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Column 150curriculum, this autumn we shall be unable to do so effectively or with confidence. We do not have the resources to do so, because the Government have failed to supply them. I shall therefore advise my colleagues to vote against the orders.
Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury) : This is a welcome debate and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science on having made so much progress in bringing forward the national curriculum. That is a major achievement. I shall first raise the baffling issue of why the Labour party has decided to vote against the Government. At the end of the debate we may see a change of heart on its part because the grounds for a vote are remarkably insubstantial. As I understand it, the Labour party intends to vote against the orders because the Government propose a two-tier system to cover science. Underlying that motive I suspect that there is an ideological hang-up--an objection to two tiers in anything--rather than a careful and precise analysis of the matter. It certainly seems reasonable that, in the early stages of bringing forward the national curriculum, we should be prepared to have some flexibility. It does not worry me that some children will spend 20 per cent. of their time on science, and others only 12.5 per cent. I accept that there may be a problem of teacher shortages. As the House knows, the Select Committee on Education is considering the supply of teachers for the 1990s. As Chairman of that Committee, I do not intend to try to anticipate our findings at this stage. We must pay some regard to the realities of the resources. However, I have no profound objection to the basic principle of some children doing more science than others.
Will my hon. Friend the Minister comment on the extent to which teachers have been involved in the preparation and implementation of the national curriculum? One complaint about educational policy over the past few years has been that teachers have not been sufficiently involved. Whatever the merits of that argument, it is of great importance and interest to the House to know whether teachers have been involved in working parties. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister can guide the House on that.
In opening the debate, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), said--I sympathise with this--that the crucial aspect in testing in education is not so much absolute attainment as the value added. That remark has much to be said for it. Anybody who is interested in education will share that view. However, one of the merits of the introduction of a system of testing attainment over the years is that it gives us a chance to measure the value added as education takes place. The people who are concerned that testing will merely be some kind of crude rat race should ponder the fact that we now have a mechanism to determine not only what is achieved but the way in which achievement relates to those who may have started from a low level or from a background of difficult social circumstances but who, because they attend good schools, can gain something positive. Testing will give us a clearer idea of when that occurs.
To some extent, the primary education side of all this has been rather underrated. As I have thought about the problems of possible shortages of teachers, it has seemed
Column 151to me that, particularly at the upper end of the primary scale, there may be more serious problems than have been recognised. The hon. Member for Blackburn referred to the possibility of streaming in primary schools. That does not especially concern me ; it is something that the schools must work out for themselves. If they have only one entry form, they are unlikely to go in for much streaming. But if they have two, and feel that the best way of using their teaching staff is the introduction of some sort of streaming, we should not get involved in laying down the law on what they should be doing. We should rely on the heads of these schools to work out what is best in the circumstances.
Another point about primary education that has been borne in on me only comparatively recently is that these new stages of education may make life rather difficult for authorities in whose schools the ages of transfer are different from the ages at which the testing will take place. In the county of Buckinghamshire, which I represent, it so happens that the ages of transfer are eight and then 12. The county is having to think rather hard about whether, in order to fit in naturally with the national curriculum, it will have to switch the ages of transfer from eight to seven and from 12 to 11. Apart from anything else, that raises considerable issues of resources. The objective is right, but I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister would comment on how she sees the problem developing. Will education authorities in many parts of the country have to rethink their ages of transfer, and if so, what are the resource implications?
I repeat that I believe that we are now witnessing a real step forward, and it would be churlish and foolish to vote against what the Government are doing.
First, the Royal Society says that the orders do not, of themselves, ensure balance within the science curriculum, as no guidance is given on the relative weightings to be applied to the 16 attainment targets that contribute to the knowledge and understanding profile component. The science working group suggested weightings, and the society recommends that these weightings become part of the orders. It says that failure to make them so opens up the possibility of imbalance between the major scientific disciplines. For example, in model A, the programmes of study leading to the statements of attainment in AT8 should be much more extensive than those in AT16, yet the draft orders give no guidance to teachers and examining authorities in this matter. Do the Government accept what the society says about this?
Secondly, the society rejects model B at key stage 4. The course a pupil follows would be neither broad nor balanced. Do the Government agree with that?
Finally, the society has serious reservations about the intention to implement key stage 1 of the national curriculum in September 1989. These three issues are important, and I would welcome the Government's comments on them.
Column 15212.49 am
Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth) : I welcome the two statutory instruments setting out the place of mathematics and science in the national curriculum. I recall that, during the many meetings of the Standing Committee that considered the Education Reform Bill, we discussed the national curriculum at some length. In fairness to Opposition Members, they did not vote against it in principle, although they had some reservations about its detail. Like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, I am somewhat surprised that the Opposition now propose to vote against it. I welcome the Education Reform Act 1988 because it proves that there is life and imagination after Butler.
It is unfortunate that, while some Opposition Members can see some benefit in the national curriculum and in the mathematics and science reports, they cannot see some of the other benefits that will spring from the Education Reform Act. Mathematics and science are important subjects. It is right that they should play an important part in school life and that ample time should be provided for their teaching and development. Increasingly, mathematics and science will play a larger part in the life of an individual when he or she leaves school and starts to earn a living.
I do not share the concern of Opposition Members who spoke about option B in the report of the National Curriculum Council. That option gives more flexibility to the school curriculum. It allows more time for other subjects, reduces specialisation at too early an age, and reduces the risk of forcing children into some form of science straitjacket that may permanently alienate them and push them from science for ever. Option B gives a balanced programme, with physics, chemistry and biology. It recognises that attainment targets as a whole represent a link, a balance, between practical work and knowledge.
The national curriculum operates only on children from the age of 16 so that young people can then start to specialise with A levels. Option B keeps doors open and education best takes place in a disciplined environment and in some schools that discipline is lacking for the teaching of the national curriculum. I hope that the Minister will give some thought to how the subject of teaching itself is taught in some of our colleges. I hope that he will persuade those who produce the syllabus in those colleges to build in more classroom practice.
The national curriculum and science and mathematics need teachers. Opposition Members, such as the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), have said that there is a shortage of teachers. However, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, overall there are sufficient teachers. I acknowledge that in some areas and in some subjects there may be difficulties. However, they should not be overstated because the number of vacancies fell by about 20 per cent. between 1987 and 1988.
The Secretary of State spoke about recruitment for initial teacher training, which in 1988 was a record. That underlines an earlier point that training must be right.
Column 153Social theory is okay, but it is a poor substitute for classroom practice. I welcome the action taken by my right hon. Friend on combating the perceived teacher shortage. I welcome the more flexible use of starting salaries and incentive allowances, the more active recruitment, more part-time working and, above all, the encouragement of former teachers to return to the profession. My right hon. Friend's policies are indeed proving successful. The success of the national curriculum will hinge on an adequate supply of well motivated teachers who are able to teach maths and science and other subjects. My right hon. Friend is ensuring that the existing difficulties are resolved--and in good time.
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : I appreciate that this debate has to be brief. It is about national curriculum attainment targets, with specific reference to maths and science. The national curriculum will be plagued by teacher shortages. Indeed, the education inspectors themselves have warned, in written evidence to the Education and Science Select Committee, that unless the country gets the supply of teachers right, delivery of the Government's reforms will be jeopardised. The inspectors said that, without that, the rest would fail.
Both maths and science have been shown to be areas in which there are particular problems of teacher shortages. Research at Manchester university produced an optimistic forecast--that by 1995 the shortage of maths teachers would be 4,141. The Times Educational Supplement of 31 March, on the other hand, in a pessimistic forecast, said that the shortfall would be 12,232--55.7 per cent.
In Waltham Forest, which is in my area, people are already suffering those teacher shortages. I have received many letters. Because of the need for brevity, I cannot quote all of them, but I shall refer to one or two. Mr. Loseby, of Scotts road, Leyton, said :
"Children are being denied the right to a basic education. Young lives and futures are at risk through no fault of their own." He said that children were being denied access to learning. A Mrs. Turner, whose child attends Beaumont primary school, said of her child :
"Since Christmas she has had only four days' tuition a week, and last week was refused admittance to the school on three separate days."
I have received many letters like that.
In February the chief education officer wrote to me saying that there were approximately 90 full-time vacancies, that 12 teachers were on maternity leave, and that three were on long-term sickness leave. Only 40 of those could be covered by patchwork methods of employing casual supply teachers, who do not really want to be employed on that basis. The borough's response --it gives a long list, which again I cannot read out tonight--has been acknowledged and welcomed by Ken Young of the teacher supply division of the Department of Education and Science itself.
What is needed, as the borough has made clear to the Government, is a five- point action plan ; a national recruitment drive for primary teachers ; an increase in the number of college training places ; an increase in the number of college training places ; an increase in the London weighting ; a redrawing of the boundaries to include outer boroughs like mine, with inner -London problems, so that they can pay the higher allowance ; an increase in the number of incentive allowances ; and
Column 154positive action to train nore black and ethnic minority teachers. But something must be done about pay. In particular, there must be higher pay for those teaching in areas where there is high-cost housing.
As early-day motion 548 says, the Government need to face up to their responsibility by providing substantial extra funds for teachers' salaries and for the provision of creche and nursery places so that teachers may be enabled to return to the profession. These and all other finances must be provided so that our education system may enjoy provision similar to that which is enjoyed by the systems of our major industrial competitors. If the Government do not put up the cash, these serious teacher shortages will really take hold, and the national curriculum will be sabotaged.
First, there has been comment from both sides of the House about the need to develop a national curriculum that achieves the widest possible consensus. The divisions that have been demonstrated in this debate are important, but they are not the real meat of party political politics. It seems to me that we are likely to run into deeper divisions when we turn to some of the other subjects in relation to the national curriculum. I think of English and history, and one or two other subjects may fall into the same category. I want to offer the Minister a constructive suggestion, which may enable us to move forward with consensus. Would it not be sensible to have a debate in this House when draft orders are published? A debate without a vote would enable the views of the House of Commons to be heard before publication of the final order. We all know what the outcome of tonight's vote will be, and we all realise that that restricts debate. If we could have had this debate at an earlier stage, perhaps Members of Parliament could have helped to shape the order, and could have influenced the development of consensus in relation to the national curriculum. I offer that to the Minister as a constructive suggestion.
I have three other points to raise. First, there has been widespread concern on this side of the House about resources for delivering science and the national curriculum. Those resources questions come in two forms. The first is about teachers, and whether there will be enough, and of the right quality. We need to ensure that we have sufficient teachers into the 1990s, and that those teachers are properly qualified, and teach in the subjects for which they are qualified.
The second aspect of resources was mentioned by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). It is that, if we extend the scientific provision within the curriculum, there will be implications for resources in terms of books, laboratories, and scientific equipment. Is the Minister satisfied that we shall have the teachers to deliver science in the curriculum? What provision will the Minister make for resources so that youngsters will have real opportunities in scientific experience and learning? The next question is one on which we should have spent more time in the Committee that considered the Education Reform Bill. That is the process of delivering not only
Column 155science teaching but other subjects. Hon. Members often comment on the fact that youngsters drop out of certain subjects at a certain age. I still do not think that we have paid sufficient attention to the reasons why that happens, or to what steps will be taken to make sure that interest is maintained among those youngsters until the age of 16. It is not just automatic, and we must consider those processes.
At the heart of the debate is two-tier science. I always listen with interest when the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) speaks on education. However, I think that he got it wrong tonight, for two reasons. First, he let the cat slightly out of the bag when he said that the development of two-tier science must take place with some regard to the reality of resources. The fear in our schools is that two-tier science will enable the Government to conceal the inadequacy of the resources that they will make available. Secondly, what the right hon. Gentleman called a bit of flexibility may turn out to be an agenda of low ambition on science. Too many of our youngsters will take second-tier, and what may be deemed second -rate, science. As has been said, too many of the girls will do that. If the agenda is set too low, instead of the scientific revolution in our schools to which the Secretary of State referred, there will be an agenda of low ambition, and an impoverishment of the teaching and learning of science.
I hope that the Minister will answer my questions about resourcing, about the process and, above all else, about the fear that there will be two-tier science, two-tier teaching of science, and two-tier youngsters as a result. That is why we shall be voting against the science order.
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : I am glad to be able to take part in tonight's debate. It has been serious, and hon. Members have made some important points. As we know, it is the first of many debates in which we shall discuss the national curriculum and what happens in schools. As the daughter of a scientist, I shall be addressing some of the questions that have been raised about science, and also some of the questions raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), both about the level of resources and about having the right number of teachers.
I shall start by answering various important questions taking up some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). He claimed that model B, the 12.5 per cent. provision, would not provide a sufficient basis for future study up to A-level for some pupils. He told us that the NCC said that the 12.5 per cent. course would provide quite a good basis for further study. It added, however, that there may need to be a short bridging course if a student wished to go beyond the model and study for A- level. The hon. Gentleman's argument was not quite so devastating as he suggested.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), along with the hon. Member for Blackburn, wanted to know what would not be covered in model B. They referred to attainment target 2, which deals with the variety of life, target 5, the human influences on earth, target 7, the making of new materials, target 12, information technology, target 15, light and electromagnetic radiation,
Column 156target 16, earth and space, and target 17, the nature of science. Targets 5 and 16 will in part be covered by geography. We must remember that the science curriculum is set out substantially to cover the whole of science, but there are other subjects that will be studied. I refer to the core subjects and the foundation subjects, such as geography, history and, most importantly, design technology. I remind hon. Members that targets 5 and 16 will in part be covered by the geography curriculum. Targets 12 and 7 will certainly be covered in part by the design technology curriculum. Target 2 will in part be covered by target 3 and target 17 will in part be covered by history. Contrary to what has been alleged, nothing will be left out in model B, which is the shorter course. It is essential to reiterate the words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, that model B does not represent a soft alternative. It does not represent anything remotely like the sort of science that many girls now study, which means simply taking biology. If girls take model B in the belief that it will prove to be a soft alternative, they will find themselves in for quite a surprise. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, we want the majority of students to study the 20 per cent. model, and we want schools to allow that to happen.
Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North) : There is much talk about the 12.5 per cent. and 20 per cent. models, but will my hon. Friend confirm that the Education Reform Act 1988 makes no specific mention of percentages? Therefore, there is an inbuilt flexibility for headmasters and schools to teach as much or as little science as they wish, given the guidelines.
Mrs. Rumbold : To a certain extent, my hon. Friend is correct. It is essential that all children should study the core and foundation subjects. As the NCC has made recommendations, and as the House will make recommendations, it is to be hoped that we shall see the majority of children, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, studying the 20 per cent. model. For some children, however, there will be the opportunity, for particular reasons, to take the 12.5 per cent. model if that is what they wish.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow told us that the Royal Society of Chemistry is in a tizz about weightings. The amount of time that is spent on each attainment target is a matter for a teacher's judgment. Weightings of science attainment subjects are not appropriate to be considered along with the terms of the order because they relate very much to assessment. The views of the working group have been put to the School Examinations and Assessment Council, which is responsible for developing assessment arrangements. I advise the hon. Member for Blackburn that saying 30 : 30 : 30 for physics, chemistry and biology does not show a recognition of how the three subjects are blended into the attainment targets for science.
I turn now to primary school streaming which has also been referred to. The circular states that it is possible for some very bright children to study with older pupils, but there is no reason why they should be moved up or down because nothing is said in the circular about streaming. The NCC bulletin states that grouping by ages is primarily for the schools to undertake. In primary schools that may not be the most effective way to proceed but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison)
Column 157sensibly said, it is a matter for the heads to consider. I agree with him in that I am not absolutely convinced that it is reasonable or sensible for us to vote on the matter of the two-tier system. I thank him for his sensible words and agree with his proposition that it seems nonsense to say that it would be unreasonable to have some form of flexibility.
My right hon. Friend also referred to the age of transfer and said that it is for the local education authority and the school governors to decide whether to make statutory proposals to change the age range of their schools. The national curriculum key stages take account of the common ages of transfer between infant, junior and secondary schools but they do not necessarily require areas with a middle school system with transfer ages of, say, 12 or 13, to change to a transfer age of 11. The reporting of the assessment of pupils' achievements at the key ages of seven, 11, 14 and 16 can take place, regardless of the age of transfer between the schools. The programmes of study are designed to underpin the work that pupils do as they progress from one level of attainment to the next, regardless of the age group and range of the school that they attend.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) mentioned the allocation of resources. He asked about teachers and about general resources in buildings. The capital allocations have been increased to £352 million, with substantial education support grant funds now being made available to back up the introduction of our national curriculum. In the current year--1989-90--£130 million is available and can be used on laboratories and on books, just as the local education authority thinks fit.
It is also important to note that the National Curriculum Council has given preliminary advice to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, which was published in its recent circular No. 3. More work is now being done and there has been substantial training--
It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [14th April].
The House divided : Ayes 81, Noes 142.
Division No. 160] [1.12 am
Abbott, Ms Diane
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Buckley, George J.
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)