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Lord Kingsland: My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition I join the noble and learned Lord in congratulating those of your Lordships who serve on the joint committee. Its work is hardly the stuff of newspaper headlines; and yet it is a necessary burden for both Houses to bear. The work that your Lordships do is greatly appreciated.

Looking through the list one finds some remarkable relics of our past; for example the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797. The Government of India Act 1935 is redolent of a great imperial responsibility, and--I trust the noble and learned Lord will agree--not undertaken in vain.

I was pleased to hear the noble and learned Lord say that he supported the principle of simplification in the drafting of Bills. Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that the Opposition also support that principle. I think it was Viscount Falkland, writing over 300 years ago, who stated famously that if it is not necessary to do something, it is necessary not to do it. Some adaption of that phrase might well be an appropriate instruction to the parliamentary draftsmen; namely, if it is not necessary to say something, it is necessary not to say it.

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However, if there is an even bigger problem than that of an Act of Parliament saying too much, it is the problem of an Act of Parliament saying too little. Here Her Majesty's loyal Opposition must own up to their own failings. Consider, for example, the Environment Act passed in 1995. We have now waited nearly three years to see Part IIA of that Act become effective in law because the necessary statutory guidance that will give that Act meaning has not yet emerged from the Civil Service.

During this parliamentary Session we have already been presented with a number of Acts which are but bundles of bare bones and which will not acquire meaning until the appropriate statutory guidance is issued. This is no way to legislate in a representative democracy. I trust the noble and learned Lord, in contemplating the opening remarks that he made to your Lordships this afternoon, will also bear that problem in mind.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

School Standards and Framework Bill

3.44 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank the Minister and the Chief Whip most profusely for finding another day to discuss this important Bill. I know that is appreciated greatly by noble Lords on all sides of the House, particularly those with amendments to be dealt with, as we are aware that today we must finish by 11 o'clock.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 42 [Annual parents' meetings]:

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 156:

Page 34, line 24, at end insert ("; and
(c) the aims and values of the school, and the ways in which the school intends to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of its pupils.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 156 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 157, 236 and 239. I preface my remarks by saying how grateful I am that I can discuss these amendments at this stage of the afternoon and not at two o'clock in the morning.

These amendments are similar to those which I tabled to the 1996 Bill, which fell at the time of the general election. When I moved the amendments on that occasion they received considerable support from all parts of the Chamber. These are modest but important amendments. I have tabled them because I believe that this area of the school curriculum should not be

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neglected. I make two general points. First, I am the first to say that schools cannot do everything as regards moral and social education. We should recognise that and not pretend otherwise. Secondly, in legislation, we should support good parents where we can as they are struggling to bring up their children in a difficult world and at a difficult time. They face all kinds of problems that did not exist even 30 years ago. I refer to drugs, drink and sex. Thirty years ago those problems were certainly not prevalent on today's scale. We should do all we can to encourage co-operation between schools, homes and the wider community.

I regard these amendments as complementary to those which the Minister has tabled to Clause 59. I also regard those amendments as extremely important. They have been tabled in response to my successful amendment to the Human Rights Bill. I attach great importance to the amendments, as I believe does the Committee. I am grateful to the Minister for tabling the government amendments. When we discussed this issue earlier in the year it received the support of the Chamber. We are grateful that the Government have tabled amendments with regard to Church schools and employment matters which meet our concerns.

What do these amendments seek to achieve? Amendments Nos. 156 and 157 require governing bodies to include a statement about the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils in the annual report to parents and to provide an opportunity to discuss that at the annual parents' meeting. Amendment No. 156 would add a new paragraph to Clause 42 dealing specifically with annual parents' meetings to ensure that the aims and values of a school would be discussed at the meeting. Schools' compliance with the terms of Amendment No. 156 would be monitored by the parents themselves. Amendment No. 157 seeks to insert a new clause after Clause 42 to ensure that governors have to publish a statement on the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of school pupils setting out targets and means of assessment.

Amendments Nos. 236 and 239 to Clause 103 require the home-school agreement to include specific reference to spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils and require the consent of parents to the home-school agreement.

Amendment No. 239 seeks to add another paragraph to Clause 103. Parents will have to accept the content of the home-school agreement before it is adopted, and then give their consent annually at the annual parents' meeting. I realise that that may sound like a difficult procedure. However, I suggest that the consent of the parent body required by this amendment could be obtained at the annual parents' meeting through a show of hands. That currently happens in some schools as a means of gaining parental consent for the school's sex education policy. The future monitoring of parents' consent could be achieved by keeping a minute of the vote taken. I make that practical point because the question of monitoring has been raised.

Existing legislation requires that the curriculum for a school should promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils in a school.

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However, there is no requirement in existing legislation for schools to report to parents on the way in which that is done and the way in which schools promote those principles or develop those policies in consultation with parents and the wider community. That is what these amendments set out to do.

There is widespread public and professional concern in regard to the spiritual and moral development of young people. One has only to open a newspaper to see columns about bullying in schools as an example of the kind of problems that are faced. I am sure that all of us who take an interest in these matters have read the reports of the speech by Professor Michael Barber to the Secondary Heads Association suggesting that moral education might be based on global citizenship. That is one of the serious issues to be addressed if the matter is being considered at all. It needs to be thought through very carefully before all this is put in front of young people.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has sought to address some of the difficulties that schools face by seeking a broad consensus on values in schools and by producing material to help schools develop the whole school policies for the promotion of moral and spiritual development. However, it is important that these issues should not be sidelined in a school. It is equally important within the context of academic development, which we all acknowledge to be of prime importance, that spiritual and moral development should continue as well.

In its draft guidance issued in November 1997, the QCA stated:

    "The promotion of pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development provides the 'why' as opposed to the 'what' and the 'how' of education. It is an essential ingredient of schools' success".

That emphasises the importance of including this issue in the home-school agreement and the need for a whole school policy. Personal and social education and citizenship form a part of the whole school policy, but treated on a basis of single themes, or even as subjects, cannot replace a whole school approach to the spiritual and moral development which should lie at the heart of a school.

I think that all of us recognise that one of the reasons why church schools are often so effective is that their aims and values are known, and parents make an active choice to opt for what they are saying. We need to make sure that parents who can choose a mainstream school should also have the opportunity of opting for something very positive in the school's curriculum. I return to the point that I made at the beginning of my remarks. It is very important that this Bill should help to support good parents in what they try to do at home, by linking what is done in the school with what is done in the home and the wider community. I beg to move.

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