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I rather wish that the noble Lord’s Amendment No. 3 was grouped with Amendment No. 12, tabled by my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking, as they deal with the same matter. However, I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. On the “Today” programme this morning, Clifford Longley said in effect that what counts is not so much the admission system as what goes on in a school. That is of course true. In Committee, I supported my noble friend Lord Baker’s amendment, but at the same time I wondered if the approach put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, was not more realistic and achievable.

I am a strong supporter of faith schools. However, it is essential for life in the modern world that young people should learn early to relate naturally and make friends across racial, religious and social boundaries. Without that experience and those skills, young people will have very limited life chances indeed. In a faith school where one in four or five students comes from another background, cross-border relationships happen automatically and naturally. That is the point that my noble friend will doubtless make again when he moves his amendment. Where there are few or no “outsiders” in a school, those chances are very limited. We can all think of circumstances where that might happen. I think that in this country the problem arises not mainly in Anglican and Roman Catholic schools but in the schools of the other religions.

It would be wise to expect every faith school, not just new ones, to arrange with a school of a different background for shared activities such as lessons, sports opportunities and social events. There might even be a twinning of schools. I do not know whether that is the sort of thing that the noble Lord,

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Lord Sutherland, has in mind. He did not specify, which is why my noble friend thought that he was being woolly. I think that most of us were able to read between the lines of the noble Lord’s extremely tactful and diplomatic speech—which was quite clear and definite.

The expectation that a school will make it possible for young people to inter-relate with those from different backgrounds has to be there. The inspectorate is a way of achieving that provided that Ministers are prepared to back up the inspectorate once it has made proposals. Although I fear that I trespass on territory which will be covered by my noble friend, I support the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, my contribution will be very short. I claim a historical association with this amendment. I have always believed that it was the duty of Ofsted to prevent “error in religion” and, indeed, “error in non-religion”. Sixteen years ago, my amendment, accepted by the then Conservative Government, inserted into the 1990 Bill which formed Ofsted “spiritual, cultural, social and moral values” as part of Ofsted’s duties. I therefore entirely support the view that responsibility for enforcing those qualities and for reporting schools which are breaking the rules should lie with Ofsted and not with any kind of arbitrary apportionment of the number of places available.

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, I too support this group of amendments. They address the concern we have discussed on a number of occasions as we have considered the Bill. Throughout this debate there has been considerable agreement that our schools should support and provide community cohesion. We have disagreed about how that can be best achieved in practice, but faith schools will want to contribute to the process; indeed, to continue to play their part in meeting that aspiration. I therefore welcome these amendments, which achieve that in the right way.

Like the noble Baroness, I was listening to the “Today” programme this morning and heard Clifford Longley make that comment. It is perhaps worth adding that he made it in the context of reflecting on the work that had been done in Liverpool to bring together the Protestant and Catholic communities by Archbishop Derek Warlock and Bishop David Sheppard. It was in that context that he said it was not admissions policies but what goes on in the school that matters. I think that is right. These amendments would place responsibility for community cohesion where it belongs, with the governing body and Ofsted. I therefore support them.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, is a distinguished academic philosopher and one of the most careful and intellectually canny thinkers I know. I was extremely surprised by the response of the noble Earl. Perhaps he should have noticed, or emphasised more carefully, that this clause does not simply leave it

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to the school whether it is promoting social cohesion. It will be inspected. The inspectorate will have its own benchmark. It will be able to judge and will not simply leave it to the school.

I ask the Minister to address one point when he comes to respond: does he foresee a time, not too distant in the future, when he could report back to the House on some of the results of this series of inspections, perhaps after a year or so? As we are all aware, there is an intense and serious interest in this subject in the House, and we would like to know whether the inspectorate regime will work.

As a supporter of church schools I have always felt, as do other of your Lordships, that far more important than the fact of faith schools is what is being taught in the syllabus and, even more important, how it is being taught. I see the dimension of social cohesion, whether or not it is being promoted, running through every aspect of the inspection: how history is taught, or religious education. It must not be simply propaganda, but real, proper education. Because this amendment is designed to ensure that, I support it most warmly.

Baroness David: My Lords, can the Minister tell me whether there will be a statutory definition of community cohesion? I ask that also of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, as one of the signatories to this amendment I am happy to support the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, who has so ably moved it today. In answer to the noble Earl, it is worth mentioning a letter from Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Ofsted, which was sent to the Minister in the last day or so. She says:

There is nothing woolly about that. It is a very hard-headed approach that will be capable of assessment. It represents one of two approaches your Lordships can take to this matter, which was raised last week in your Lordships’ House by the noble Lord, Lord Baker. He has done us all a service in raising this issue. He has concentrated our minds on trying to find a way forward.

One way we could do that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, said, would be under Amendment No. 12, after Clause 45, which we will debate later. That amendment will invite your Lordships to impose quotas on schools. We would then have to determine whether to fix a quota that would be compulsory on all new faith schools. Last week, the Secretary of State stated that that principle could be extended to all Church schools—and concern was expressed about that during last week’s debate. It sent a lot of hares running and has led to huge opposition, not just from Catholics but from the Jewish community—the Minister will have seen the letter today from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and others.



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Many impracticalities that go beyond philosophical problems are tied up with quotas. Parents would have to be arraigned through a test act to find out what they believed or did not believe or whether they fitted into the 75 per cent or the 25 per cent. Imagine a situation in which a devout Anglican applied for admission to a new faith school on a Monday and on Tuesday discovered that their child would not be able to enter under the 75 per cent rule. On Wednesday, they could say that they have committed themselves to atheism and, on Thursday, their child could go to that school. On Friday, they could have a roadside conversion and return to the fold. That is what this kind of approach would lead to and that is why the government and opposition Front Benches, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said last week that they were opposed to the idea of statutory quotas—and that is why that approach is doomed to failure.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Baker, concentrated minds on what we need to do to create a sense of social cohesion, and the amendment, as an alternative to the quota approach, does precisely that. It is the other way forward and builds not only on the proven track record of the inspectorate, as my noble friend has said, but on the consensus that was created in the 1944 Education Act. Driving a coach and horses through the admissions procedures that were agreed in 1944 will create a precedent that will undoubtedly be used to touch all faith schools.

Better than that, your Lordships would be wise to follow the counsels of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and build on the 1944 agreement. After all, that was a consensual agreement not just between faith communities but between members of the national Government of the day—RAB Butler was the Education Secretary and his Parliamentary Private Secretary was Chuter-Ede, a member of the Labour Party. Agreement was reached after a painstaking search for a way forward. In education, surely it is better to try to find consensus, rather than confrontation. In particular, I pay tribute to role of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and her colleague in another place, Nick Gibb, in trying to find a way forward that would meet all the needs of Members of your Lordships’ House.

The amendment is attractive because, unlike a quota approach limited to new faith schools, it touches all schools, whether in the maintained or voluntary-aided sectors. All schools can be inspected on how they plan for and stimulate community cohesion and a sense of personal responsibility. If a school is failing in that regard, it will be possible to require constructive actions.

There are three ways forward. We can do nothing; we can opt for the quota approach that will destabilise successful schools and cause division and resentment, because quotas will be used as a shoo-in to catch all faith schools; or we can use an approach based on the cultivation of duties, fostering a love of our institutions, the encouragement of deep tolerance and respect for other faiths and traditions. That would imply that this is not merely an issue for new faith

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schools, but one that all schools must address. That option is the best way forward and I hope that the House will support it.

4 pm

Lord Peston: My Lords, before I go on to my main point, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, would do well to read the history of the Education Act 1944, which was not remotely as he described it. It was about RAB Butler buying the Church schools into the system so that he could get the reforms that he wanted. The idea that it was the result of some philosophical discussion and meeting of minds simply does not correspond to the historical facts.

I was astonished to see this amendment on the Marshalled List as it seems totally to contradict the rest of the Bill. If I wanted to promote community cohesion, as I have always done, I would stick to the view that I have had all my adult life that children should go to their local schools, that those schools should be comprehensive and that they should be full of all the children in the community. The Bill is about the exact opposite of that. Therefore, to use a word from Yiddish, the chutzpah of tabling this amendment absolutely amazes me.

I am a great admirer, as is everyone, of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, but, given David Hume’s view of religion and the possibility of religious schools, quoting him as being in favour of the amendment is equally preposterous. Therefore, although I have a delicacy of touch that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, does not have, I feel that he is right to draw our attention to this matter. How do you promote community cohesion in a system in which children will be in segregated schools of all kinds and will be encouraged to go to those schools? The idea that the path to follow is to tell children in a school in which they have opted to mix only with people of their own kind that community cohesion is important and that it is part of their education, and thinking that they will believe that, is—

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, if the noble Lord had taken part in earlier debates on this subject, he would know that the whole question of how children integrate through community cohesion was well expressed by a number of noble Lords.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I was hoping that someone would intervene. I did not take part in the debates because, being so opposed to the Bill and my loyalty to the Labour Party being such as it is, I felt that I would be better off keeping my mouth shut. I have read all the debates and, in the various contributions from those in favour of religious schools, I have read more nonsense on education than I have seen for a long time. They should recognise that they are in favour of segregation and not community cohesion.

Perhaps I may give a personal example. I went to an east London grammar school in the old days of the Butler education system. There was no community cohesion in that school. We knew that we were the cleverest boys in east London. We knew that those who did not go to our school were less than us.

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That is how we were brought up. As I have mentioned before to noble Lords, those of us in the A form never mixed with anyone in the B, C or D forms. We knew a fortiori that we were the best. When I grew up and had children, they went to the local comprehensive school. My friends attacked me because my eldest son, who has not done badly in life, went to a combination of two secondary modern schools. I was accused by all my friends of sacrificing my eldest son because I had a view about children attending the local community school. As I said, my own children did not do badly from that, and I am still totally committed to that view.

Given the group of people who have tabled the amendment, I assume that there is no point in opposing it in the sense that people will go into the Lobbies and support it, but I thought that at least one voice besides that of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, should be heard on this side saying that this is a ridiculous amendment.

Lord Winston: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord has recently visited a religious school. For example, the North West London Jewish Day School—a primary school—is a model of how social cohesion can be achieved in a strictly religious discipline school.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I have not visited that school but I have visited many Jewish schools, which seem to contain only Jewish children. They do not seem to contain any black or brown children or Catholics or anything else. If people want their children to be educated in that way, of course they can use their private funds, but we are discussing schools that have been paid for out of the public purse. There used to be a view that you did not use money from the public purse for private causes, so I stick to my view and still suggest that this is persiflage.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I must reject the allegation that all schools of a religious character are segregated.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I did not say that. My view is that the philosophy of the Bill goes in that direction. Not all religious schools are segregated. Many Church of England schools are very much community schools—no one doubts that—and they always have been.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am very glad to hear that, because the noble Lord seemed to be saying that religious schools as such were segregated. I do not wish in any way to go against the Chief Whip’s advice about repeating arguments that have been made at previous stages of the Bill. However, it has to be said, as the noble Lord admitted—I was very glad to hear it—that Church of England schools are very often inclusive and open to the wider community. However, one or two other things which are perhaps implied need to be said; first, that Church schools must be distinctively Christian in character—that is why they exist;

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secondly, they must meet the needs of church-going parents—I think that that was the point which the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham was trying to make; thirdly, they must be open to the wider community. These are not contradictory matters: they can all be achieved given goodwill.

I have serious doubts about whether the word “cohesion” is enough. This is where I have quite a lot of sympathy with the intent behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, if perhaps not with the form. It is not simply a matter of cohesion whatever the case; the amendment must relate to a vision for society, as the noble Lord said earlier. It has to relate to shared values and about the virtues that we are prepared to inculcate in our children.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I support the amendment. I have the highest regard for the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, the former Chief Inspector of Schools. He has written almost as many reports on schools as I have read. We are both experts on inspectors’ reports.

Before I further express my support for the amendment, perhaps I may chide the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for saying that the implication of my amendment is to impose quotas of 25 per cent. The amendment would not do that. It would give powers to local authorities, if they wished so to use them to create community cohesion, to establish a quota of up to 25 per cent. We must not hear misrepresentations as early as four o’clock; it really is a little bit naughty.

I support the amendment because it is helpful. It is not an alternative to my amendment. It is helpful because faith schools should be inspected more regularly and in a tighter way—I agree with the noble Lord entirely on that. However, it is being asked to carry a weight which it will not be able to sustain. It would make the inspectors the instruments of a policy—on which I suspect all your Lordships agree—for a happier and more cohesive society. Can we really ask the inspectors to do this? First, as the noble Lord knows, the inspectors inspect schools on very precise details; for example, is this school teaching history to key stages 3 and 4 correctly? In foreign languages, are the children able to practise sufficiently the language which they are studying? Do they have the equipment to do it? What is the quality of teaching? Again and again, some very subjective statements are made, but the inspectors are used to working in close definitions. The first thing they would have to ask is—I am not being pettifogging—what is the meaning of “community”? If an inspector examines an exclusive Jewish or an exclusive Muslim school in, let us say, Tower Hamlets, what is the community of the cohesion with which the inspector is concerned? Is it just Tower Hamlets? Or is it Tower Hamlets and East Ham? Or is it the whole of east London? Or is it the whole of London? That is what inspectors will ask and what the Government will at some stage have to define. They will have to define exactly what “community” means in this context.

I suspect that what the amendment is getting at is a report on relationships—the relationship of that school with the other local schools, the relationship of

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that school with the parents and children of other schools. Inspectors will have to look at precisely what is taught in schools under religious education. That was raised by the noble Lord I think. The inspectors will have to make a comment on one of the most difficult fine lines in religious education: where religious education ends and indoctrination starts. That central question has to be asked. Inspectors will have to comment on it and they will have to attend a large number of religious instruction classes in schools to determine that. If religious instruction veers off into indoctrination, communities can suffer a lack of cohesion and trouble can start.

Inspectors have a huge task. On relationships between schools, which my noble friend Lady Carnegy mentioned, and whether schools can have joint activities, it is marvellous if that can happen, but let us be realistic: there will be no joint activities in sport between a Muslim school and a non-Muslim school because of dress codes; there will be no combined swimming galas; there will be no combined music classes; there will be no combined art classes; and in drama there will be no desire to stage Romeo and Juliet between a Muslim school and an Anglican school because every page of Romeo and Juliet is against the Koran. I suspect that there will not be a great desire to stage a combined King Lear, because filial devotion in that play is not exactly what it ought to be.

I ask your Lordships to be realistic about this. I entirely accept that relationships and activities are important between schools and they exist in some areas: for example, Catholic schools in Glasgow take their children to the local mosque. I know that because of an episode that appears in a very good novel I read this year, which I recommend to your Lordships, called Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan. It is about a Catholic priest in Glasgow and some ghastly Catholic yobbos—sometimes Catholic schools turn out ghastly yobbos—who are taken to the local mosque and the result is not community cohesion. But that is fiction.


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