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Lord Dearing: I understand. We have both made our points, and I shall not pursue that matter.

I turn to divisiveness, which has been mentioned again and again. I totally understand it. I do not think bringing in Northern Ireland is a fair analogy. We could debate that on another occasion; it is a rather different situation from that in England. The more that faith schools are committed to pupils of their own faith, the more they have a strong obligation to the whole community to encourage respect for other faiths. They must import into their ethos statement that the school offers active goodwill and respect to fellow citizens of other faiths. They should seek opportunities for joint activities with schools of other faiths, or community schools where there are many of another faith. There is a major responsibility to do that kind of thing, and not stay behind closed doors.

Finally, if we look back, although faiths say things that are unacceptable to many of us and have made bad mistakes, a great body of good has been done. When the state did not provided schools for the poor, who did? It was the Churches—and not just a few, but by the thousands. When the state provided education in 1870, it had a tough job getting people to move

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over to it. It is fair to recognise that a great deal of good has been done, and it would be sad if we turned our back on all that has been achieved.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: On Saturday, 10 days ago, I was taking a school service in an independent school in my diocese. The service began with contributions from Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian pupils. I thought to myself, “In the context of a school with a clear Christian history and identity, what a great experience for these pupils”. I also thought, “Isn’t it a pity that only those who can pay for this education get that experience?”.

One of the problems with this debate is that if you do not provide for what the people want in the public sector, those who can afford it will pay for it elsewhere. Those who cannot will find other mechanisms in their community to make some provision for the needs of their families and communities. We must come to terms with the fact that we are now a multicultural, multi-faith society. Education must reflect that. We cannot go on behaving as if a secular model will do. Understanding and sympathising with what lies behind the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, neither do I think that we can impose integration. We cannot achieve it like that. Different communities are going to have different educational needs in a multicultural society.

A crucial thing to be achieved is that every facet of our multicultural community must have confidence in its identity and history if it is to thrive. I live with that in my diocese; I have the Borough of Newham, which is probably the most multicultural borough in most of Europe. A multicultural society does not work as a result of us all gradually becoming the same. It works as a result of us enjoying the difference and learning to live good neighbourly lives across the many faces of our community life.

Education must reflect that. While one understands, culturally, what lies behind these amendments, some of them would have a damaging effect upon our capacity to build that multicultural community, and build the next generation with sufficient confidence to thrive in it. If that requires Muslim schools, provided that educational and cultural standards are met and the community is satisfied about that, they may be essential at this moment in history for the flourishing of our multicultural society. We have had it with Catholic and Church of England histories, and I can take noble Lords to many places where the quality of those contributions has been enormous. We should strive for every school, whatever its character, to make a wholesome contribution to building the welfare of the whole community. That is what it is about. If we can understand that, we can be a little more relaxed about today’s diversification of education.

Lord Lucas: I had better speak to my amendments in this group. I have been reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that I was enjoying listening too much rather than speaking.

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To start where the right reverend Prelate left off: yes—on consideration and having listened to all the arguments—that is where I find myself. It is enormously important that schools should make a contribution to their local community and, where that is possible—I take the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that that is less possible for newly arrived communities than established ones—they should open their doors and aim to be multi-ethnic schools.

The right reverend Prelate will know that I have a continuing objection to the admissions practice of some Anglican schools. As many will know, I edit The Good Schools Guide so much of this passes in front of me. Frankly, some Anglican schools are socially selective. They have set their selection procedures so that not only do they get Anglicans but they get middle-class Anglicans. I regard that as destructive. I think that view is shared by most of the Bishops’ Benches. As I said at Second Reading, I would be delighted to support any moves from the Bishops’ Benches to give them more power to bring these schools into line. Many more Catholic schools do the same thing or are entirely religiously selective. It is time the Catholics joined the rest of us.

From many Catholic friends and relations I sense that there is a residual feeling of being apart that comes from their Catholic education and from many centuries of persecution. It is time that ended. The way to end it is to follow the route that has been followed by most Catholic independent schools, which is to admit a pretty large proportion of non-Catholics. One thinks of the Catholic schools in the middle of London where there is a great shortage of good education. They are incredibly selective on grounds of religion. The London Oratory and many others effectively exclude large parts of their local community, even the quasi Catholic community.

I was brought up in a religious family and on Don Camillo. The advice of the Lord to Don Camillo that he must baptise Peppone’s child, whatever Peppone’s attachment to communism, is entirely the right attitude. Certainly, when it comes to Church schools, I would be quite content, as would many of us—I include myself as, having been brought up on religion, I have abandoned it—for my child go to a Church school. Indeed, I would value the philosophy that goes with such a school; I would value that being part of her life.

Looking at schools that are essentially secular, such as Camden School for Girls, one can see how much they benefit from large Muslim populations which lend them a very strong moral tone. That is one reason why Camden School for Girls has succeeded. One’s child can benefit in many ways from being in a religious atmosphere, which is why a non-religious person might wish to have access to such a school. Therefore, I have a strong objection to the continuance of mainstream Catholic and Anglican schools that practice total insistence on one religion. During Report or Third Reading, I would very much like us to adopt an amendment that would open up those schools.

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I understand that some of the newer and smaller communities will want their own schools and they may feel that their security is bedded in those kinds of school. Where there are only a few, it does not hurt too much. The small collection of Jewish schools in London is tolerable, although I have found it very difficult to deal with the graduates of some of those schools who refuse to break bread with me because they feel that doing so will make them unclean. I find that a difficult attitude to have grown up with; I do not believe that they would have grown up with that attitude if they had gone to a more mixed school.

I believe that such schools are tolerable in small amounts. It is difficult for the Muslim community because it is numerous. There are difficult relations between Muslims and Christians throughout the world and the Government appear to be conducting a love affair with the Muslim brotherhood which I find extremely difficult to agree with. Naturally, we have fears about these things. But, at the end of the day, what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and the right reverend Prelate said is right: we have to be trusting in these matters. We know how these things have developed in the past—that is fine—so let the community and the community relations mature, but for goodness sake let us give them an impetus. Let us say that any school which is selective on religious grounds has to be prepared to admit, say, 25 per cent of children from other faiths, even though they might not apply. Beyond that, schools should have to make a real effort to bring those children in to integrate with the local community; they have an obligation to interact with other schools and other children of other faiths in a way that might make it unattractive. A school which started off as 100 per cent Muslim or Jewish or Scientologist or whatever and is still that way in 15 years’ time might be invited politely to return to the private sector.

8.15 pm

Baroness Walmsley: I have an amendment in this group and I think it is time that I was allowed to speak to it. I have very much enjoyed hearing from those Members who do not have amendments in this group. I believe this debate has demonstrated your Lordships' House at its best. It seems a pity that we have been forced to have such a mixed group of amendments and that we have to talk to them altogether. In some ways, the discussion has been broken up a little because of that.

Before speaking to my amendments, I should make a few brief comments, from a personal point of view, about some of the comments that have been made by other Members. I do not often find myself in total agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, nor with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, but I agree with both of them when they speak of intolerance and exclusivity being characteristics that we should not encourage in our schools. Although I have enormous sympathy with the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and by my noble friend Lady Tonge and others who supported the first amendment

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in the group, I am concerned about the idea of an absolute ban on the expansion of any more Church schools.

I am attracted by what my noble friend Lady Tonge hinted at in her excellent speech; that there is an alternative to the expansion of more Church schools and the right of Muslim groups to have their own schools. That is epitomised by the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, which is a compromise. People of faith make up a large percentage of the community in this country and they have a right to have an involvement in education. However, I would prefer that that involvement happened as part of maintained community nonsecular schools. If they really do not want to do that, I believe they have a right to have something else.

The noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, suggested a compromise which contained the “q” word—quota—which I know many noble Lords do not like, but I can give the Committee an example where I have seen it working rather well. Last summer, I went to the small country of Fiji and had a chat with the Minister of Education there. Fiji does two things very well. One is playing rugby, which is why I was there. The other is that it has integrated the ethnic Fijian and Indian communities extremely well in its schools. I asked the Minister what was the secret and she said, “Money”. The state says that if you do not integrate, you do not get the money. That is a strong indication that we should look at something along the lines of what the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, suggested.

I share the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, about Amendment No. 129. I also share the concerns of my noble friend Lord Taverne and his preference for religion to be taught in the home or a place of worship rather than in a maintained school, but that is an aside.

The main reason for rising is to speak to my Amendment No. 217A, which would allow pupils aged 16 and over to choose to exclude themselves from acts of collective worship rather than have to rely on their parents to do it for them, as now. The Committee may have heard that the Joint Committee on Human Rights is minded to look at this amendment with a view to giving its opinion. However, leading human rights lawyers have already given their opinions and they believe that there is no justification for forcing young people to take part in a religious service with which they do not agree. Freedom of worship, or non-worship in this case, is a basic part of our rights as citizens of a free country, so I would be surprised if the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Minister did not agree with us.

Of course, there is a case for a slightly different amendment—one that draws a line at the point at which a young person becomes competent to make a decision for himself, but that may differ depending on the maturity of the individual. That would be hard to decide without a professional assessment of the individual, their maturity and their competence to decide, which is why we have laid our relatively simple

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amendment. It would be strange for a young person to be old enough to work, pay taxes, manage his own money, get married, have children, fight for his country and possibly even vote but not be competent to absent himself from an act of collective worship.

There have been some high profile cases recently where young people have taken the matter into their own hands. This week's Times Educational Supplement has a story on its front page about some schools trying to impose their religious values on young people. Some 100 pupils signed a petition protesting at the decision to invite a pro-life campaigner to lecture in a school where 17 young people were excluded for a day after they refused to go to Mass and then had to undergo a re-entry interview. Those practices are self-defeating. You cannot impose a religion on anyone and efforts to do so will probably have the opposite effect. If we want young people to take responsibility and act maturely, surely we should respect their rights to decide for themselves on a matter such as this.

I apologise to the Committee that my amendment is not about the same issue as the one which has been debated so fascinatingly this evening, but because we have these enormous non-homogeneous groups of amendments, this sort of thing comes up. I really felt that it was time that I spoke to my amendment in this group, and I hope for a positive response from the Minister.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I would just like to say—

Noble Lords: Minister!

Lord Adonis: I think that it is the wish of the Committee that I should now respond to the debate.

This has been an excellent if emotive debate giving a good deal of food for reflection hereafter. I will start in the spirit of peace and goodwill. After much ministerial deliberation and reflection, we accept most of the spirit of Amendment No. 217A moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, to which she has just spoken. Pupils aged over 16 should be able to withdraw themselves from collective worship rather than it being a matter for parental consent, as it is for 16 year-olds and under. We will discuss that further with our partners in the faith communities and beyond, but I will seek to move an appropriate amendment at Report.

Beyond that, we do not think it right to reopen the whole issue of collective worship on which there is a fairly broad consensus within the educational and faith communities. I say broad rather than universal because nothing pertaining to faith has universal consensus, and I deeply respect the views of my noble friend Lady Massey on this issue. However, in the context of the right of parents to withdraw their children, the flexibilities that schools have in respect of the diversity of their communities and the way that they conduct collective worship, we do not see a case for a wider change.

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I can respond to Amendment No. 83, in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough, in an equally consensual spirit. We certainly agree that anyone contemplating proposals to close schools should consider the effect on diversity in the area concerned and in particular if there would be a reduction in the choice of schools with a religious character. Statutory guidance makes it clear that in deciding proposals to close schools of a religious character, the decision maker—currently the school adjudicator but it will become the local authority, to accompany the school organisation committee—should consider the effect that this will have on the balance of denominational provision in the area. The guidance goes on to say that parental demand and the standards of the school should also be taken into account. We will aim to retain these protections in the guidance to be issued under the Bill on which we will consult fully.

On faith schools, two broad propositions have been put before us. The first is that there should be no more within the state sector, which is in Amendment No. 81 tabled by my noble friend Lady Massey. The second is the proposition that there should be a greater diversity in admissions, which was broadly the proposal of the noble Lords, Lord Baker and Lord Lucas. These are issues on which there are strongly held, passionate views on all sides, which the Government deeply respect. Our job is to take a position which we believe to be consistent with the public interest. I want to set out our position as briefly as I can.

Taking the right to establish faith schools first, the Government believe it would unacceptably infringe the rights of parents in local communities to havea ban on the establishment of new faith schools. Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides for the right for parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religion and other views.

Throughout the history of state education in this country, which of course predates the ECHR, Parliament has recognised this basic right and has accordingly agreed to the state funding of appropriately regulated faith schools over and above allowing private faith schools which, apart from closure for reasons of unacceptably poor standards, could only be closed by a fundamental breach of the ECHR.

But our position is not just a question of the ECHR and historical commitments, important as they are. My party has explicitly supported the right of parents within proper local decision-making processes to establish state-funded state schools within the current regulatory system. Our 2005 manifesto said:

And I should add proper local consultation and decision-making.

That was the manifesto on which we were elected and we intend to stick to it. I could not put the arguments better than did my noble friend Lady Morris, who was Secretary of State when amendments to the

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Education Bill 2002 were debated in another place—amendments which, like some of those moved today, would have obliged state faith schools to change their admissions criteria to restrict faith-based admissions. My noble friend, who I was glad to see in her place earlier, said:

My noble friend went on to say:

I could not put those arguments stronger myself and the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, made some very good points about the benefits. Parents want such schools to be in the maintained sector rather than in the wholly private sector. My noble friend Lord Ahmed made an impassioned speech on this point and I believe that his arguments merit close attention.

In the maintained sector, there are no fees. In the private sector, there are fees. In the maintained sector, schools must operate any admissions criteria that comply with the School Admissions Code of Practice. In the independent sector, they do have to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act but they have much wider latitude. In the maintained sector, faith schools must have a governing body, including parent, teacher and community representation. In the independent sector, that is not the case. In the maintained sector, schools must employ teachers who have qualified teacher status and head teachers who have the National Professional Qualification for Headship. In the independent sector, they need do neither. In the maintained sector, schools must employ teachers according to the state School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document and accord them paying conditions, including pension rights on this basis. In the private sector, they need do none of these things, and indeed pay rates often in private Muslim schools, which my noble friend referred to, are much lower than they are in state schools. These are all arguments which should be weighed in the balance when local decision-makers decide.

It is their decisions, not the decisions of central Government, that hold whether it is appropriate for Muslim schools to be able to enter the state system.

8.30 pm

The Earl of Onslow: The noble Lord, Lord Baker, produced some extremely interesting conditions in Muslim schools that had to be fulfilled, such as how many bits of the Koran pupils could recite, how much they knew, had they read it, et cetera. If they were to

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produce rules whereby girls had to wear the veil, how does one expect that non-Muslims would want to send their children there? It is that exclusivity that worries one. Will the Government make sure that those admission policies cited by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and my hypothesis on the veil are not allowed, because that would be extremely exclusive and offensive to the host community?

Lord Adonis: I was just about to move on to admissions, which is the second big subject before us.

We do not support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, although I understandthe concerns that led to it. It is not clear to us how the amendment would work in practice; if he intends to bring it back on Report, as I think that he might, it would be useful for the House to know more about what he intends. He referred to the two Christian faiths; I am not a theologian—I leave those matters to my right reverend friends—but I understand that there is one Christian faith. That is an issue of some importance, because the practical effect of his amendment is that schools should be required to admit 30 per cent of pupils who,

We need to be clear what he means by the “religion of the school”—the denomination or the religion.

There are some big issues here. I highlight that problem, but there will be many others; in fact, a whole set of practical issues will emerge in seeking to have quotas of the kind that he intends. In the course of good legislation and good government, those problems will be difficult to resolve, and we will point them out if the amendment comes back on Report. If it were passed, it would apply to every faith school. If we did not have answers to many of those acute practical issues, it would be a severe impediment to the implementation of the law.

Lord Baker of Dorking: Perhaps the Minister’s officials will give some thought to my proposals. After all, the Government are happy to impose a system of quotas for universities, where they define the numbers quite precisely. I will have a go myself at how the quotas in my proposals would work, but I am sure that his officials could design it.

Lord Adonis: We do not have any faith quotas in respect of universities, and I cannot for the life of me imagine how we would start to devise them.

There is an issue about the practicality of what the noble Lord proposes. I noted that, in the course of the debate, he and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, appeared to accept that some minority faith schools might not think that their own requirements in terms of quotas applied. If that is the case, we would need to have that view elucidated before any proposition was before us that we could consider seriously.

The fact that we do not think it appropriate to introduce legislation of this kind does not mean that we do not share the view of the faith communities themselves that their schools should be inclusive, including

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being open as appropriate to other faiths and taking very seriously their obligations to have strong community engagement with all faith and non-faith elements of their local community. An increasing proportion of Christian faith schools are doing that, including allowing a greater diversity of admissions.

I shall briefly point out two facts. Provisional figures as at January 2006 show that 21 per cent of children attending Roman Catholic secondary schools and 17.5 per cent of pupils attending Church of England schools are from ethnic minorities, compared with 16.2 per cent for non-faith schools. That appears indicative of a growing diversity of admissions to the Christian faith schools, and does not by itself support an argument that there is a serious problem of exclusivity. The figures in respect of free school meals show the same.

The research by Professor David Jesson at the University of York shows that voluntary aided—that is, predominantly church—and non-voluntary-aided secondary schools taken as a whole show almost identical levels of eligibility for free school meals which is a proxy for deprivation and does not seem to indicate that faith schools are discriminating against the poor.

These are all issues to be weighed in a further debate if the noble Lord, Lord Baker, were to bring back his amendment. The Government could not possibly support unworkable propositions which would seek to impose quotas against the wishes of the faith communities and which we do not believe could be fairly implemented in practice.

Amendment No. 208, in the name of my noble friend Lady Whitaker, would require every locally agreed syllabus for religious education to take account of the teaching and practices of the principal “beliefs” represented in Great Britain, including secular beliefs.

The current situation is that locally agreed syllabuses must reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian while taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain. The agreed syllabus conferences which draw up RE syllabuses for schools without a religious character are already able to reflect the study of secular beliefs as part of a syllabus. Indeed, my department’s non-statutory framework for religious education, which has been endorsed by all the major faith communities, highlights opportunities to study and discuss secular beliefs as well as religious beliefs.

The second part of my noble friend’s amendment would mean that all schools with a religious character, including voluntary-aided schools, would adopt the locally agreed syllabus unless parents request that they provide religious education in accordance with the trust deed or tenets of the school. To enforce such a requirement in respect of all faith schools would be an infringement of the legitimate autonomy of voluntary-aided schools with a religious character. However, the Government are glad to note that the leaders of all the major faith communities agreed earlier this year that they would ensure that,

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That path-breaking statement by the leaders of all the major religions in our country bears citing more fully in order to respond to the wider issues raised in the debate. The faith leaders agreed that religious education should enable pupils to develop respect for and sensitivity to others and in particular those whose faith and beliefs are different from their own. It should promote discernment and enable pupils to combat prejudice.

Those are objectives we warmly endorse. I believe that they will commend themselves to the House.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: When I began speaking two hours ago, I had thought that we would have concluded the debate before now. It has been a fascinating and a most encouraging debate. I shall need conversations with many people across the House, in particular with the noble Lord, Lord Baker, about his amendments.

I am confused about one or two matters. The right reverend Prelate said that we should not impose integration. Does that mean that we should impose segregation? I still think that faith schools can divide communities; and that is dangerous. We have sometimes confused religious diversity with ethnic diversity. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, I do not think that we do any favours to children who come into this country by segregating them. At my school, which is a multi-ethnic, multi-faith school, children learn language and social skills rapidly when they come into the school from abroad.

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