Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): During the course of the passage of this Bill a number of points have been raised in relation to Scotland. It may be convenient if I try to answer all of them at this stage, both those made at Second Reading and earlier today in Committee.

The point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that the whole legislative framework for education is different in Scotland; that the whole administrative framework is different--indeed, we glory in our distinctiveness.

Perhaps I may now move on to deal with a number of specific points. I believe that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, who is not in her place at the present time--again, she is a victim of the transport problems that we are all suffering from at the moment--who made the point that the "Higher Still" programme was being postponed. She asked us why. The answer to that is quite simple. It is important to get the implementation of that programme right from the very beginning so that our young people can gain maximum benefit from the reforms. It is a major reform of the whole system of school education in Scotland. Teachers and lecturers must therefore be given adequate time to prepare delivery of the new courses from day one. To ensure that that is the case we have fulfilled our manifesto commitment to postpone "Higher Still" by one year. Courses at all four secondary levels will begin in the year 1999-2000, with the advanced programme following one year later. I believe that this extra time is absolutely essential in terms of curriculum planning and it will give schools and colleges more time to plan provision for staff development; individual teachers will have more time to familiarise themselves with course and unit documents, assessment instruments and other support materials and develop their own materials.

It is fair to say from the start that the programme has been built on the idea of participation, partnership and responsiveness to the profession. We intend to further develop this approach in partnership with those who will

10 Jul 1997 : Column 812

deliver the programme "Higher Still". We believe and accept that there can be no argument that the "Higher Still" reforms represent the most comprehensive exercise in the involvement and development of the history of Scottish secondary education. That is why we want to make sure that it is right from day one and that is why we believe this postponement is totally justified.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, raised the question as to why there is to be no White Paper on Scotland. In the context of this Bill I make it clear that the Bill provides for the phasing out of the assisted places scheme in England, Wales and Scotland and, as my noble friend Lady Blackstone explained in the debate on Amendment No. 1, the savings across all the schemes will be pooled and then directed towards reducing class sizes.

The White Paper published earlier this week outlined how taking forward work on class sizes in England will progress. That is the important point. The White Paper addresses the issue of progressing class size reductions in England. Legislation will be included in the autumn education Bill to ensure that we can implement our plans in England and Wales. Of course, the education system in Scotland is fundamentally different: it is run under separate legislation.

We already have in place in Scotland a system for restricting class sizes through teachers' conditions of service. We can therefore make progress on our commitment to reduce class sizes in Scotland without further legislation. The need for a White Paper does not therefore arise, but this Bill is a necessary first step in delivering our aim.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, raised the issue of compulsory appraisal for teachers in Scotland. We believe that all teachers should be appraised. There is no difference on this issue of principle between our colleagues in England, Wales and Scotland. In Scotland we have asked the National Co-ordinating Committee for the staff development of teachers in Scotland to review the guidelines issued by the Scottish Office. We expect local authorities to revise as necessary their schemes in the light of this review. That is the same objective, but it is a slightly different means. As I say, we glory in our distinctiveness and the different routes to the same policy objectives. Education in Scotland is provided under different legislation, so it is not unusual to have different arrangements for similar objectives. In Scotland, the teacher appraisal arrangements will be drawn up in co-operation with local authorities and other suitable bodies.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, also raised the issue of the £100 million savings and asked whether that amount included Scotland. I should point out that that £100 million is a round figure, as we have already said, and is based on estimates. Until we have precise information in the autumn, we cannot give more precise figures. With that caveat, I can tell the noble Lord that that £100 million does include Scotland. We shall give more precise details including year-on-year and country-by-country information in respect of departments' annual reports on their expenditure plans. That will become clear and transparent.

10 Jul 1997 : Column 813

Finally, I return to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, about the interesting Primary 6 and Primary 7 problem, which is basically the cut-off point for entitlement at the end of primary education in Scotland. In Scotland, primary education is defined in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 as being,

    "school education of a kind which is appropriate in the ordinary case to the requirements of pupils who have not attained the age of 12 years."

In the state sector, primary education consists of seven yearly stages, referred to consistently--surprise, surprise!--as P1-P7. In the independent sector, many all-through schools complete the primary curriculum at the end of P6. Accordingly, at some Scottish schools participating in the scheme, pupils under 12 are receiving primary education while at others, pupils of the same age are receiving secondary education. That is the nub of the problem to which the noble Lord alludes.

With effect from the 1989-90 school session, when the scheme in Scotland catered only for pupils undertaking secondary education, the previous government expanded the scheme after accepting the views of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools that pupils in P7 and equivalent classes at some participating schools should be treated as eligible for assisted places on grounds that, although the pupils concerned were still below 12 years of age, they were following a secondary curriculum and should be regarded as undertaking secondary education for the purposes of the scheme.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has accepted the council's views that this approach should be the defining criterion for the purposes of determining when entitlement should end for particular pupils at the end of their primary education.

Accordingly, the cut-off point for primary places in Scotland will be the end of the school year immediately preceding the year in which pupils commence the secondary curriculum at individual schools. I know that that is a slightly tortuous formulation, but I think that it can be understood--

Lord Henley: May I--

Lord Sewel: Perhaps I may continue for a moment. The noble Lord can then come back to me.

The noble Lord may wish to note that the Scottish Council of Independent Schools considers that our plans for the cut-off point are fair and reasonable and in line with its own suggestions. The Scottish schools participating in the scheme should be able to determine quite clearly when primary education is ended at their schools--no matter whether at P6 or P7. However, it is possible that there could be limited numbers of cases where the circumstances of individual pupils are not entirely clear. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has discretion to allow a pupil to hold an assisted place for a further period where his circumstances make that reasonable, and he could, if he felt it to be appropriate, use his discretion in such a case.

The intended approach does of course mean that pupils in P7 who are undertaking secondary education in the 1997-98 school session will remain eligible for assisted

10 Jul 1997 : Column 814

places until the completion of secondary education at their schools. I believe that that resolves the doubt in the noble Lord's mind.

Lord Henley: I am pretty sure that it does resolve the doubt in my mind; but I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that it is fairly complicated stuff. For the sake of the record, perhaps I should say that I should like the opportunity carefully to read what he has said tomorrow, the day after or whenever I have a chance to do so. It may be that I shall wish to return to it following further discussions with those who advise me. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his attempt at this relatively late hour to explain a complicated matter to a bear of relatively little brain and someone who lives north of Hadrian's Wall but south of the Border.

Lord Campbell of Croy: I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, whose division within the Scottish Office does not normally include education, as I understand it. However, as the Scottish Office Minister in this House he must answer for everything. I am grateful to him for having replied so fully to the points that have been raised. I was glad to hear his comments on the White Paper. It is now clear that there will not be one for Scotland equivalent to the one for England and Wales. I am also grateful for his explanation of the £100 million throwaway figure when the Bill was first introduced. I shall inform my noble friend Lady Carnegy of the points to which the noble Lord has replied.

Since the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is here I should like to finish by making a Scottish point. The fact that I cannot now fly north means that I shall miss the memorial service at Fort George of the late Field-Marshal Sir James Cassels who was a great friend and colleague of the older brother of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso--the previous Lord Thurso--and the Seaforth Highlanders. I served with both in World War II. I am afraid that the strike has affected our lives this weekend. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for his reply. I do not intend to press this matter.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

Clause 7 agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Parliamentary Privilege

A message was brought from the Commons that they have come to the following resolution to which they desire the concurrence of this House: That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses be appointed to review Parliamentary privilege and to make recommendations thereon.

        House adjourned at twelve minutes before ten o'clock.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page