Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Lord Bishop of Ripon: I support the amendment. Spiritual development is the first aim set out in the Education Act 1944 and repeated in the 1988 education Act. I am grateful to the noble Baroness,

4 Jun 1998 : Column 477

Lady Young, for bringing forward these amendments. Perhaps I may also make reference to Clause 59, since the noble Baroness has already referred to it. In case she is not present when we come to debate that clause, perhaps I may pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her commitment and tenacity in moving and carrying her amendment, which has resulted in changes to Clause 59. I agree that they are of great significance. I am enormously grateful to the noble Baroness for the part she has played in enabling these points to be considered.

As the noble Baroness said, spiritual development, along with moral, social and cultural development, is not confined to schools but is a part of family and community life. Equally, these are not separate aspects of education to be placed in compartments. They are a dimension of all education. I have argued many times in this Chamber that the spiritual dimension to education is vital to an understanding of education, and to the whole notion of learning. Without some recognition of the inner life associated with being a whole person, no genuine learning takes place.

Schools have had some difficulty in understanding just what is meant by spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. However, Ofsted inspects schools on these aspects of education. It is my impression that schools are increasingly developing a language and understanding--an articulation--of the meaning of those dimensions of education which I believe to be very important in school life. Therefore, anything that can be done to strengthen that aspect of education in schools is significant and important.

I support these amendments for the reasons already indicated by the noble Baroness; namely, that they draw parents into the ethos of the school. They require a school to report to parents; and one amendment requires the consent of parents in the home-school agreement to the school's understanding of spiritual development as well as other aspects of education.

It is generally accepted that Church schools are successful in both academic and other terms. It is arguable that part of their success is due to their ability to bring together governors, heads, staff, parents, youngsters and members of the community within a shared value scheme and a shared understanding of what is meant by education to support a particular school. Indeed, I had a conversation with the Secretary of State in which we debated this matter. That was certainly his view. I long for that sense of involvement which is significant in many church schools also to be the mark of all county schools, as indeed it is already in some. These amendments play an important part in reinforcing that understanding of shared values in relation to which the work done by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is important. The Values Forum has done significant work in that area.

The amendments are, as the noble Baroness said, modest. They do not make any difference to the emphasis of the Bill. However, they underline certain

4 Jun 1998 : Column 478

important dimensions in education. I therefore believe that we shall see a positive response to this important aspect of education at this time.

Lord Ashbourne: I support these amendments so cogently moved by the noble Baroness. I very much agree with the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon.

There is widespread public and professional concern about the spiritual and moral development of young people. Schools more than ever have a key role to play in raising standards. Professor Michael Barber's speech to the Secondary Heads Association highlighted the importance of the moral agenda in education.

Amendments Nos. 156 and 157 are practical amendments. There is not likely to be any particular difficulty in schools meeting those requirements. The point of the amendments is to bring greater clarity and explicitness to this key issue for parents and schools themselves at the time each party commits to its responsibilities. Moreover, the requirements set out in the amendment will be monitored by parents themselves. Greater openness will promote participation by parents. Where schools fail to discharge their responsibilities, that will be apparent to parents, who can be expected to take up specific matters with head teachers and governors. I commend the amendments to the Committee.

4 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington: I wonder if the noble Baroness, Lady Young, can explain what is meant by the word "spiritual". I believe that no one would disagree with the words,

    "moral, social and cultural development of ... pupils".

That is something which I am sure we all very much support, and indeed would support the kind of push--if I may use that word--behind the two amendments before us. But, if the word "spiritual" is used in what I might call the religious sense, I would have to repeat, as I have said on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House and in another place, that a number of us do not have any religious belief at all. There are some 50 Members of this House and another place who declare themselves in that sense. There are other meanings of the word "spirit", in terms of a rugby or a cricket team, for example, and that is something I go along with. However, where there is this exception--if I may use that word--it should be clarified.

Some Members of the Committee may say that there is provision in the education Acts for a child not to attend classes where religious education is taught if the child or its parents so wish. Those of us who have been engaged in the day-to-day working of education all know that that usually means standing in a corridor outside a classroom, which is not a satisfactory situation in which to place a child. It is important that we have clarification on this matter, and I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to say a little more about it.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I share one common experience with the noble Lord, Lord Dormand: we

4 Jun 1998 : Column 479

were both educated in County Durham. I think I can begin to answer his question, although my noble friend may want to do so in greater detail.

If Members of the Committee will pardon anecdotal evidence, I spent six or seven years in the 1940s at school in a Durham mining village. Many of my teachers were, as the noble Lord described, not practising Christians. They had been Methodists; they were socialists. However, they combined a real sense of spiritual values. That was associated with religion; in some cases religion that they had left. There was no doubt about the moral depth of the school. It imparted a feeling that there was depth to life. It was in part attached to an agreed religious syllabus. The teachers drew out of the syllabus moral and ethical points.

I agree with my noble friend that this matter is of enormous importance. Schools form a morality. That is particularly important in our present society, which is very fragmented. We are the end generation of massive industrialisation. Communities such as those in which the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, and I were brought up have been broken up, are now dispersed and have vanished forever. This amendment is possibly one of the most important of the amendments to the Bill.

We could argue about what we mean, but I think that the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, knows as well as I do the situation which used to exist and which can still exist. Teachers are by nature bound to morality because that is the nature of their profession.

I should like this amendment to go on the face of the Bill. Pretty well everything else goes on the face of the Bill. The Government almost tell head teachers when to wash their faces. I shall be protesting about some of this later on. Most of us in this Committee, educated in various ways, having decided our destiny, be it religious or non-religious, know that in our schools we experienced something which has guided us in later life. I can only say in the vaguest way that it is depth of life and care for values. One might become a socialist. My schoolmasters tried very hard to make me one, but they failed in that. Many Members of the Committee would say that their schools did all this, and certainly the schools of County Durham did so. The amendments would provide that teachers should have regard to this as a most important facet of their profession. I therefore commend the amendments to the House.

Lord Northbourne: These amendments raise in my mind three questions, which I should like to ask the Minister. Is it the Government's policy to support and encourage schools to prepare statements on spiritual, cultural, moral and social values? Is it the Government's policy, in doing so, to make use of the agreed values, which have been prepared and are now being tested in schools, which were developed by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority? Do the Government believe that parents have an important role to play in developing a school's moral values? If the answer to those three questions is yes, I think the amendments probably should be accepted.

Lord Milverton: I rise to support the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lady Young. My noble friend

4 Jun 1998 : Column 480

made an important point about parents feeling that they have some support from schools in giving spiritual education to their children, which parents do by example. It was not the Church alone, of which I am a minister, that gave me my spiritual feeling; that was something which happened from birth, before I became fully involved in the Church. Some might say that I had a privileged upbringing. I am very grateful for what I sense about spiritual dimensions, sensing the dignity, worth and sacredness of the human being. To me, that is what spirituality is. Spirituality brings in morality and ethics and gives greater depth to them. We should not feel ashamed of emphasising the word "spiritual".

I said that some might say that I was privileged. I do not know whether that is true. For instance, most people started school at the normal school age. Because of my father's position in the Colonial Service, I did not attend any school until I was 10 or 11. That was in Jamaica, where my father was governor. Prior to that I had tutors. I therefore do not think it is true that I speak from a privileged position. I had to work very hard for my education, in Canada as well as in England. In Canada, although the education system is run in the same way as in England--I went to a school called Ridley in Ontario Province--the schools are called public schools rather than private schools, and they really are public. Many parents make a tremendous effort. Children from all kinds of homes go to those schools.

In that way I am not as privileged as some may think. But throughout my life, even as a choir boy in Jamaica, I got my sense of spirituality from more than just being a member of the C of E and feeling a call to the priesthood while at school. It is important therefore that we encourage those who find it difficult to comprehend spirituality at least to begin to have an understanding of it. It is important especially for those parents who are desperately trying to uphold something which they are often told is "silly billy". It is important to help those parents and get schools to do the same.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page