate has been a great champion for economic and social justice. To his credit, he was one of the first people to speak up against loan sharks, and this debate reflects his determination and vision in achieving that social justice through educating the whole person.
The noble Lord, Lord Sacks, and others have said that education is a key element of our social infrastructure. It is not something to be nurtured separately but part of what we are, and if we do not get it right and move with the times then everything else suffers. Are we getting it right? Last week we learned that there has been an enormous growth in the number of graduates in the population, but also that almost half of those who graduated in the last five years are in non-graduate-level jobs. Noble Lords will have heard this morning that the chair of the National Audit Office compares this with the mis-selling by the banks. We also learned that there has been a large fall in those taking up apprenticeships. This may be due to the new system of the apprenticeship levy or the IFA refusing support for low-level schemes, but equally it could mean that employers are rejecting the scheme, as my noble friend Lord Adonis said, which would be a real cause for worry. We have a great productivity mountain to climb.
We also learned that in some parts of the country 16% of the population have no skills or qualifications at all. The national average, at 9%, is far too high. I agree with noble Lords who have said that it is deprivation caused by these imbalances holding our society back.
I put this down to many institutions having to achieve their targets, taking precedence over the needs of society as a whole. Given more staff and time, of course they would make more of complete education, as required under the 2017 Act. The system also encourages the academic development of the more able. Teaching to the test means that handed-down knowledge takes precedence over the forms of teaching that explicitly seek to engage children in the learning process.
The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, spoke of social media. Good exam marks do not tell us how, in this post-truth age, we can recognise alternatives that we find on social media, fake news or the invented conspiracies on which the University of Salford recently reported. They are all designed to undermine the very notion of knowledge.
The Welsh Assembly decided to act by abolishing performance tables, and yes, they found Welsh schools lagging behind. Does this prove that what gets measured gets done, or that students who have been steered towards easy-to-obtain qualifications get good results? I do not know. We have yet to learn whether dropping the performance tables has better prepared students for real-life situations.
This character development or character education helps to promote well-being, and improved well-being improves the capacity to learn, not only academically but for the social soft skills. The noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, other noble Lords and the charity Young Minds make the point that too much emphasis on academic achievement and too little on character education is part of the reason for our poor record on the mental health of young people.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely and my noble friend Lord Puttnam: the purpose is to prepare people for the less tangible economy that we are busily creating, which my noble friend Lord Giddens described, requiring less tangible skills and the ability to reinvent ourselves as things change. That is vital in today’s world of work.
Hopefully, the RSA’s Ideal School Exhibition project will help. It attempts to loosen the league tables’ grip on the tests, targets and tactics system and replace it with a more mission-oriented culture. It is focused on the curriculum, and testing what has been taught, instead of teaching what will be tested, to reward genuine quality rather than coached responses. My noble friend Lord Griffiths made this point. The project will still identify and tackle failure, but will give schools freedom to pursue their own mission.
I agree with the call of the most reverent Primate to teach our values and our ideals as well as how to write a good exam. This will build a flourishing society with all the right skills that he called for in this debate.
My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate for this timely debate. It was Aristotle who said:
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.
Education should be about understanding, not just memory. The whole-person view of education is clear from the Bible. Christ is spoken of as a teacher many times in the Gospels, and one of the most important lessons is in 1 Corinthians 12, verse 12:
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body”.
This whole-person education approach should be the foundation to political, economic and social decision-making.
Education should also be a lifelong pursuit: it is a journey, not a destination. Some years ago, I was walking down Kennington Road. A middle-aged man was coming in the opposite direction, smiling at me. He started laughing, and pointed to me, saying, “George Clooney, George Clooney”. I have been called many things in my life, but never George Clooney. Seeing how bemused I was, he added, “It’s John Taylor, isn’t it? About 20 years ago, you were my land law lecturer. It is a dry subject, so instead of saying, ‘A sold 50 hectares to B’, you would give all the buyers and sellers Hollywood film star names. So George Clooney would sell his mansion to Bette Midler, who in turn sublet to Kim Basinger. Land law came alive”.
I recalled his face, because he was much older than the other students. He explained how, after several years in a factory, he had made that leap of faith to further his education and study land law, to eventually qualify as a legal executive. If any of your Lordships know George Clooney, please tell him that he had a real impact on the “Land Law Part Two: Conveyancing” course.
It was the Church of England which introduced a school in every parish more than 200 years ago. This was more than 50 years before the provision of state education. Indeed, in the 19th century the church also provided some great leaders who had a real impact on British life. To do so, they had to educate and transform the way people thought about their fellow man. These Christian leaders understood the whole-person dynamic and included William Wilberforce with anti-slavery, Lord Shaftesbury in the factories, Elizabeth Fry in prisons and William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.
These leaders championed universal values such as fairness, tolerance, justice, forgiveness and freedom of speech—and family values. Although the Church provided much of early school education, its partnership with business provided not only resources but that early link between education and the workplace. For example, in Birmingham, where I am from, the Quaker Christians started the Cadbury’s company, which provided education, employment and housing. They were concerned about the whole-person employee.
The Quakers started many other companies, including the early banks such as Friends Provident and Rowntree’s, Fry’s and Huntley and Palmers. Jesse Boot was from a Methodist family which in the 1860s ran a small shop in Nottingham, selling herbal remedies at lower prices to the poor. That humble store became the Boots the Chemists empire of today.
Perhaps the greatest example of Christian whole-person application in British history was a Sunday school Wesleyan chapel in Aston, Birmingham. In 1874, it started a little sports club to keep young men out of the pubs on a Saturday. The idea was to keep them healthy in spirit in the chapel and healthy in mind and body on the football field. So it was that perhaps the greatest gift to mankind, my club Aston Villa, was born. I see that your Lordships all agree.
Will the Minister explain how the Government will encourage business to have a more whole-person approach to their activities? I think especially of social media companies such as Google and Facebook, which make vast profits and have such an influence on modern life. This week, Prince William made a speech at the Children’s Global Media Summit in Manchester. He highlighted the problem of cyberbullying and called on social media companies to be part of the solution in combating online harassment. As one of the patrons of the Cybersmile Foundation charity, I welcome this.
As the state has taken over more and more of our education, that original whole-person approach to learning has been sacrificed somewhat on the altar of results and the obsession with academic university degrees. The importance of spiritual and emotional well-being has been overshadowed. The recent Race Disparity Audit commissioned by the Prime Minister confirmed that people are treated differently in Britain depending on their race. All that I will say about that is that I hope that audit leads to action.
The physical body is obviously a vital part of the whole person. Sport should be an important element of every school curriculum, so it is sad to know that 100 schools have sold their playing fields since the London Olympics in 2012—and that trend continues.
The spirit is also part of the whole person. Creativity, imagination and inspiration all nourish the spirit. For a number of years, I was chancellor of Bournemouth University, a centre of excellence for film production and the broadcast media, having its own dedicated media centre. During my time as chancellor, it was an honour for me to speak on behalf of the then Government to the creative industries conference. I emphasised the need for the world of education to work in partnership with business and the creative industries.
We have a digital skills gap in this country, costing the economy £63 billion per year, so I welcome the Government’s recent announcement of new T-levels for 16 to 19 year-olds, which are a technical education alternative to A-levels, focused on practical, technical skills.
However, we have problems with apprenticeships, which have fallen by 59% since the levy. How is the Minister going to address that problem? The apprentice must have confidence that, at the end of their training, the result will be the famous words, “You’re hired”, not “You’re fired”.
It is also important to point out that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. The best education is when we are learning how to live, not just living how to learn. Although it is important to train our brain, we must not neglect the physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of our lives. As the American educator Frederick Douglass said:
“It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men”.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate for introducing this debate today. Having listened to all the contributions, I think what a wonderful variety we are going to have. I would like to reflect on three things: first, the role of education, with particular reference to agriculture; secondly, as many others have, on apprenticeships; and, thirdly, on enabling those with learning difficulties to achieve their potential.
Having left school at 16 to study a one-year general farming course at Moulton, Northamptonshire, I am only too keenly aware of the enormous changes that have taken place within the farming industry. Yes, unskilled labour is still needed, but the many changes that we have seen have been caused by the expansion of modern machinery, scientific research, technology, engineering, improvements in digital equipment, robotics and, indeed, the development of drones. Those advances reflect the skills of the workforce and the dedication of teachers in schools and colleges. Teachers have the ability to inspire and challenge pupils, and this debate reinforces that point. I only wish that more teachers would encourage students to consider agriculture as a worthwhile career.
The work done at Harper Adams University, formerly an agricultural college, this last year is a very good example of what I am talking about. It has resulted in the university, only this week, being awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, recognising their Hands Free Hectare initiative. The university, working alongside Yorkshire-based Precision Decisions, grew a crop of barley using robotics and drones, no manpower being in the field at any time through the various operations. Today, GPS systems and drones can pinpoint the amount of dressing needed in certain parts of the field, and even on individual plants.
Secondly, I congratulate the Government on their commitment to apprenticeship schemes but, like others, I am concerned about falling numbers. These schemes enable students to gain skills while working. The businesses that I have visited value their apprentices, speaking of their commitment to gaining skills, thus bringing benefits to the company and to the individuals concerned. I welcome the recent announcement in the Budget of the national retraining scheme, which helps older people to gain new skills necessary for their advancement, and for the provision of some £384 million to increase the number of fully qualified computer science teachers. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Baker is not in his place at the moment, because I think that he would be very pleased at that announcement. They will be working with a new national centre for computing, which is particularly good news. As I said, my only concern is the reported decline in the numbers taking up apprenticeships, and I hope that the Minister will give an explanation and can give some reassurance to us today.
It is surely right that those with learning challenges should have the opportunity to achieve as well. They may not become high flyers but with care, encouragement and skill, they can occupy important jobs in future years. I know that some special schools are coming under increasing threat of closure. Indeed, in Leicestershire, my home county, Maplewell Hall School, which I understand was recently reported as outstanding, may have its residential element closed. Has there been any recent national analysis or review?
In the time that I have had, it has not been possible to include something that is very dear to me, or talk about it at great length—the importance of values, spoken about by others. However, I hope that all those involved in teaching and training will stress the worth of lifelong learning. I would also add the importance of co-operation and honesty in whatever one is doing. Our present system is based on Christian beliefs of shared values, and I believe that it is as deeply important today as it was when it started. Indeed, other noble Lords have spoken about the importance of the support of loving and supportive families. But that is not so for everybody. I remember when my husband was a governor of a local primary that one of the children was referred to the headmaster and he, as chairman of the governors, sat in. He was trying to encourage the mother to help with reading out of hours in their own home, to which she turned round and said, “That’s not my business; it’s your business to teach my child”.
I think that in some ways we have gone a long way away from having the support which was there originally, and I hope that this debate will encourage everybody to realise that it is not just about education and learning but about how the values and the way in which we deal with each other and help each other along the line will bring greater benefits to society as a whole.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking most warmly the most reverend Primate not only for giving us the opportunity for this vital debate but for the very challenging and thought-provoking way in which he introduced it. I also put on record how moved I was by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks. It had real resonance for me because I went to an independent school where, at the time that I was there, a third of the boys were Jewish. I came to respect deeply the Jewish culture and the importance that it placed on education and on values. I think that a very important part of my education in those formative years was being at a school like that. I might just say that this is why I have become so particularly and profoundly sad about the policies of the Israeli Government.
One thing that really worries me in my old age is the confusion between citizenship and consumerism, and I think that it is a confusion that is sometimes quite deliberately fostered. I was discussing the issue with an old friend the other day who said, “Frank, be fair; you have never had more questionnaires or opportunities to express yourself than you get under the consumerist culture”. I said that this was completely beside the point; the point about citizenship is what should be the questions, not where I should put the ticks on the questions put by those who set the tests.
The other thing that I am deeply concerned about in my older years is the importance of the nature of citizenship. I was so glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, made the point that she did about the vital global dimension to this. One thing that children must understand throughout their education is the total interdependence of the global community.
The other thing I will mention in terms of my anxieties is the confusion between the terms “education” and “vocational training”. For an awful lot of people, I do not think that there really is a distinction—and there is a very profound distinction. While vocational training is vital—that has been emphasised in this debate—it is not education, necessarily. Education is about the whole person and about enabling youngsters to become what they might be, in every way. If I can just put it briefly, in a colloquial way, I would be very happy to live in a society where, when the plumber comes to fix a leak, you find yourself in a conversation about a recent production in the local community of Bach or a performance of a Shakespeare play. I am afraid that, too often, when we talk about vocational training, what we are in fact talking about is destiny, and thousands of our youngsters not having the opportunity to realise their full potential as human beings and just being prepared as useful contributors to the society that confronts them.
The other step that I will mention, very strongly, is mental health. Schools are de facto a nerve centre for detecting poor mental health and the problems of broken families, child abuse and acute poverty where it applies. Many schools take this challenge very seriously and I believe that we should give them all possible support.
I do not think that we should leave a debate like this without facing up to some of the underlying challenges in the wider structural way in which our education is provided. The problem of selectivity is a divisive factor. I came from an independent school, but I am the first to realise that we do not debate or discuss often enough the social divisiveness of an independent sector—people buying privilege in education to make sure that their children monopolise the power structures of society. We need to face up to this question. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, made some very telling points about the partnerships that are going on—but I am sure that he would agree that it is a much more deeply challenging issue than just this.
We have to look at selectivity in our education system. If I may say so—as someone who was really encouraged by the most reverend Primate’s speech—I think that the Church of England still has a lot of work to do on this. I detect that 70% of its state secondary schools still select on religious grounds. I think it is fair to say that some 30% select most of their pupils on religious grounds. In the kind of society in which we live we have to look at the implications of that in terms of social divisiveness. I say that as an active member of the Church of England and as a grandfather whose grandchildren have all started their education in church schools. Why did they start their education in church schools? We must not slip into dogma. They did so because their parents saw that the liberal education and all the ideals we have been talking about were being particularly well nurtured in church schools. That is perhaps a paradox, but it is real.
Finally, do we inadvertently let school assemblies become divisive, too? I am tremendously struck by the work going on in Scotland between the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland, which has developed the concept of a time for reflection when, together, all children, whatever their background, can reflect on common problems and common values and begin to explore some of the most sensitive and difficult subjects that will face them in life.
I too thank the most reverend Primate for bringing forward today’s debate, and indeed for naming the recently established Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership, of which I am privileged to be a trustee.
In my own diocese, I am delighted that we have 116 Church of England schools—not single-faith schools but centres of community cohesion in urban and rural areas, committed to offering each child the opportunity to discover life in all its fullness, as spoken about by Jesus Christ. The Church of England’s vision for education highlights the ideas of wisdom, hope, dignity and community, and we aim to make our schools places where fulfilling academic potential is not separated from our children’s spiritual, physical, emotional, moral and social development.
In the brief time I have, I would like to focus on three areas crucial to children and young people flourishing and thriving in education. First, preparation: in 94 local authorities—almost a third of the country—less than half of all disadvantaged five year-olds are developmentally ready for school. As has already been said, early intervention has a marked impact on children’s life prospects, and without help and support we cannot expect children to show up at school “ready to go”. Churches and faith groups across the country do a tremendous job in running parent and toddler groups and programmes which support very young children and their parents. However, partnership and collaboration with local and central government is required. More than 400 children’s centres have closed since 2010, and the life chances strategy promised by the previous Prime Minister was dropped in December 2016. Surely a vision for giving children the best possible start in life is a necessity.
Secondly, we must remove barriers to children’s flourishing. As has already been mentioned, there are many, but let me underline just a few, of which the first is poverty. In 2015, the Children’s Society facilitated a youth-led Children’s Commission on Poverty. Since the publication of its report there has been work with Church of England schools to poverty-proof the school week. This includes things such as ensuring that school uniforms are affordable, that school trips are accessible to all, and that there is no stigma attached to claiming a free school meal. Then there is the need to remove barriers to flourishing for children with physical and learning disabilities, not least when it comes to further education and moving into adulthood. In Gloucestershire, we are fortunate to have the National Star College for young adults with complex disabilities and learning difficulties. But to access such support you now need an education, health and care plan. In 2016, local authorities turned down nearly 15,000 requests for such a plan. Last year, the National Star College supported 11 students who went to tribunal to obtain funding; 10 claims were settled just before the hearings were held and often months after the beginning of the academic year. The parents of those young people had stamina and a good education, but what about the others?
A number of noble Lords have already spoken about barriers due to mental health and I endorse all that has been said. I also endorse what has been said about school exclusion. We know that children excluded from school are 10 times more likely to suffer recognised mental health problems. Only 1% of excluded children get five good GCSEs, and the number of children permanently excluded has risen 40% in the last three years. In my own diocese, Gloucestershire has the highest rate of school exclusion in the south-west. We need to find effective mechanisms to help disadvantaged children stay and thrive in school.
As part of that, we need our schools to be trauma-informed. There is not time now to go into the details of adverse childhood experiences—ACEs—10 traumatic events which can occur before the age of 18. But focusing on ACEs and working with a child’s story about what has happened to them, rather than with the presenting behaviour, has been shown to be effective in bringing about positive change. I would like to see this approach encouraged and supported by local and central government. Again, it is about those values of dignity and hope.
Finally, I will say something about relationship, which is core to what it means for us to be human and made in the image of God. My ongoing visits to schools remind me that we have much to do to ensure that education not only recognises and affirms the dignity and value of each child and young person, but enables them to appreciate and value each other, including those who are different from themselves. In the past two weeks I have visited a primary school, a secondary school and a college, where I have engaged in conversation with children and young people about body image and not taking our value from physical appearance, which is so often promoted by social media. Those conversations with young people have led to conversations about what they value in each other—which is more than simply pressing a “like” on a social media platform. The response in those young people has been rewarding and poignant, as they have affirmed one another in who they are and how they are different from one another.
Our places of education shape and reflect the society we live in. For children to flourish as adults, they must be enabled to flourish in their education. By investing in early years, including the disadvantaged and building communities of good relationship in our schools, colleges and universities, we can use education to shape a flourishing society.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Prelate the Archbishop of Canterbury for opening this debate. He compared himself to the John Lewis advert, being looked forward to. Let us rather say that he is very much looked forward to here—maybe a wider audience should know about this and more people should tune in. He started off by talking about having a big picture and a vision, which is important. Other noble Lords have described their visions, which have agreed or disagreed with his, but mainly they have overlapped—we have a grand vision or strategy for education.
I will concentrate on a few practical issues which relate to specific groups. Many noble Lords will have guessed that I will talk about dyslexia and special educational needs, and I refer the House to my interests in these fields. With this large group, if you get it wrong, the following chain of events—the rest of your commands, and so on—do not work. I will start by asking a couple of questions that I have warned the Minister I would ask.
How are we doing on making sure that our teaching profession is better prepared to handle these diverse groups? They have different learning patterns, which means that when they get into the classroom, the efficient, established, traditional ways of teaching the mainstream do not work for them. About 10% are dyslexics, and then you have co-occurrence—comorbidity is the official term—with other groups such as dyspraxics, which is due to poor muscle control. Do teachers know how to tell if somebody cannot spell something correctly because they cannot hold the pen any longer or do not understand what the symbols mean? That is a skill that is very difficult to establish. When it comes to dyscalculia, does somebody not understand the maths in front of them because they cannot remember the equation? Is it dyslexia, or is it someone with dyscalculia who does not understand the concept of numbers? You are asking a lot of somebody there.
Changes in education were announced in A Framework of Core Content for Initial Teacher Training, published last year. It is rather a dry document but, importantly, it contains a commitment to people gaining better knowledge in this training. How far has that been developed? How far has it become ingrained? How far is it going? If we relied on initial teacher training, we would have a properly educated teaching workforce within roughly two decades. The noble Lord, Lord Bird, who is no longer in his place, made a very important point. He said that failure is incredibly expensive at all levels. People are failed not only in the school system but in the job market through unemployment. How are we driving this important training, and what is happening with continuing professional development to back up that initial teacher training? That is important because, without it, you will not enable people to benefit from any type of education.
Moving on through the educational process to further education, we have an interesting situation with apprenticeships. I have form when it comes to apprenticeships and dyslexia. Many people here will be wincing and saying, “Not that again”—my noble friend laughs, and well she might. After many years, the law of unintended consequences came in in 2009 with the apprenticeships Bill, which said that everybody should have English and maths qualifications. At the time, I asked, “Are you going to make every dyslexic pass an English paper?”. The reply was, “Of course we won’t”, but when the Bill was enacted, that is exactly what happened and people failed.
It was not until 2014 that that changed with the introduction of the Children and Families Act. Noble Lords may well ask why I am raising that again. I am doing so because the new guidelines for apprenticeships say that only those with an education, health and care plan or the old statement will get help. Returning to what I said at the beginning, it is an established fact within the education system that most people with a hidden educational problem such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD—you name it—are not considered sufficiently in need of a plan or statement. The vast majority in this group will not be covered, so once again failure has been guaranteed. The cock-up school of history comes to mind. Is something else going to be brought in which means there will be no help?
It is not just a case of working harder; your brain is differently constructed—the neurones do not connect together. You can improve the problem but you will never remove it. Schools resist having a high level of identification because it affects their budgets, and generally middle-class parents—the tiger parents—tear through and get the problem identified. We are guaranteeing that the groups with the lowest levels of attainment and the highest levels of failure will, again, be further punished. That cannot be right. Can the Minister give me an assurance that the Government will address the need for better forms of identification of problems that affect the general population? Clearly, further education and mainstream schooling are not talking to each other. I do not know which is breaking the Equality Act most, but they are definitely doing it. There are people with problems that are not being addressed.
I could go on to one or two of the problems in higher education, but I have run out of time and there is a question coming up next Thursday; I believe seats are still available. Will the Minister assure me that the problem with apprenticeships will be addressed? If he cannot we will go back to square 1—or maybe not square 1, but at most 1A.
My Lords, I am not sure I can follow the noble Lord, Lord Addington, down his road. However, I refer to the debt felt by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, to the Bible. I share that debt, particularly to the Old Testament. I would add to that Shakespeare, Wagner and a dash of Freud, and then probably one knows as much about human nature as one is likely to learn.
The most reverend Primate encouraged us to find foundations—to look for the basis on which we make our enduring progress and to find it. While doing that, we must make sure that we carry our values along with us. That is a deep search in order that people shall achieve the fullest life that is available to them. He urged us to reject utilitarianism. I am rereading Dickens and I have just read Hard Times. Mr Gradgrind was completely pinned down by utilitarianism. The mess that was made of his two older children, one a girl and the other a boy, takes a bit of reading. I thoroughly recommend it if noble Lords want to study the failure of education.
When we are troubled by what is happening now, we should remember that things are a lot better than they were in the 1850s and 1860s. It was a muddle and remains a muddle, but the question is: how are we coping? The conclusion of this debate so far is that too many people are not coping. So, again, I look for a foundation. One is that everyone is on a journey of their own. When we think about what is happening to them, we need to remember their individuality—not to take it too far, but to remember it.
We must remember that the word “education” comes from a Latin word which means “to draw out”. On this journey, with parents, teachers, friends and colleagues, we are asking at the beginning: who is this individual? The individual comes, after quite a short period, to ask: who am I? Then we continue the dialogue, with the debate, “That is who you think you are, but who are you?”. So people discover themselves. While schools play an important part in this process, it is only a part and we should remember that very strongly. The society that we get will result from this dialogue as individuals find their way on their journeys. It is a preparation for them to be able to recognise opportunities and threats and to come to see who we are, and what we can and cannot do, so that we are able to make the judgments and choices that face us.
The second foundation, which has been much referred to, is lifelong education. At my time, I would describe it as getting through a long life. In doing that, we can only do our best to cope, particularly with change. We should continue to find what we know and what we do not know, and we should recognise that there are many things we do not know that we do not know, and that the last big circle of the unknown is constantly increasing.
My final illustration of change is to mention a lad in Harvard, aged 19, who started writing programs. Some 13 years later, those programs are Facebook and all its subsidiaries. For someone with great-grandchildren, it is a fairly shattering thought that that could be done and that it could have the effect it is having with 2 billion users. The company was established 13 years ago, which is not much more than half a generation. I also reflect that on the agenda for discussion in my village in north Yorkshire is an item headed “drones”. They are of great importance around the village of Moulton. If ever there was a time to look for and find foundations, it must be now. We should continue our search.
My Lords, when the most reverend Primate introduced so eloquently our debate this morning, he rightly referred to the role of the Church and lay members of the Church in the development of universal education in England in the 19th century. I am of course particularly proud that in Scotland we were taking these steps in the 17th century, with the first legislation for a school in every parish. That is one of the reasons why in the union of 1707 the relative autonomy of Scottish education was preserved as part of the agreements of the time. Partly for that reason, I have not often spoken about education in this Chamber. Nowadays Scottish education is rightly within the remit of the autonomous Scottish Parliament, but there are some issues in education that cross borders, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to refer to some of them today.
I refer noble Lords to my entry in the register which, perhaps understandably, reflects my lifelong passion for and interest in education as well as some of my current interests. The primary schoolteacher I had at the age of seven can remember me saying that I wanted to become a sums teacher. With a few changes in the subject I chose in the decade or so that followed, I became a mathematics teacher, and enjoyed that profession for a decade before becoming employed full-time in politics.
I have always had a passion not only for teaching but also for the profession of teaching, as well as for teachers and their importance in the classroom. Few of us can remember individual pieces of algebra or the detail of individual cultural experiences we have had, but all of us can remember the good teacher and the bad teacher that had an impact on us during our schooldays. No matter what level someone’s education has reached and no matter what course in life they have chosen, there will have been a teacher, good or bad, who had an impact by either inspiring or demoralising them. The role of individual teachers should never be forgotten by education policymakers and Governments. Debates about funding, curriculum and policy will come and go, but ultimately the person who delivers education in the classroom is absolutely central to inspiring every generation.
The second point I want to make is about colleges. There have been a lot of references in the debate to training, vocational education and so on, but I remain astonished by the amount of time we spend debating the situation in our universities in this country, and at the lack of media attention and public debate about the situation in our colleges—in the widest sense of further and non-university higher education. There are debates about university principals’ salaries, fees and grants for university students and access to universities for people from different walks of life, as well as the buildings, the global reach of our universities, the subjects they teach and their nature and purpose—but there are never debates about our colleges, which are fundamental to the young people and lifelong learners who have been mentioned in today’s debate. Colleges are fundamental to the life opportunities of a section of the population who, in many ways, need them much more than people who go to university. It seems to me that such debates never take place; I regret that and I hope we can start to rectify that situation through debates such as today’s.
My third point on UK education is about looked-after children. It is a shame that in all four nations of this country, children who are looked after by the state continue to this day, in the 21st century, to have the worst educational opportunities and outcomes. That should shame us all. We need to continue to look for innovative and imaginative solutions that give those young children in the care of the state, in any sense, opportunities—or at least opportunities as good as those of other children. I refer the Minister and his department to something they may not be aware of because it is in Scotland. A charity in Glasgow called MCR Pathways is doing phenomenal work. It has transformed the outcomes for looked-after children in a number of Glasgow pilot scheme schools. The project is about to be taken to national level and there may be some fantastic lessons to be learned, based on mentoring such looked-after children. The effect of volunteer mentoring in the community is really quite dramatic.
My final point goes beyond our borders, because although education is important here, it is even more so elsewhere. There are 263 million girls and boys around the world who are not in school; two-thirds of them live in fragile and conflict-affected states. We must understand that education matters more in those place than any other intervention possibly could. Education transforms lives. It provides the opportunity, confidence and skills to move into work and start businesses. It improves agricultural outputs and the health outcomes of individuals and nations. It helps girls to avoid child marriage and other abuses. It develops responsible citizens who can hold corrupt Governments to account and develop democracies and governance in the capacity of public institutions. Yet in this country we allocate only 7.17% of our overseas development assistance to education. That figure should be much higher. I hope that the Government will, in their ongoing constant reviews of how best to spend their ODA, look again at the amount spent on education. In particular, a decision is due in January on the UK contribution—previously £300 million but up for review—to the Global Partnership for Education: money spent in fragile, conflict-affected and very underdeveloped states. I hope that we will not only sustain that contribution but perhaps increase it in the future.
I am conscious of my time so I will finish with a story from 18 months ago about a very young girl in a refugee camp in Iraq. Her name was Safa. She had endured all kinds of horrors for three years during her journey from Syria to Iraq and life in the refugee camp. She spoke strongly to me about the experience of her and her family. The only time she cried was when I asked about her exam results at school. More than anything else, the one thing that had affected her dignity and hope for the future was her school performance, which had been affected by living in the camp. That is an indication of just how much education matters for those who need it most.
In summation, I hope that the Minister and others will have an opportunity to reflect on the global situation as well as the national one.
My Lords, it is a privilege to offer a few brief comments from the perspective of an academic scientist. Today’s young people will live in a world ever more dependent on technology and ever more vulnerable to its failures or misdirection. Choices on how science is applied are not just for scientists to make, but for wide democratic debate to rise above sloganising all citizens need enough “feel” for science and maths to prevent their being bamboozled by propaganda or over-deferential to experts—and it is sad that so many do not have that.
It is equally regrettable that many people do not know their nation’s history, cannot speak a second language and cannot find North Korea or Syria on a map. Like history and literature, science is part of human culture. More than that, it is the one culture that is truly global. Protons, proteins and Pythagoras are the same from China to Peru, and should transcend all boundaries of nationality and faith.
The challenges of science education are changing. IT and the web offer huge benefits, but earlier generations had one advantage. When we were young, we could take apart a clock, a radio set or a motorbike, figure out how it worked and then reassemble it. That is how many of us got hooked on science. In contrast, the gadgets that now pervade our lives—smartphones and suchlike—are baffling black boxes. Even if you take them apart you will find few clues to their arcane mechanisms. The extreme sophistication of modern technology is, ironically, an impediment to engaging young people with reality and learning how things work. Likewise, town dwellers are increasingly distanced from the natural world. Many urban children never see a dark sky or a bird’s nest.
The UK is a laggard in educational attainment at secondary school age, as many speakers have emphasised, and there is a special urgency to enhance provision for the disadvantaged majority. But in higher education, too, we need a more diverse ecology than universities alone. As a university teacher, I am aware that our traditional honours degree is too specialised for almost all students. Even worse, so is the school curriculum. The campaign for an international baccalaureate-style curriculum for 16 to 18 year-olds has been impeded by universities, whose entrance requirements overtly disfavour applicants who straddle science and humanities. As a digression, I honour a prominent exemplar of straddling the two cultures, Lord Habgood, the former Archbishop of York and a physiologist by education. His speech at a British Science Association meeting was reported under the heading, “‘Monkeys may have souls,’ says Primate”.
We fetishise the special value of three years’ full-time study. An American will say, “I had two years of college”, as a positive experience, regarding college credits as a good qualification even if they are not sufficient for graduation. It is surely better for colleges to take risks on admission, give students a chance and let some leave after two years with a credit without necessarily being typecast as failures or wastage. Some will return later or continue part-time; others might pursue distance learning. I hope that the Minister will offer some comments on how to encourage transferable credits.
As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, told us, distance learning may replace the “mass university”—but it will never replicate the experience of attending a collegiate-type university. So there will be a deepening bifurcation between, on the one hand, the institutions that really offer personal mentoring and tuition—colleges or analogues of liberal arts colleges—and on the other, the Open University model. However, those who aspire to a highly selective residential university but are disadvantaged in their schooling will not get over the bar at 18. They now have no second chance. That is why it would send an encouraging signal if Oxbridge in particular were to reserve a fraction of its places for students who do not come straight from school but have earned credits online or via the Open University.
Another damaging preconception has bedevilled British education and policy for decades: the snobbish disparagement of technology. My engineering friends like an old cartoon which shows two beavers looking up at a large hydroelectric dam. One says to the other, “I didn’t actually build it, but it’s based on my idea”. That honestly illustrates the difference between the real and the perceived balance between science and technology.
We all need to be guided by values that science itself cannot provide but which a good school can instil for life. That is why we should all surely welcome the leadership of the most reverend Primate in introducing this debate.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate for bringing forward this important debate. I was struck particularly by one word in the debate title today: “flourishing”. This is about more than acquiring a skillset, more than about gaining knowledge of the world; it is about unlocking human potential. This is the benchmark that we must set ourselves when talking about education, rooting us firmly in the capability of the individual. For Aristotle, a key proponent of the philosophy of human flourishing, it is the key to happiness itself.
If our education system does not allow individuals to flourish then it is failing, and over the years it has indeed fallen short. When the coalition Government were formed in 2010, the poorest students attended overwhelmingly the poorest schools. Let us take a moment to process what that means. It means that money and wealth were primary contributors to helping students flourish through education. Those without would not and could not reach their potential. Not only did this entrench inequality but it meant that we as a country could not reach our potential either.
This is a personal crusade for me, because I was one of the lucky ones. At a time when too few Welsh students applied to top universities, my comprehensive school in Swansea was an outlier, regularly getting 10 to 15 pupils a year into Oxbridge. These results were down to some outstanding teachers who believed that their pupils, we, were as good as anyone else. They raised our level of aspiration and taught us to value education as a means of opening up opportunities and freedoms. I was lucky. But we must look beyond the agency of a few great teachers at one individual school and work out how to institutionalise this philosophy.
One advantage we have is unprecedented access to data and technology. It means that we can assess pedagogy, teaching approaches and educational technology rigorously and on a global scale. We do not have to compare teaching ideologies and philosophies and pick one by setting them against our political creed. We can simply look at what works.
Let us take phonics as an example of following the evidence instead of the ideology. My right honourable friend Michael Gove, then Secretary of State for Education, mandated its use in the teaching of reading to combat the widening gap between the highest and lower achievers. At the time, he had to fight off staunch opposition from professors of education and teaching unions, but he pressed on, confident in the evidence base and encouraged by the thousands of teachers who had supported this method of teaching children to read. The emerging evidence is that phonics is particularly effective at helping the least able, and we should give heartfelt thanks to the teachers who have embraced this new way of teaching. What better example of capturing this notion of education’s contribution to flourishing in our society, helping everyone—not just the wealthy and the smartest—to reach their potential? We also need to be clear that this is not about equality for equality’s sake. My teachers in Swansea did not enable me and my colleagues to get into Oxbridge by persuading colleges to lower their standards but, rather, by getting us to raise ours. It is the role of education to enable us to flourish to our own, individual potential.
My passion for the empowerment that only education can bring is reinforced by my family history. My father’s family defected from communist Czechoslovakia, arriving in the liberal West with absolutely nothing. Once there, he won a scholarship to Princeton University and later became a professor at IMD, the international Swiss business school. He was a true beneficiary of education’s role in helping us to flourish, but we should reflect on the world he escaped. Communism does not recognize individuals and the talents and potential they may have: this is all subsumed into the state and its projection of power. Individual freedom is extinguished, with brutal and tragic consequences. We should use the centenary of the Russian Revolution not to romanticise, as some incomprehensibly still do, but to remind ourselves of the importance of liberty, human potential and flourishing, and in particular, returning to the topic of today’s debate, the role that our education system can play in bringing it about.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Finn, as a fellow Welsh Peer, and to have heard her very good story. It is always a pleasure, of course, to speak in a debate initiated by the most reverend Primate, whose speech was very fine. The debate that has followed has been excellent in every respect.
I looked up in the Library briefing the definition of character. I thought initially that the definition related to the headmaster of the school of the Minister many years ago, Dr Arnold of Rugby—the sort of muscular Christianity that he propounded—but when I heard my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Burry Port explain in much more detail what character meant, I entirely agreed with him about what has, in fact, underpinned this excellent debate. It is about education for the fullness of life. It is, of course, about educating for civic responsibilities, as my noble friend Lady McIntosh referred to—teaching about democracy. I spent 17 years teaching politics and government and issues such as those. However, it is also about educating for happiness. It seems to me that that is done most particularly well by church schools in this country. I refer to the sorts of schools that my noble friend Lord Touhig and I went to—Catholic primary schools in small Welsh mining villages in south Wales—and also to Anglican schools, both in Wales and here in England too.
The figures show that one-third of all pupils in our country go to church schools to be educated, and that 98% of those schools are either Church of England, Church in Wales or Catholic schools. I think there are 7,000 Church of England schools and 2,000 Catholic schools in England. The Churches, I am glad to say, work extremely well together in putting their case to the Government and particularly, of course, to the Minister, who is the faith schools Minister as part of the education team. Catholic schools and Anglican schools provide education for very deprived areas. If noble Lords catch the number 185 bus from Victoria to Camberwell Green, as I occasionally do, they will pass through very deprived areas of south London. As that bus makes its journey there are three schools serving those communities: two Church of England schools and a Catholic school. It proves the point that the Churches place huge importance on the need to ensure that they reach out into our inner cities and our deprived areas. For example, 18% of pupils in Catholic schools come from the poorest backgrounds, which is 6% more than the national average, and 35% come from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The other issue which the most reverend Primate and other speakers have emphasised is the importance of church schools having people who do not necessarily believe in that particular denomination attend them. Very many people want their children to go to Anglican or Catholic schools because of the ethos of those schools. One in three pupils in Catholic schools, for example, are not Catholics, and I think that is a good thing. I referred earlier to my school in Abersychan. My grandparents on both my mother’s Protestant side and my father’s Catholic side went to that same Catholic school because it was the only school giving education in that village at the time. So this is not new.
The issue that I want to finish on is more complicated and slightly controversial. It concerns the fact that the previous coalition Government imposed a cap of 50% admissions on church schools which are free schools or academies. The Catholic Church has declined to build any new free or academy schools so long as the cap is there, partly because in areas with large Catholic populations, it means that Catholics could well be denied entry to the school because the 50% cap had been reached. Back in September 2016, the Minister’s boss, the Prime Minister, said that,
“the rule is failing in its objective to promote integration … we will remove this 50% rule”.
The Conservative manifesto at the last general election called the rule “unfair and ineffective”, and said that it should be removed. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us that there is some movement on this and that, after months of consultation, Churches can decide for themselves what to do—bearing in mind that they are very much open to having people come into the schools from other faiths, or indeed from none. But that is a matter for the Churches rather than for imposition, so I would be pleased to hear the reason for the delay. Our society is enriched and our people are well educated because of the existence of our church schools, and long may they flourish.
My Lords, I echo the words of other noble Lords in thanking the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for once again bringing us together, at the end of the year, to reflect on such important matters to our nation and to learn from one another. Education is certainly not just for the young.
We ask a lot of our children and pin great hopes on them. They are our future, after all. We ask them to navigate a complex and difficult world, one which operates 24/7 and in 360 degrees through Facebook and Instagram, and blurs the lines between private and public. Our children never get a day off; some never get a night off either. But what is our legacy to them? It is an inheritance of debt; a dream of owning their own home which is dimmer than our own; a mistrust of politics; a growth of populism; a decline of productivity; a climate of storms, real and political, to navigate in a world where truth is hard to get a handle on and in some quarters has been declared out of vogue. Our debate today throws the net wide so I would like to touch on two different issues in my remarks, both of which are vital in building not only a flourishing society but a flourishing democratic, tolerant and liberal one, made up of happy, confident adults. I speak of mental health issues and of social media.
I turn first to mental health. We are allowing a generation of children to reach adulthood without the support they need to be the rounded, stable, independent human beings they can and should be. These are our future citizens: mums and dads, teachers and leaders of our country. The figures are sobering. Last year, as many as one in 250 children was referred to what is known as CAMHS by professionals. Of those, nearly a third were turned away altogether and nearly 60% were left to languish on waiting lists. This means a lot of desperate and disappointed children, as well as families under enormous strain doing their best to support them. A recent joint report of the Commons education and health committees noted:
“50% of mental illness in adult life … starts before age fifteen”,
so the troubles of today’s children will soon become the troubles of tomorrow’s adults. We have been slow to act. There is a growing cry for help and not enough help at hand. I welcome signs that people are finally beginning to listen but let us hope that this listening translates into real solutions. I welcome the Secretary of State’s mental health initiative, announced earlier this week.
Certainly, some of the answer must lie within the school community. I speak here of primary as well as secondary schools, where many of the problems first emerge. Teachers and parents are often the best-placed people to spot problems at first and, for some children, a few meetings with a counsellor at school will be all the help they need. However, let us be clear that others will need a full programme of treatment within the NHS, and we will never solve the problem if a lack of trained councillors, rigid thresholds, rejected referrals and unacceptable waiting times remain. Of course we must not shy away from the source of the problem and why the cries for help are growing in the first place. Some of that comes down to education and to what we teach our children way beyond the three Rs: a sense of well-being, self-respect, kindness and consideration for others and a sense of community and nationhood.
In the rush to win the global race, we must remember who we are trying to win it for. We have much to do for every child to grow up to be the happy, independent, functioning adult they can be. When they reach that golden age of adulthood, we ask them to do something very important: to participate for the first time in our democracy and exercise their vote. Of course, there is far more to democracy than the casting of a vote. Our tradition of western democracy is underpinned by the rule of law embedded in a tolerant society which protects freedom of expression, encourages debate and presides over a free press. Once every few years, our citizens are asked to assess their Government and decide at the ballot box whether they want more or less of them.
At the heart of a healthy democracy lies the integrity of the poll, and today we cannot escape the uncomfortable and growing realisation that one of the key sources from which we take our critical views may be open to manipulation. I talk, of course, of social media. Where once we might have watched the evening news and read a trusted newspaper, we now have at our fingertips an infinite number of news sources, often from unknown origins, through which to navigate at high speed all each day. We scour the net. We are less certain of what is information, what is misinformation, who to trust and what is real and what is not—bishop or Russian bot. Our judgment of the content of what we read is clouded by the lack of context and the waves of supercharged reactions that are so powerful. They are sometimes a force for good and necessary change, and sometimes they are not. When the truth emerges, if it does, it is often too late to diffuse the tensions that have been created. The reality is lost in the mist of anger, so the storm rages about how our democracy is under threat from social media but there are few ideas about how to address it. While I have no doubt that regulation in one form or another will come, I am less certain that we can count on it to protect the integrity of our democracy.
That leads us back to the individuals who use it in the first place and to their judgment, which brings us back to education. It is vital to teach children from a young age to navigate the web, to help them assess the validity of what they read and to explain why they should care in the first place. Rather than wrapping our children in cotton wool and surrounding them with safe places we must encourage debate in the classrooms of our country and the campuses of our universities so that our children have the confidence to form a view, to weigh it up against the argument of another, and to be open to challenge and sometimes to change. As Aristotle said, it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. I speak today for our duty to bring up a generation of young people to be confident, stable adults—citizens of the future—who are able to navigate the abstract world which is theirs to inherit.
My Lords, like other speakers, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for his leadership in this debate and in much else.
I speak this afternoon from three perspectives: as the bishop of a diocese with more than 280 church schools, both primary and secondary, and that number is rising; as a member of your Lordships’ Select Committee on artificial intelligence, which has been a fascinating enterprise; and as a grandfather with three, as yet unsuspecting, grandsons who will enter the education system in the next year or so. The eldest is two and a half and the youngest is just three months. Those grandsons will grow up in a different world. They will probably never drive or own cars; they will interact with screens and machines from an early age, something which is already happening; they will need to know how to set boundaries around their online lives; and their working life and their leisure will be more different from mine than my own is from my grandfather’s.
As the noble Lords, Lord Baker and Lord Puttnam, said, the most reliable estimates indicate that between 20% and 40% of current jobs will simply no longer exist when those children leave school, disproportionately affecting current areas of deprivation. The life script of education followed by work followed by retirement, which has applied since Victorian times, simply will not apply any longer. Their school years are therefore essential, beginning next year, to helping them to prepare to live purposeful and productive lives not confined to paid employment and in the formation of their character and values in a digital world, as well as laying the groundwork for lifelong education and learning.
As the most reverend Primate and others have said, we are living through an unprecedented digital revolution, which will impact heavily. It will have extraordinary implications for the range of skills that today’s children and young people will require in every aspect of their lives. It is essential to set an ethical digital education at the very heart of the curriculum for the future. Knowledge and skills will not be enough—we are only beginning to glimpse the shifts required.
There has been a major reboot in the teaching of computer sciences in schools just in the last three years, which is wholly welcome but clearly just the beginning. I spoke with local secondary school teachers and a university head of department yesterday. They all believe that this is a real success story: the curriculum is more engaging and problem centred; the aspirations are higher; and there are many pockets of excellence, including, I am glad to say, in my own diocese.
However, the recent Royal Society report on completing education in schools, published just a few weeks ago, reveals that we have only just begun to set things right. Computing education, we read, is patchy and fragile. Its future development and sustainability depend on swift and co-ordinated action by Governments, industry and non-profit organisations. The Royal Society reports that a majority of teachers are teaching an unfamiliar subject without adequate support and upskilling. Teacher training and recruitment are uneven and behind their targets. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Baker, about extending ethical computer and digital education to 16 at least, and with the noble Lord, Lord Rees, on the need to retain breadth all the way through our school and university system. I can still remember having to choose, aged 16, between mathematics and Greek for an A-level subject.
In the recent Budget, the Government indicated that major investment in the teaching of digital skills and computer science will be forthcoming. It is very considerable: £406 million for maths and technical education; £84 million to train 8,000 computer science teachers, trebling their number by the end of this Parliament; and a new centre for computing education. The Government’s new industrial strategy identifies four grand challenges, of which the first is to put the UK at the forefront of artificial intelligence and the data revolution. Education and skills are vital in meeting this goal. But this digital education must be set clearly in the context of ethics and values, and the ethics and values we are commending today must be at the heart of our digital education. The scope of PSHE must include the digital challenges children and young people are facing: how to set boundaries to preserve your identity; how to recognise signs of addiction; how to behave with wisdom in a digital world, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fall, reminded us; how to build human relationships alongside followers; and how to develop the inner force to counter, as the noble Lords, Lord Giddens and Lord Cormack, said, the very dark side of the digital world.
I ask the Minister to comment on the following three questions. What plans do the Government have for the teaching of ethics as part of the computer science curriculum in an integrated way? What plans do they have for the integration of digital questions into the broader character and values education offered in our schools? Have they given consideration to a Cabinet-level post of a Minister for digital development to offer leadership across government in such a critical sector? Such is the scale of the change required.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to speak in today’s debate. We are fortunate that the most reverend Primate uses his unique position in this House to elevate our horizons from time to time, to focus on topics of profound significance for the future of society. In doing so, he raises the overall tone of discourse in this Chamber, which we have seen in abundance in the contributions so far, including his own outstanding introduction. He highlighted the importance of character and values-based education, where the Church of England has provided pioneering leadership. This approach contains many of the ingredients to unite diverse communities in Britain and the potential to provide much-needed glue for social cohesion.
In the brief time available, I shall approach the subject from a slightly different angle to other Members of your Lordships’ House by speaking specifically about the Indian perspectives on education, encompassing the Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist traditions, which share a common Vedic heritage, along with the important role and status accorded to teachers in that culture. All traditions and civilisations honour to a greater or lesser degree the pursuit of knowledge, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Sacks. The briefing papers for today’s debate rightly identify Aristotle as an inspiration for the philosophy of human flourishing, connecting the pursuit of happiness to the cultivation of virtue. In the Vedic civilisation of India, which predates Aristotle by more than 1,000 years, a similar knowledge system provided the very organisational basis for society. Importantly, that system was holistic in its design, emphasising nourishment of the mind, body and spirit. That is where yoga and meditation originate, and I shall return to these in my remarks.
Hopefully, this understanding of history explains why Indians positively embrace the quest for learning and education. This is not just nostalgia; it is evident today in modern Britain, now home to 1.5 million people of Indian origin. The data recently compiled by the Cabinet Office as part of the Government’s race disparity audit shows that, far from being a disadvantaged minority, British Indians rank top in a number of economic and social metrics. Specifically, Department for Education rankings show that Indian people, alongside Chinese, have the highest attainment throughout school, make the most progress and are the most likely to stay in education and go to university.
What can we learn from this cultural anthropology? I shall highlight three specific points of practical relevance today. The first is openness to new ideas, which is almost a prerequisite for any form of education and self-discovery. The Rig Veda, one of the oldest living scriptures found anywhere, which I used to take my oath in this House, says in the ancient language of Sanskrit, “Aano bhadra krtavo yantu vishwatah”, which means, “Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions”. That phrase feels particularly suited to this House and today’s debate. It is also crucial for a world that is becoming increasingly inwards, insular and intolerant. It is therefore vital that we keep open, rather than close off, young minds.
The second lesson is the special status accorded to teachers, referred to as “gurus” in the Vedic traditions, and to the relationship with students, or shishyas. A guru is revered and held in high esteem, not only for who they are and what they know but also for their role as a custodian of fundamental values that are passed from one generation to the next. There is an important distinction here: the job of a teacher as we know it today has almost become a transactional relationship, an expert who knows something that the pupil seeks to acquire. In contrast, a guru is somebody much more significant: a source of wisdom, inspiration and guidance, a mentor who leads by example, concerned with the overall well-being of the shishya and looking forward to a time when their disciples step into their shoes, as the cycle of life turns once more.
The cause of elevating the status of teachers throughout the world has recently been taken up, perhaps appropriately, by an Indian-origin entrepreneur called Sunny Varkey, whose parents were teachers. He felt that the diminishing respect we have for educators is one reason why there is a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession so, in 2013, the Varkey Foundation commissioned an international study called the Global Teacher Status Index, which found that only in China do teachers occupy the same high perception as doctors. Everywhere else, teaching is seen as a middle to low-ranking profession in terms of social status.
These findings prompted the Varkey Foundation to launch the Global Teacher Prize, an annual $1 million award presented to an exceptional teacher who was made an outstanding contribution to their profession. In only three years since its launch, the process of awarding this prize had captured worldwide imagination, now attracting more than 30,000 entries from 178 countries. There is little doubt that teachers deserve to be properly recognised and celebrated, given the multiplier of the impact on the students and communities around them.
The third lesson I wanted to highlight is the holistic nature of Vedic education, the most well-known features of which are yoga and meditation. A growing body of research has shown that these practices can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance and classroom behaviour, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children. Ironically, the briefing paper for our debate looks to the US for reference points about social and emotional learning at a time when Americans themselves are looking east. There is a wave spreading across America introducing yoga and meditation into the classroom, and it is only a matter of time before it arrives here.
In conclusion, to cite Mark Twain:
“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition”.
If even only a small part of that poetic licence is true, we should learn from its deep wisdom and deploy some of the lessons I have described, particularly those related to elevating the status of teachers, for the benefit of generations to come.
My Lords, education is too good to be devoted entirely to the young, and the young are far too important to all our futures for education to be anything less than holistic. By holistic, I mean educating the whole person in every aspect: not just their brain but their heart, their hands and, in a debate initiated by the most reverend Primate, I might risk adding their soul. We should be preparing the young for the society, economy and technology of tomorrow—for tomorrow.
Trying to do that through a narrow focus on testable knowledge to the exclusion of all else is, frankly, plain wrong. The desired outcome of school education should be that children leave the process as young adults, ready and able to make the most of the gifts and talents that they enjoy and to develop them further throughout their lives, so that they can become productive members of society in the workplace and in their families and communities.
Some will become wealth creators and employers; others will join the service and caring professions, including teaching; each will contribute to the success and well-being of others. The single most important thing is that their lives should be fulfilled and happy ones. In a country which was highlighted by UNICEF 10 years ago as having the unhappiest children in the western world, we have a great opportunity. We can maximise that, above all by fostering a sense of duty and altruism, because research suggests that the happiest people are those who give.
How do we foster and develop that ethos of generosity through education? Certainly not through compartmentalised character education or personal, social and health education. The whole of education—all of it—should develop character, and families as well as schools must play their part in developing those qualities that are essential for life but cannot be measured by academic markers: self-confidence, self-discipline, resilience, resourcefulness, emotional intelligence, caring for other people. All those are key among the qualities that ultimately make for happiness.
You cannot teach these in 40-minute slots like French or history or chemistry. There needs to be space in the curriculum for all the other things—sports, drama, debating, music or completing a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. They are all great experiences that expand minds and build character. Getting a thumping on the rugby pitch, finding yourself lost on the Brecon Beacons on an Outward Bound expedition, or working as a team to put together an amazing dramatic or musical performance will certainly teach youngsters far more about resilience and perseverance than any number of extra lessons on a Friday afternoon. What is more, those experiences will actually help them to cope better with tough maths problems in future.
So this is not an argument for diluting academic rigour; it is far from that—it is about encouraging a wider and more intelligent view of education, which will ultimately help to raise academic standards. This is what I mean by holistic education: education that is broad and all-absorbing, which requires all involved—students, teachers and parents—to understand that everything plays its part in ultimately delivering a happy, rounded individual, equipped to play a useful role in society. That means accepting that not even extra maths or English is intrinsically more important than a drama lesson or sports practice and that we need to make space for all those things.
The most important thing that I have learned as a businessman, traveller and trustee, focusing particularly on disadvantaged young people, is that we have some truly exceptional young talent in this country. Most of those, from the most unpromising of backgrounds, can achieve most remarkable things. I have seen it at first hand many times. So let us help all our young people to make the most of their lives and maximise their personal happiness as members of a flourishing and skilled society, not by setting yet more tests and benchmarks but by liberating schools, students, families and charities to work together in the common purpose of building character and happiness through a truly holistic education.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Murphy of Torfaen has referred to our shared educational experience at St Francis School in the Welsh mining village of Abersychan, a village of less than 7,000 people that produced several Members of Parliament, some of whom ended up in the House of Lords. Among the Members of Parliament, there was a Secretary of State for Wales, a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, a Home Secretary and a Chancellor of the Exchequer. We may have lacked many things in our village but, clearly, we did not lack ambition.
I went on in later life to represent a former mining area. The areas of south Wales with which I am familiar experienced deprivation, with many people facing massive challenges of social change with the loss of the pits and heavy industry. The spirit of the folk who lived there was sorely tested, but for the people of my parents’ generation, and for mine too, there was a belief that education was a pathway out of poverty. We saw education as a gateway to opportunity and a better, more enriched and fulfilled life. Alas, I am not sure that spirit and belief is as widespread today. All too often, I am struck by what I call poverty of ambition. I remember visiting a primary school and the head saying that when he came there, no one expected anything from him, because no one in the village had gone to university. It was not because people were unintelligent or lacked ability—far from it. He told me a story: a few weeks before, he had told a mother of a pupil at the school that her son was heading for university. The boy was intelligent, inquisitive, confident and articulate. The mother replied: “Don’t be daft. University is not for the likes of us”. That poverty of ambition is a barrier to the advancement of working people.
In stark contrast, since I entered this House, I have been privileged to work with people who desperately want to grasp all the opportunities that education can offer. For so many of those I have in mind, people with autism, their battle has been that much harder. All too often, simply to get a statement or even a diagnosis of autism can take years. Despite the obstacles, there are many parents of autistic youngsters who will fight for their children to have all the opportunities in life that education can bring.
Last week, the APPG on Autism published a report entitled Autism and Education in England in 2017. I pay tribute to two excellent MPs: Huw Merriman and Maria Caulfield—both Conservatives—who were co-chairs of the inquiry that produced this report. In examining how the education system works for people with autism, they found that 78% of parents said that it has not been easy to get the support their child needs, 42% said that their child was refused an assessment of their needs the first time it was requested, 50% said that they waited more than a year for their child to receive support at school, and 40% said that their child’s school place does not fully meet their needs. These are not small numbers. They demonstrate that there are serious shortcomings in educating children and young people with autism in our country. I should declare an interest as a vice-president of the National Autistic Society and a vice-chair to Cheryl Gillan MP, the chair of the All-Party Group on Autism. Cheryl Gillan, the author of the Autism Act 2009, has called for a national autism and education strategy. Such a strategy should set out how autistic youngsters could be supported and what society should expect from the education system.
Why do we need a strategy? I will tell noble Lords: three years on from the introduction of significant reforms of special educational needs, children on the autism spectrum are being let down. Fewer than half of children and young people with autism are happy in school. Six out of 10 young people and seven out of 10 parents say that the main thing that would make school better for them is a teacher who understands them. I remember a mother telling me that she had not visited her child’s school for some months, whereas, in the early part of his school life, she had been there almost every week. Why the change? Her son now had a teacher who had a child with autism and who understood his problems. That is why we desperately need more teachers trained in understanding and educating children and young people with autism.
The most reverend Primate has titled this debate,
“the role of education in building a flourishing and skilled society”.
For me, education and a skilled society are two sides of the same coin. In an excellent report recently provided by the National Autistic Society, entitled I’m Not Unemployable, I’m Autistic, the NAS highlighted the problems people with autism have in gaining employment. Just 16% of autistic people are in full-time employment and a further 16% work part-time. We should not be surprised by this; I have tried to demonstrate the barriers that people with autism have in trying to get an education, let alone employment. What a waste of a life and of a talent that could enrich our country, our society and our economy. In the 21st century, this lack of educational opportunity for autistic people is a wrong that we in Britain should be ashamed of and want to put right.
I conclude by asking the Minister a few questions. Huw Merriman and Maria Caulfield have called for the Government to develop a national autism and education strategy by the end of 2019. Will the Government agree to do this? The MPs want local councils to become more effective commissioners for children on the autistic spectrum. Do the Government agree with that? The MPs argue that schools should be equipped and welcoming to ensure that autistic pupils can thrive. Do the Government agree? They urge all Ministers to show leadership and to drive forward change by making sure every child is supported in the way the law says they should be supported. Is this Minister himself prepared to take that leadership role in his own department?
As I look round the Chamber today, I see many colleagues who have bravely championed the rights of people from ethnic minorities, the rights of Christians and non-Christians to practise their faith and the rights of people to decide and define their own sexual orientation. All I ask is for each one of us, if we have the opportunity, to champion this cause too and to make a difference.
My Lords, having been recycled in your Lordships’ House, this is in the nature of a second maiden speech and perhaps, with two maiden speeches, I might be described as extra virgin, double pressed. It is an extraordinarily timely debate, most eloquently introduced by the most reverend Primate, and we have heard why from a number of other noble Lords. The sense of urgency of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, particularly resonated with me, as did the words of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, about real dangers for democracy, which I take very seriously indeed.
Aristotle has already been invoked on a number of occasions in this debate. He has been put in his place, of course, by the earlier sages of the Indian subcontinent, but Aristotle warned that there was a recurring pattern of democracy disintegrating because the demos ceased to have any shared moral compass or shared narrative. They became a crowd of atomised individuals. When that happens, democracy fades and you have some kind of administrative tyranny. Therefore, the comment about the real danger to democracy in our time is one we all ought to heed.
Having heard other contributions to this debate, I feel somewhat like Ruth gleaning after a combine harvester, but it is clear that we are all agreed that places of education are where we incubate a better future. It is true historically that educational strategies have been at the heart of the various economic and social shifts and have been involved in the Industrial Revolution and the growth of a knowledge-based economy. However, we are now well into a century of challenge for humanity as a whole, most eloquently described by the noble Lord, Lord Rees, in his book, Our Final Century. I note that the title, worryingly, is not supplied with a question mark.
In this time of huge challenge for humanity from various sources, we need to complement the Tree of Knowledge with the tree of wisdom, which sets knowledge in the context of human flourishing. In a society dominated by technology, which has opened up new possibilities, we need to rediscover our heart. If we want to avoid moving into an ice age of humanity, we must give more weight to reasons of the heart. People have been working to develop computers that can think. The Japanese are experimenting with care robots to assist in the care of the elderly. As far as I am aware, no one has suggested developing a computer that can love. Our fulfilment and enjoyment in life, or the misery we suffer, do not in the end depend on what we know or do not know but on whether we love and are loved. Skills help us to land the job; character is what people talk about when you die, when what you did in design and technology at GCSE matters very little.
As the father of a Teach First graduate teaching in a state school in Tower Hamlets, I very much resonated with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, about the huge gap between the aspirations described by noble Lords around the House and what is actually happening on the ground. I hope the Minister can offer us all the assurance that serious consideration will be given to widening the scope of the EBacc.
In conclusion, I draw attention to a skill which has not been explicitly mentioned so far in this debate, but which I believe is crucial if we are to cultivate a future in which we substantiate our claim that, even if we leave the EU we are not leaving Europe—namely, the provision of better language training early in life. One of my last acts as Bishop of London was to open the new Saint Jérôme School on Harrow high street, a state-funded Church primary school. It does not merely offer language teaching; the whole curriculum is delivered in French and English. It is virtually a trilingual school, because the language of most of the pupils is Gujarati. It seems that facility in another language is an important contribution to building the wisdom economy we need and to securing the best possible and most flourishing future if we leave the EU.
My Lords, it is an honour to follow the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, who is now a highly eminent personality on the Cross Benches. I note that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury is also surrounded by a huge number of right reverend Prelates, so we are surrounded by virtue—alas, not on this Back Bench at this moment, where I am almost by myself. My remarks will be perhaps a little less elegiac and more practical. I seek to discuss the use of education as a tool to help alter human behaviour in a way which will make an enormous difference to those who are influenced by it, because their state at the moment is so utterly desperate.
I recently had the pleasure of leading a second conference with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby in St George’s House, Windsor. Our first conference was on religious persecution and its impact on forced migration. Our second conference, which took place just the other day, led on from that, discussing religious persecution and forced migration to return and integration—a very difficult topic indeed. We were fortunate to have Canon Edmund Newell from Cumberland Lodge, who provided us with a wonderful background paper; LDS charities, with Elder Jeffrey Holland and Sister Sharon Eubank; Brigham Young University; Oxford University, with Dr Theodore Zeldin; and we were fortunate to have a number of eminent officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the US State Department.
This work sprang from your Lordships’ Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict, of which both the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and I had been members. Our focus was therefore very much on the plight of the Yazidis and others—now, sadly, the Rohingyas—who have been appallingly abused in monstrous ways that I cannot even bring myself to articulate today because they are so utterly repugnant. For our first conference we had the Prince of Yazidis himself, whose health is extremely fragile, and this time we had his grandson, Prince Diar.
We focused on three important points, and education came out as the hub of recovery potential. First, we talked about recovery post sexual violence and other violence; secondly, we talked about survival in an IDP camp and that sort of situation. We were distressed to discover that in both refugee camps and IDP settings—there are now 62 million-plus people in those situations, in remarkably few places in the world—there is no education provision by any aspect of the United Nations at all. Finally, we talked about the return, with perhaps the most poignant matter of return at the moment being the reconstruction of the library of Mosul.
We talked about recovery and about physical, mental and spiritual help. We pointed out in our report, which comes out next week, that there is no capability to worship in any form of IDP or refugee camp situation. There is no space, and there are no priests or leaders. In the secular United Nations world, there is no space for worship, yet people’s religion forms a critical part of their identity. I urge the most reverend Primate to think about that.
We also talked about the need for psychiatry and psychosocial support. We found that music and dance was particularly important and that the creative industries were absolutely vital to restoring a person. We noticed that in the IDP camps—particularly among the Yazidis—there were no families, as many of them had been destroyed. The parents had been killed in front of these poor survivors—these girls, boys and young people. Some had been burnt alive and some had been buried alive, so there was no family to look after the children. However, there was the possibility of music, dance, worship and healing through learning. Some of these dear survivors, the girls themselves, told us that what really made them feel better was an educational setting. If we could put them in an informal classroom with a teacher and a subject—it did not matter what it was; it could be chess, learning, music or anything—they suddenly began to feel that they were human again. We found that education offered huge possibilities for their recovery.
The charity that I chair, the AMAR International Charitable Foundation, will be 25 years old next week. We have looked after 10.5 million patients over those 25 years and, more importantly for this debate, we have had 5 million pupils, all of them in refugee or IDP camps, or hiding behind walls, in waste bins or at the back ends of streets. They are completely and utterly without hope. However, apart from physical health, food and shelter, education is their biggest deprivation.
I have a question for the most reverend Primate. He heads up the Anglican communion. Would he be willing to put his weight behind ensuring that the world knows that education in camps and in these awful settings—particularly religious education, incorporating, as it does, music, dancing, writing, singing and talking—should be an absolute and not merely an also-ran that gets no space at all in our secular society? Perhaps I may also ask him to put our strength, our support and our clear vision of who they are behind the Yazidis, who, as the UN has declared, are suffering genocide and will disappear if their religion—they are said to worship the Devil but they do not—is not recognised in the same way that almost every other faith globally is. Perhaps the Anglican Communion, of which I am a Back-Bencher, would be kind enough to help with that as well.
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on securing this debate and, more importantly, on introducing it with a beautiful blend of insight and compassion.
The one disadvantage of being the last Back-Bench speaker of the day is that you are not quite sure what you are going to say. Every time you hear a speaker, you cut out a paragraph from your notes. After hearing 40-odd speakers, there was not a single sentence in my notes that I could keep. I was therefore confronted by the arrogance of a virgin sheet of paper, and I thought that all I could do was to write whatever I could rustle up as being relevant to the debate and say it. So I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not sound very profound; rather, my concern is to raise certain important questions which, in my view, have not been raised but need to be.
The educational system of any country is generally shaped by two factors: first, what kind of world do we live in that imposes constraints and parameters that you cannot cross; and, secondly, what do we want to do with that world? Therefore, we need some understanding of the factuality of the kind of world we live in and some aspirational element regarding the kind of world we wish to create. The dialectic of this gives us some idea of the kind of educational system that we wish to create.
My first question is: what kind of world do we live in? That world has four characteristics. The first is diversity. It is a world in which there is a constant movement of people, ideas, new ideologies and new religions. Every day we are confronted by people we have never seen before, whose dress, manner of talking and morals are unfamiliar. Diversity is one inescapable feature of modern life.
The second is technology. Increasingly, our lives are dominated by technology. That is happening more and more with artificial intelligence, on which my noble friend Lord Giddens has been doing some excellent work, robotics and computers. Technology is in danger of replacing reflective human reason by reducing it to a pure technique.
The third factor is globalisation—the interdependence of one part of the world on another, but also, more importantly, bringing home to us the suffering of other people in the world and making it real to us so that the whole idea of the human species is replaced by the idea of a shared humanity or human community. The treasures of another civilisation matter to us as they did not matter to us before. Starvation in other parts of the world matters to us not because television presents us with pictures, but because we have come to make them a part of our mental universe.
The fourth feature of the world that we are living in is the market. Whether we like it or not, the market is here to stay. It is being extended into areas where it has not been before—namely health and education. If this is the kind of world that we are condemned to live in, what should we do to flourish in it? How can we bend it to our will or improve it? How can we negotiate our way through it? Of all the capacities that human beings will need to negotiate their way through the world that we have all been talking about, I want to emphasise three that have not been given the attention they deserve. In my view, they are critical. I say that as someone who has spent 60 years of his life in the field of education, first as a student and more latterly as a vice-chancellor.
The first capacity that we badly need is imagination—not just analytical intelligence, which is easy, but imagination. By that I mean the capacity to conceive an alternative, asking a question about anything that we face. Can it be done otherwise? What are the possible ways of doing this? Is this the best way? Can we not only conceive an alternative but appreciate others’ alternatives? If I see other religions, I ask myself, “Why are they different?”. Why is Hinduism different? The noble Lord, Lord Gadhia, talked about Hinduism and how the Guru-shishya tradition is pursued differently. Why is the Indian guru different from today’s western teacher, who is different from the earlier teachers of Socratic or Stoic tradition? The question is about understanding and appreciating alternatives and, in the process, expand our moral consciousness so that we develop sympathy.
Imagination is the only way to expand the range of sympathy and to take others into our mental universe and make them ours. Imagination is also the capacity by which we can counter the power of technology. Machines and robots can do anything except imagine. Their imagination is limited to what we put into them. Imagination is the capacity that allows you to prevent reason becoming a mere technique—a mere Cartesian tool—and to make it reflective and self-critical.
The second capacity that is important for us is self-criticism. Self-criticism means seeing through prejudices as they accumulate over the course of one’s life. As one grows up in a particular culture, certain prejudices come naturally to us, but to be able to see through them and then rise above them is rare. I give one example from Indian history. India has a long tradition of public debate. In 1820, when the Christian missionaries came out to India, the maharaja of Benares organised a public debate between them and the Hindu Pandits. There were 6,000 to 8,000 people in the audience. The Jesuits asked the Hindu Pandits the first question, “Do you believe in one God or many?”, expecting the answer to be obvious. The Hindu Pandits said, “Your question is incoherent and blasphemous because you are presupposing that God is a being. If God is Shakti—power or energy—the question makes no sense. Is electricity one or many? The question is absurd because you are assuming that God cannot be or is not an impersonal power. It is also blasphemous because you are reducing God to the limited categories of the human mind. Why can God not be both one and many, or why can he not be neither? Whether God is one or many presupposes that these two between them exhaust the range of possibilities”.
What is wrong here? It is not the questions but the inability to question the questions themselves. You ask the other questions expecting an answer which you can then decide is right or wrong, but you are judging the answer by your categories of what a conventionally good answer should be. But what if the addressee of your question turns on you and says, “I question your questions”? I could go on but I shall stop before the Whip stops me, as she tried to do last time.
In that context, rising above prejudices, since the noble Lord, Lord Gadhia, mentioned a Sanskrit quotation, I might show off my knowledge of Sanskrit. In Sanskrit literature, which I have studied closely, knowledge or education is defined as, “Sa vidya ya vimuktayeh”, which means, “That alone is learning which liberates you”. It liberates you from your conditioning and your prejudices, making you increasingly able to liberate yourself from this or that prejudice. The whole of life is the accumulation of prejudice and the gradual liberation from it, and that process is learning.
The third characteristic, which is absolutely important in this capacity, is, in the absence of a better word, what I would call wisdom, which is what philosophy is supposed to be about: philo and sophos. Wisdom is basically the capacity to understand the value of something. To understand the value of something is to know both its significance and its limits. Human rights, for example, are very valuable, but when we push them in an area where we talk about an old lady being asked to eat sitting on her toilet seat and say that her human rights have been violated, or when we talk about a child’s right to be loved, you have to ask: is the term “human right” being used properly? Is everything a matter of human rights? Human rights are important, but they have their own place and should not stray beyond a certain point.
Likewise the market, which is very important but has its limits. In my view, and I say this with great humility, what Margaret Thatcher did was to extend the market into areas where properly speaking it did not belong. The market was extended not only into the welfare state but into education. The scandals of vice-chancellors’ salaries and students complaining about not getting a proper education that is worth their money is all the fault of the marketisation of education. That marketisation is the result of not having sufficient wisdom and not knowing the value and limits of the market.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the most reverend Primate for introducing this debate. I was not around when the 1902 Balfour Education Act became law given that it was passed more than 100 years ago, but that radical Conservative education Act tried and succeeded in transforming the entire system of education in England and Wales. It ended the divide between board schools and those run by the church, principally the Church of England. A century ago Herbert Fisher, the Liberal MP for Sheffield Hallam, introduced the 1918 Fisher Education Act, which made education compulsory up to the age of 14 as well as making it the responsibility of local education authorities.
In preparing for this debate I reflected on how far we have come over the past 100 years and what compulsory education now means. We have made progress in that many children start school at the age of four and most have the benefit of at least 15 hours of free nursery education. The school leaving age is now 16, but the expectation is that every young person will continue their full-time education until they are 18 and that most will study either at college to go on to university, or be part of an apprenticeship course.
The notion of a broad and balanced curriculum was put into statute when in 1988 the noble Lord, Lord Baker, introduced his Education Reform Act. Now the introduction of the English Baccalaureate and Progress 8 are the Government’s current notion of what is a broad and balanced curriculum. However, many of us do not think that they allow the creative and soft skills to find space in the curriculum.
I want to focus on the fact that increasingly for a large group of children and young people, school means an unregistered and illegal place. These schools are often run in appalling and unsafe accommodation. There is a narrow focus on religious tracts with doctrine driving out the development of inquiring minds. Three years ago, Sir Michael Wilshaw—Her Majesty’s chief inspector at the time—wrote two “advice letters” on unregistered schools to the then Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan. He wrote in November 2014, and again in the December, pointing out that unregistered illegal schools were often squalid, staff had not been vetted for child safeguarding, pupils were being taught a narrow curriculum that was failing to prepare them for life in modern Britain, and boys and girls were segregated. He said:
“It is vital, therefore, that when we do identify such illegal activity, the full force of the law is brought to bear on these institutions”.
Unfortunately, the full force of the law is neither full nor forceful enough to bring a successful prosecution.
Perhaps as a result of the chief inspector’s letters, and the concerns of many others, in November 2015 the Department for Education issued a consultation called Out-of-School Education Settings: Call for Evidence. On the Government’s website this morning, I read:
“We are analysing your feedback”,
and the reader is invited to,
“visit this page soon to download the outcome of this public feedback”.
That invitation was put on the website in January 2016 and I understand that this consultation holds the record for the length of time without any feedback. Perhaps two years is stretching the definition of “soon” to breaking point.
One of the reasons, perhaps, for the deafening silence on this consultation is that the threshold for out-of-school settings, including attendance at a centre for more than six hours a week or school holiday settings, would have captured many activities undertaken by churches, including the Church of England. Perhaps the most reverend Primate might reflect on the opposition of the Church of England to any regulation of out-of-school education. Agreeing to the registration and light-touch inspection of out-of-school education settings is surely a small price to pay for ensuring that young people are safe and given an education that will enable them to flourish and develop both skills and understanding.
Let me turn to another matter. Our higher education sector is the envy of the world, and although the commitment and hard work that students invest to obtain their qualifications is wholly laudable, we need to guarantee the integrity and honesty of the qualifications that our students obtain. The vast majority of undergraduates spend at least three years at university, work hard at their studies, work part-time to pay the bills and are finally awarded a degree—of course, all while racking up a huge personal debt. Just think how must they feel when they see other young people, encouraged by ruthless individuals, who have their essays and dissertations written for them, buy fake degrees online and are signed up for a higher education course with no real expectation of completing it, so that the students obtain cash and the institution collects a hefty fee. During the passage of what is now the Higher Education and Research Act, which received Royal Assent in April this year, I was assured by the Government that essay mills and plagiarism were not a significant problem. Perhaps the Minister might like to reflect on that assurance in the light of recent events. What does he believe these activities will do for the reputation and integrity of our higher education system?
In conclusion, I want to go back to basics and talk a little about the early years, where the foundations of a flourishing and skilled society are laid. Yesterday, the OECD published Educational Opportunity for All, a major report that states unequivocally the importance of access to quality early childhood education. It goes on to talk about the “accumulation of disadvantage”, which starts at birth for too many children. Early childhood education in England has been the envy of the world. Every early years settings needs strong leadership by a graduate teacher and staff with the appropriate training and skills, as well as opportunities for excellent continuing professional development. If we are serious about social mobility, our early years settings should not be about childminding but about offering an excellent education to every young child and excellent support to parents. The Government must not allow our early years provision to decline from the magnificent to the mediocre.
It has been a fascinating and remarkable debate with excellent contributions. It was interesting to hear the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, particularly his views on the pay of those who lead our universities. I was surprised, or perhaps not, that he did not rail against the hundreds of thousands of pounds paid to the chief executives of multi-academy trusts, many of whom receive more pay than vice-chancellors of our universities. Perhaps the noble Lord might like to talk to Jo Johnson and come to some kind of accommodation with him so that the same independent body recommended for vice-chancellors will also look at the leadership of multi-academy trusts.
In today’s speeches the Minister has been provided with an agenda that would transform our education system, were the Government to adopt it. Of course, education in England depends on the high quality of leadership in our schools, colleges and universities, and the dedication and commitment of our teachers. It is the work that they do day in, day out, often in very difficult and challenging circumstances, that changes the lives of our children and young people for good.
My Lords, I too congratulate the most reverend Primate on leading and introducing so eloquently this debate on a subject of great importance. I welcome the fact that so many noble Lords have recognised that by participating. The most reverend Primate mentioned Joshua Watson in his opening remarks. I am tempted to wonder whether he is a forebear of mine. The most reverend Primate told us that he is the man who founded the National Society in 1811. He also told us that the Luddites were founded that year. I rather suspect my forebears might have been more involved there, but I do not know.
The most reverend Primate spoke of the importance of educating the whole person—a concept reflected in the Church of England’s vision for education. That vision reflects the importance of preparing children for all aspects of life by investing in their general well-being. As many noble Lords have said, not enough has been done to promote well-being from an early age, which will make it difficult for young people to become resilient, with improved academic attainment leading to the skills needed by employers and the economy at large, while enabling young people to make a positive contribution to society. Today’s young people will need to be prepared to have several careers, because they face a much longer and more varied working life than their parents and grandparents.
Earlier this year, the Church of England set out its vision for an education system in which “no passports are required” and where, at Church schools,
“the doors are wide open to the communities they serve”—
in other words, as I read it, integration, as advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and my noble friend Lord Judd. Such a vision is certainly one to which we on these Benches subscribe. It is encouraging to note that the Church has also stated its intention to open only inclusive schools in future. It would be most welcome if other Churches and religious bodies responsible for running state schools were to do the same. For that reason, I am afraid I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Murphy on the faith schools cap. Labour’s policy is that the cap has been in place since only 2011 and it has not yet had sufficient time to facilitate greater integration, which is its raison d’être.
Last month the Education Policy Institute published a report entitled Educating for our Economic Future, which urged the Government to put the future economy first as they reform the schools and post-16 education landscape. The report concluded that without substantial increases in productivity, wages and housing supply there will be serious risks to social mobility for the young. Opportunities will be created for those able to adjust their career paths and take advantage of high-skilled jobs, but there are risks that many will be trapped in low-level jobs with low pay and minimal employment rights.
The noble Lord, Lord Baker, also drew attention to computer education, including coding. Around half of adults in England have either basic or no ICT skills. That is higher than the OECD average. Younger people fare better but, as the EPI report warns, proficiency with social media should not be mistaken for digital literacy and work-based digital skills.
The Government should develop a fresh and comprehensive strategy for lifelong learning, from early years, through school to further and higher education. If that sounds rather similar to the cradle-to-grave national education service advocated by Labour, then of course that is purely coincidental. Lifelong learning is about not just employability, but quality of life. In addition to increasing employment opportunities and reducing inequality, recent research by the Government Office for Science, no less, noted that lifelong learning has wider social and health benefits. These include improved mental and physical health, increased social cohesion and integration, greater community involvement and improved democratic participation, all components of a flourishing society.
In allowing learning and earning, part-time higher education is a catalyst for widening employability, but, during the past decade, nearly 400,000 part-time adult students have been lost from higher education, and the threefold increase in tuition fees over that period is a major contributory factor. Where have those people gone? And what skills and career opportunities have they foregone?
A prosperous learning and earning higher education sector is needed more than ever, not only because it increases productivity and regional skills but because it promotes social mobility. The Government should facilitate an accessible and affordable system for adults that encourages such lifelong learning and tackles shortages in the basic skills that our economy will need in the future.
As my noble friend Lord McConnell and the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, said, the further education sector is very much the poor relation of higher education. During the past decade, further education colleges have been hit harder in terms of funding than any other sector of education. That issue must be confronted by the Department for Education if colleges are fully to play their part in the expansion of apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships have a vital role at the heart of the response to skills shortages, not least for small firms. The apprenticeship levy and the expansion of the Institute for Apprenticeships to encompass technical education are both positive moves, but there is a danger that, with the Government seemingly obsessed with a target of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, quantity will triumph over quality, with not enough apprenticeships above level 2. There are worrying signs, including last week’s announcement—as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and my noble friends Lord Adonis and Lord Haskel—that there has been a 59% drop in the number of apprenticeships in the last three months of the academic year compared with the same time a year ago. My noble friend Lord Adonis offered a thought-provoking, indeed provocative, six-point plan to deal with some of these issues. He included in that the role of the public sector in supporting apprenticeships, which is certainly worth considering.
If success is to be achieved in the development of relevant skills and the future shape of our economy, it must have social mobility at its heart. A major component of encouraging young people is to offer them varied and appropriate careers advice at school. I very much welcomed the announcement by the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, in last week’s debate on lifelong learning that the Government are to publish a careers strategy early next year with an emphasis on social mobility. Good careers guidance is important for social mobility, as it helps open pupils’ minds to opportunities they may not previously have considered. I believe that no school should be able to earn an “outstanding” grade from Ofsted if the careers advice offered to its pupils is not in itself outstanding. That might concentrate the minds of some head teachers for whom, too often, the overwhelming concern is to channel as many of their pupils as possible to university. Poor careers advice and lack of work experience mean that, even with the same GCSE results, one-third more of poorer children drop out of post-16 education than their better-off classmates. That is not a statistic that any Government should regard as tolerable.
It is widely recognised that the key factor in increasing social mobility is investment in early years provision—referred to by various noble Lords and just a few moments ago by the noble Lord, Lord Storey. That must have an emphasis on learning through play rather than just childcare, as advocated forcefully by the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger. The early years of a child’s life have a lasting impact, but there are stark social class differences in how ready children are when they begin school. For a Government genuinely concerned about promoting social mobility, that is where the priority would lie. It is why Sure Start centres were launched by Labour in government two decades ago with a particular remit to provide early help to infants from disadvantaged backgrounds before they started school. They were hugely successful, but a succession of government cuts, direct or indirect, since 2010 has seen many closures of Sure Start centres—a fact referred to by the right reverent Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. Closures of Sure Start centres continue at the rate of one per week.
It seems that the Government are not willing to commit the necessary resources to early years funding, so disadvantaged children continue to fall behind, losing ground to their contemporaries from better-off families which may never be recovered.
Last year the Government closed the Child Poverty Unit, a body that involved cross-departmental initiatives—precisely what is necessary to bring about the joined-up government necessary to make an impact on reducing child poverty. Small wonder that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported this week that almost 400,000 more children were living in poverty last year compared with 2012-13. No wonder, either, that the outgoing chair of the Social Mobility Commission, which had the words “and Child Poverty” removed from its title by the Government last year, gave as one of his reasons for leaving his post that the Government no longer prioritise tackling child poverty. This week the former integration tsar, Louise Casey, referred to by the most reverend Primate, accused the Prime Minister of having done “absolutely nothing” about community cohesion a year after she presented the review that the Government had asked her to undertake. These are not the actions of a Government seriously interested in promoting social mobility.
This debate, of course, does not take place in a vacuum. I suspect that the Minister will tell us that, despite the fears expressed by many noble Lords, in fact there is little cause for concern because of the action that the Government are taking or will shortly initiate. In fact, the Government have but a single major item on their agenda at present, and that will continue until at least 2019. It is quite unacceptable that the shape of our future, post the European Union, is being allowed to suffocate initiatives that this Government should be pursuing with vigour. This debate has highlighted the issues that are essential if the skills that the workforce of the future will require are to be developed. The Government must refocus on this vital area of policy. If they do not, then the next one certainly will.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for convening today’s debate. I am glad to support this Motion on behalf of the Government. Education is fundamental to creating a flourishing society. A good education system is one that opens up real opportunities to children and young people, regardless of their background. The noble Lord, Lord Sacks, put it better: to defend a civilisation, one needs a good education system. I also agree with the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, that it must also help to defend against the atomisation of society.
This Government have made it a priority to increase access to opportunity at every step on the path through education. By 2020 we will be spending a record £6 billion a year on childcare and early education. There are now 1.9 million more children being taught in good or outstanding schools than there were in 2010. The Sutton Trust tells us that raising the UK’s levels of social mobility to those of our European peers would boost GDP by as much as £39 billion a year. There are simple financial reasons to achieve it, but building a civilised society includes reaching out to the weakest.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester rightly raised the importance of the early years. We want to put an end to children from less advantaged backgrounds already falling behind on language and literacy before they have even started school. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, also raised the early years. We are committed to closing the gap through early intervention, starting with high-quality learning from the age of two. To achieve this, we have introduced 15 hours a week of free childcare for two year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the Government will be spending £6 billion a year, as I said earlier, on early years education by 2020.
Good early language is the foundation stone of social mobility, which is why the Secretary of State and my department are fully committed to tackling the word gap. We have already announced key actions, such as opening up the £140 million strategic school improvement fund and a £12 million network of English hubs, targeting initiatives at areas of weak early language and literacy. In schools, we will focus on great teaching in order to transform outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. We are supporting teacher training, recruitment and retention, particularly in challenging areas, to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education. This includes investing a further £75 million from the teaching and leadership innovation fund to provide professional development for those working in such areas.
The most reverend Primate spoke passionately about the importance of further education, as did my noble friend Lord Lingfield and the noble Lord, Lord McConnell. For young people over the age of 16 we will ensure that our education system offers a gold standard for all, not just the half who go on to A-levels and university. We will pursue excellence in further education, as we have in our schools, and introduce T-levels—technical qualifications that will be every bit as rigorous and respected as academic A-levels. On resourcing further education, the T-level programme will involve an investment of £500 million a year by the time it is rolled out.
As part of our efforts to revive technical education in this country, we are driving up the quality of apprenticeships by working with employers to set clear standards and by supporting the development of degree apprenticeships, particularly by targeting STEM subjects. There was a drop in apprenticeship starts in the quarter following the introduction of the levy but it was significantly offset by an increase in starts of 47% for the quarter prior to its introduction. In addition, more than 90% of those who complete apprenticeships go into further training or employment. We know that the last year has been a huge period of change for employers, but it is right that they take their time to plan and maximise the opportunities the apprenticeship levy can being.
All this requires a genuine partnership with employers of all sizes. To this end, we held a skills summit on 1 December to bring businesses together on a statement of action to boost productivity by bolstering local skills. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, our commitment to further education is underlined by our plans to invest around £7 billion in the FE sector during this academic year.
As mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, gaps in access to careers advice and progression are another barrier to a truly flourishing society. Too often, social networks and access to advice on how to get ahead are concentrated among those from more advantaged backgrounds. To eliminate these barriers, the Government have this week published an ambitious careers strategy. Among its priorities are plans to ensure that every young person has seven interactions with employers during their schooling. The strategy also sets out stretching benchmarks for what must constitute high-quality careers advice in schools.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and the noble Lords, Lord Puttnam, Lord Griffiths and Lord Watson, asked about the Government’s commitment to lifelong learning. As an aside, when I took on this job I was not told about coming in here today to try to wrap up on 40 speakers. It has been a very fast learning curve for me. But I am happy to report that we have announced a national retraining scheme in this year’s Autumn Budget—an ambitious, far-reaching programme to drive adult learning and retraining. It will be driven by a key partnership between businesses, workers and government which will set the strategic direction of the scheme and oversee its implementation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the noble Lord, Lord Rees, addressed the specific issue of STEM skills and careers. This is an important question since mathematical and quantitative skills will be increasingly required in the future, not just for traditional STEM routes but for a wide range of future careers. We are working with the Government Equalities Office to take positive steps towards eradicating gender norms in the classroom that lead to girls narrowing their career choices. Indeed, the number of girls taking STEM A-levels has increased by 17% since 2010 in England.
I welcome the interventions from the noble Lords, Lord Adonis, Lord Wallace and Lord Bird, on how we work to ensure that no communities in this country are left behind. I echo the comments of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely on the need to tackle entrenched disadvantage, as highlighted in the Casey review. We are tackling regional inequalities. At the forefront of our efforts, we have invested £72 million over three years to establish opportunity areas—intensive programmes of local engagement in 12 of the most disadvantaged parts of the country. I am pleased to say that our opportunity areas programme is working in the areas mentioned by some noble Lords, including Blackpool and Hastings. We will shortly publish further delivery plans for how we will intervene across every phase of the education system in these areas. An ambitious agenda of social mobility across the country will be announced in due course.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, spoke of coastal communities. I have direct experience of these, having taken into my academy trust seven schools in coastal towns ranging from Lowestoft to Cromer. I know how difficult it is and I know about poverty of aspiration. Trying to get children in Cromer to get on a bus to come to Norwich, where one of our free schools has better maths A-level results than Eton or Harrow, is a huge challenge.
A core objective of opportunity areas is to learn more about what works in improving education outcomes, not only in urban areas but in coastal and rural communities. Our approach in these cold spots of social mobility is to work across all phases of the education system and to partner with local organisations, including universities, the voluntary sector and businesses. As part of opportunity areas, I am glad to report to my noble friend Lady Shackleton and to the noble Baronesses, Lady Fall and Lady Neuberger, that we are also investing in character education through an essential life skills programme. This will enable disadvantaged young people to develop the broad base of life skills necessary to get ahead through access to extra-curricular activities. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely said, disadvantages accumulate and our challenge is to try to tackle that.
Our industrial strategy, published last week, sets out a clear path to boost prosperity and productivity by focusing on places and people. This includes national initiatives to tackle the shortage of STEM skills and reforms to technical education that will strengthen local labour markets and attract businesses. I listened with great interest to the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, who talked with enthusiasm about the innovative work being done at the University of Hull, including work on renewable technologies. We have been clear that universities are at the core of our mission to ensure that young people are equipped to flourish in a world shaped by changing technology.
While the challenge to raise standards may be steep, real improvements are possible. For example, we have removed more than 3,000 qualifications from 16 to 19 year performance tables since 2016, many of which were of low quality. On the other hand, as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, the number of entries for computer science GCSEs continues to rise faster than for any other subject. In 2013, just 4,000 students took the subject; this has now risen to more than 69,000. To ensure that all students have the skills to succeed, we have made maths GCSE more challenging, with more examination and teaching time and a greater focus on the fundamentals such as calculation, ratio and proportion.
The recent record of London schools also shows that success is achievable. In 1995, disadvantaged pupils in the capital were four percentage points less likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs, including English and maths, than disadvantaged pupils elsewhere in the country. By 2013, they were 19 percentage points more likely to achieve those GCSEs than their peers elsewhere. I pay tribute to the important work that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, did in jump-starting the process.
Change has not come just in London, of course. The Government have raised standards across the country. In 2016, we ranked eighth, up from tenth, among the participating countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study—our highest performance since 2001 and significantly above the international median. This has justified our continued focus on phonics, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Finn.
Our academies programme, with which I have been closely involved, has been a central part of driving up standards across the country. In answer to the question posed by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, our ambition is for every school that wants it ultimately to benefit from the autonomy and freedom to innovate that academy status offers and for schools to collaborate through strong multi-academy trusts. I acknowledge the great work of United Learning in going into some of our most disadvantaged areas. I can also reaffirm to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, our commitment to encouraging partnerships between the independent and state sectors, and I was pleased recently to meet the Independent Schools Council, which shares the ambition to increase the number of partnerships. The collaboration between independent schools and the London Academy of Excellence is a good example of what such partnerships can achieve. Some noble Lords may be aware that in the past month the school has been awarded an outstanding judgment by Ofsted.
With the introduction of free schools, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, we have given more choice to parents, and this programme is leading the way on innovation in education. Free schools are among the highest-performing in the country and three in particular—Tauheedul Islam Boys in Blackburn, Reach Academy Feltham and Dixons Trinity in Bradford—beat the national average in key stage 4 figures. As of September, 84% of inspected free schools were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. There are now 390 open across the country.
Since 2010, we have taken around 1,700 schools that were typically failing under local authority control and made them into sponsored academies; and 68% of those sponsored academies that have been inspected are now adjudged good or better, including 59 which are now outstanding. More than 400,000 children in these schools study in institutions that were previously underperforming but are now good or outstanding. The national average of eligibility for free school meals is 13%, but the average in sponsored academies is 21%. We are confronting disadvantage head-on. If I can do anything while I am a Minister, this is my priority.
The most reverend Primate spoke eloquently about the important role that the Church continues to play in education. It is always humbling to reflect that the Church of England is involved in more than 4,500 non-fee-paying schools and, as he said, with more than 1 million pupils. It is also vital to recognise the important contribution made by all faith providers. Church schools’ strong ethos and their underpinning of Christian values play an essential role in building a more tolerant society. The Church of England has been clear that its schools are there to serve the wider community, not only the Anglican community, and they are popular with parents whatever their religious background. Many have admissions arrangements that are open to all regardless of faith.
The issue of values in education was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. We want all schools to offer a broad education, consisting of a rigorous academic curriculum supported by activities to develop essential life skills such as resilience, teamwork and leadership. I have already mentioned the Essential Life Skills programme as an example of this in practice. The Government firmly believe in the importance of religious education in schools. Good-quality religious education can teach children the knowledge and values of the traditions of Britain and other countries, and foster understanding among different faiths and cultures.
The noble Lord, Lord Murphy, raised Catholic faith schools. The Government are committed to our long-standing partnership with the Catholic Church. Catholic schools’ positive contribution to our education system is exemplary. We are reviewing how best to deliver our programme of faith schools and will be setting out a response to the Schools that Work for Everyone consultation, including in relation to the 50% faith cap, in due course. As we have seen in this debate today, there are differing views on the pros and cons of a faith cap.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, mentioned global education. I had the privilege earlier this year of visiting two refugee camps in Jordan. The thing that kept people’s hope alive in those camps was the education they were being provided with.
I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Fall and Lady Neuberger, for raising the issue of mental health in schools. On 4 December, the Government published a Green Paper on this issue. Backed by £315 million of funding, the ideas outlined in the Green Paper include a number of proposals to help improve the mental health of young people. This will include introducing new mental health support teams to work with schools and the NHS, reducing waiting times for NHS services for those who need specialist help, and encouraging schools to identify a designated senior lead for mental health.
The issue of social media was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, the noble Baroness, Lady Fall, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. We have published new cyberbullying guidance and an online safety toolkit for schools funded by government and developed by the UK Safer Internet Centre. However, I agree about the dangers of social media and the dangerous addictiveness of it, particularly for young people, which is something that people of our age find very hard to understand.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked about the pressing issue of vice-chancellors’ pay. The Government’s view is that exceptional pay can be justified only by exceptional performance. To that end, we are consulting on behalf of the Office for Students on a new requirement for governing bodies to publish the number of staff paid more than £100,000 a year. On the issue of academy CEOs’ pay, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, I have written in the last week to a number of academies where I felt the published pay of chief executives was too high and asked for the governance procedures around those awards. I feel very strongly about this subject and will continue to pursue it.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, asked about the race disparity audit. We remain committed to ensuring that every child or young person, whatever their background, has the opportunity to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them, and to supporting schools to tackle the barriers faced by particular groups of people. I was pleased to note the recent report by the Education Policy Institute that highlighted that pupils in free schools are much more likely to have a first language other than English than pupils in other state-funded schools. They are starting to play an important part in strengthening our society’s integration.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked about initial teacher training in special educational needs. I am happy to report that we have developed specialist resources for initial teacher training through the National College for Teaching and Leadership and advanced-level online modules in areas including autism and language needs. This will enhance teachers’ knowledge, understanding and skills in this area. On his related point about apprenticeships and SEND, we are looking to increase the proportion of apprenticeships started by people from unrepresented groups, including those with learning difficulties, by 20% by 2020. We are delivering the recommendations of the Maynard task force to improve access to apprenticeships for people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, raised the issue of exclusions and expulsions. Good discipline in schools is essential to ensure that all pupils can benefit from the opportunities provided by education. The Government support teachers in using exclusion as a sanction where warranted, but it is equally important that the obligations on schools to ensure that any exclusion is lawful, reasonable and fair are clear and well understood. The Government recently announced an externally led review of exclusions practice and the implications for pupil groups disproportionately represented in the national statistics. It is worth noting, though, that permanent exclusions rose by only 0.01% in the last year, from 0.07% to 0.08%.
The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, mentioned the challenge of teacher recruitment. We have put in place a range of measures for recruitment and teacher training in 2018-19, and continue to offer generous bursaries in priority subjects.
I am running out of time. I thank noble Lords again for all their contributions today on a subject that is closest to my heart, the education of the next generation in this country. As I have set out, the Government believe that barriers to opportunity must be removed at every level of our education system. The prize of success in this endeavour is not only a fairer future but an education system that ensures that our country brings forth the innovators and social reformers of tomorrow. We are the beneficiaries of centuries of innovation. We are the nation of George Stephenson, Isambard Brunel, Florence Nightingale, Alan Turing, Rosalind Franklin and Tim Berners-Lee. Mass transport, enduring infrastructure, the modern hospital, computing, DNA, the internet—this is Britain flourishing and changing the world in which we live.
We do not yet know who will be the innovators of the 21st century, but we can be sure that some of them are sitting in a classroom as we speak. That is why we must build an education system that will unleash their potential, no matter what their start in life. We know there is more to do and we know the challenge is a generational one, but if we work to raise aspirations, reduce regional inequalities and remove barriers to opportunity, a more skilful and flourishing society is within reach.
Before the Minister sits down, I raise just one point. I suggested in my remarks that the entire House would almost certainly pay lip service to the Open University. Despite the fact that at least five speakers talked about the Open University, no lip service was paid from the Dispatch Box.
My Lords, I will write to the noble Lord about his comments. I apologise for not addressing them today.
My Lords, the time has passed and we have had such comprehensive summings up from the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Agnew, that I shall seek to be very brief, picking up one or two key themes and responding to some questions. However, I want to say how pleased I am to join an earlier comment about the choice of Coventry as the City of Culture, having lived there for 15 years.
I should also like to defend myself against the misuse of technology, which I was rightly rebuked for by the noble Lord, Lord Giddens. I was actually looking up the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, on the Greek of the first chapter of Hebrews which, unlike him, I cannot remember. I plead guilty. Just to correct one thing that needs to be put on record, a group of bishops may be called many things but, contrary to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, never virtuous—at least, I have never heard that.
I add my thanks to those of the two Front-Bench spokesmen, when they commented on the quality of the debate, to all who have contributed so thoughtfully and widely. The thing that struck me most is that the overall theme is the complexity of the educational ecosystem. Therefore, we must be careful not to seek to be too tidy. This was picked up by several noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Gadhia, Lord Parekh, Lord Puttnam and Lord Rees. We need adaptability and imagination, as the need for education will vary from one place to another and from one type of child to another. We should not bet everything on one horse. We need to reimagine what the educational system should look like but, to pick up another common theme, it must reinforce the mental, emotional and spiritual health of all, especially in the early years, and be effective and light on bureaucracy, particularly with special needs and those of high ability.
One thing not mentioned in the summing-up speeches was a powerful series of comments on the status and role of teachers in our society and the need to improve it significantly. It is difficult, it is a cultural change, but it needs to happen if recruitment is to be as the Minister sought to encourage. Another comment that struck me in general terms through much of the debate was summed up by one of two Sanskrit quotes—it cannot be every day that that happens, and one feels a sense of sympathy for those recording the debate—from the noble Lord, Lord Parekh: that aspirational education liberates you. If we want nothing else, it is that people should be liberated for a future that enables them to be all that they can be.
Many of the other points that I would have wanted to make have been picked up in the summing up, and I will not take the House’s time at this late hour to repeat them. One that was not taken as fully as it merits was apprenticeships. From my experience as bishop of Durham, I think that one question about apprenticeships is a slight tendency towards a dependency culture by employers. We were constantly being told in our schools—and I hear it still in church schools—that they want people who are “work ready” when they come to be employed. I always challenge them, as I would challenge this House, by asking who here was work ready on their first day of employment. It is the duty of employers to invest in their employees to take them from the first day of their employment to the last, long or short, and build up their skills.
We also have not heard picked up the global issue of education, which I thought was a powerful point, and one that is often seen in the activities of DfID, with notable success, particularly in areas of conflict and post-conflict, with which I am deeply familiar.
That brings me to some of the questions. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, raised the challenge of a commission on the pay of vice-chancellors, with some amusing comments on which I shall reflect as I go back to my palace. I am sure that I could see his tongue firmly in his cheek, although what he suggests would help me to fill the empty hours of my week.
Selection by faith is a serious question, but I have recently been brought to think afresh about it through challenges from within our own education team. I have always been against selection by faith, and I am very pleased that the majority of our new schools do not have it. But the point was made to me as recently as yesterday that, in areas where there is a concentration of ethnicity, whether white or other, particularly in urban areas, where you have one place with one group and another with another group—and I have lived in places like that—choosing by distance alone can actually be a very severe barrier to integration. Therefore, we need to combine the different pressures in how we think about selection to ensure that our schools are homes and nurseries of integration; that is why I talk of a complex ecosystem. In that way, people leave school—as, by the grace of God, my children did—completely blind to issues of ethnicity, with their best friends being all sorts of people. That will be the experience of many people here, and is to be encouraged. I take the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and others. By the way, as a matter of fact, our last survey suggested that the actual practice is that less than 25% of our secondary schools filled more than 50% of their places on the basis of faith criteria.
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, raised the question of out-of-school settings and unregulated schools. I am aware of that issue; we were highly involved in discussions about it. Our problem with such regulation is not that we are in favour of bad, abusive or ill-maintained schools, in which children are indoctrinated in unhealthy ways; it would be strange if we were. Our problem is with the sheer burden of the bureaucracy. How the rules were put forward a couple of years back—and I had some pretty robust discussions with a number of people, including the previous Prime Minister, on this matter—would have ensured that everything down to really quite small Sunday schools in villages around the country would have to be registered. That is not the proposal of those who are in favour of the idea, but there is a danger that, if you are in favour of regulation, every problem looks as though it needs a rule book. We have to look to solve the problem, which I agree is a genuine one, rather than to set a blanket standard that, without any discrimination, hits every kind of effort to work with young people around this country.
The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, picked up a number of points, on some of which I think I will need to reply to her in writing. I entirely agree with the point about education and worship space in IDP and refugee camps. It is important that the space is there. I was mesmerised in August, in a refugee camp in northern Uganda for South Sudanese refugees, right up on the border, when I saw several trees with numbers on them. When I asked what the numbers were, it was explained to me that they were the numbers for the classrooms set up by a head teacher who was himself a refugee. I asked, “How big was the school?”; the answer was, “750”. Then, “How many in each class?”; they said, “70”. And, “What materials?”; they said, “None”. It bears out the hunger for education but also the need for refugee administration to involve better facilities. The Yazidis are, in a sense, off the main line of debate, but it is certainly something that we have been advocating for and will continue to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Baker, with his enormous experience, brought up, as we would expect, a powerful and extraordinarily insightful comment on the nature of UTCs and of technical education. I think that my right reverend friend the Bishop of Ely answered that to a large degree. We are passionately committed to that, but we are also passionately committed to making sure that schools are not isolated but form communities. That is why we are so enthused by this first experiment with the school that has specialist technical education, humanities education and special educational needs all on one campus, bringing people together and enabling them to learn and profit from each other.
Finally, as my last comment, I re-emphasise what I said in my opening comments, which is the enormous gratitude that we all owe to every school, whether it is a church school, a faith school or none of the above. I know that better than most. My personal experience as a vicar, as a rector at St James Church, in Southam, Warwickshire, was that the local secondary school was a comprehensive. Virtually all our children went to it. I was elected a parent governor and, later, chair of governors. I worked enormously happily and with great benefit to myself with the self-avowedly atheist head of that school—not a church school, not a faith school—for seven years. It is a school to which our children owe so much. It would be ridiculous to suggest that anything that I have said, or that anyone else has said, this afternoon is a form of dissing non-church schools. That school had what has also featured in a number of speeches this afternoon: a strong narrative—Aristotle featured so often that I am almost tempted to refer to the noble Lord, Lord Aristotle.
The absence of a strong value-based and moral narrative in a school was mentioned by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, who also referred to Aristotle. By the way, his speech emphasised again what a blessing it is to this House to have him back. He said that, without that sense of strong narrative, we are cast adrift on the sea of individualism that leads us absolutely nowhere.
This has been an extraordinary debate, as I expected it to be. It has been a great privilege to have been able to initiate it, and I am hugely grateful to the whole House and to those who have come in on a Friday to serve the House today as they always do so faithfully. I beg to move.
Motion to Take Note
House adjourned at 3.35 pm.