|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Sheppard of Liverpool: I should also like to support the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Some fears have been surfacing in this debate, and I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was right to point out that when people have quoted the example of Church of England schools, the Church has not been trying to make little Christians of everybody. That is the task of home and of church. I believe that the task of schools in a spiritual dimension is to give the pupils the opportunity to make up their own minds. We should all like to say that people should make up their own minds, but unless you have some information on which to make up your mind, you are unlikely to get very far.
I believe also that there was a misunderstanding in what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said about setting targets. I do not contemplate that a school should be expected to set the targets of the spiritual understanding which they expect each pupil to achieve. It would be perfectly reasonable and possible for a school to speak about the kind of experiences that they have allowed children to have, as they face some of the issues that human beings have to face, as schools already do. That could offer a strong report to show the power that some spiritual values have in motivating people in service to other people and facing some of those human issues.
I should like to add one dimension; that is, the international side. Many young people are responding to the experience that voluntary organisations and churches are bringing back from overseas, and some of that is material education, which can be measured. I agree completely with previous speakers in response to the noble Lord, Lord Desai, that this can be measured. Inspectors have measured it and have said that schools come up to expectations. Therefore, I believe that that is an important aspect.
Lord Stallard: I rise briefly to support the noble Baroness and her amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, seemed to assume that because one espouses socialism that means that one is anti-Christian. I should hate people to go away from here thinking that all the Christians are on that side and all the atheists are on this side. That is not true.
If the noble Lord studies social history he will see that most of the early socialists were Christians and upheld the Christian faith. I know for a fact that Keir Hardie was a lay preacher in the place where I was born. I had great respect for his Christian views as well as his socialism. I am very sad that he was not converted because he would have found, I am sure, as much satisfaction as I have over a long period in having both socialist principles and Christian morals and spiritual values.
I can only speak from previous experience of a recent Bill in this House, the Education Bill, when we talked about a conscience clause, and so on. I had literally hundreds of letters--perhaps more than that--from people pleading for that to be carried and pleading for support from politicians of all kinds for the values that parents thought were being attacked, mainly through television advertising, through politically correct school teachers, and so on. I know from 30 years' experience as a school governor in different schools in a London borough that there is a feeling of support for such a provision among parents who admire the ethos of the Church schools with which they have been involved or with which they would like to be involved. I hope that the noble Baroness's amendment will be carried. But if it goes to a Division, I shall certainly support her.
Lord Baker of Dorking: We are not debating whether these matters should be taught in a school framework. The Minister will know and those who are familiar with the legislation will know that schools are obliged to observe spiritual, moral, social and cultural matters. That is on the face of the 1988 Act. When we first drafted the Act we had just "mental and physical education". That was really what education was all about. In fact, it was very close to the definition given by Xenophon. But we added to the Act spiritual, moral, cultural and social matters because obviously education
The spiritual development of a child goes rather wider than just being aware of good neighbourliness. Good neighbourliness can be taught in many different ways. For example, it can be taught in citizenship lessons. What we meant by spiritual was touched on by my noble friend Lord Pilkington when he said that it added to the depth of life. If one can strike the flint in the child and get the spark from the flint and raise the imaginative concept that is really behind spirituality, that is an enormous enhancement.
What the first amendment does--I support the first amendment rather more keenly than the other ones--is to require the governors to report to the parents on these matters, so there will have to be debate and discussion. It cannot just be brushed aside casually with the words, "Well, we do that, don't we?". I very much support the first amendment and I hope that the Government will support it as well.
Baroness Blackstone: These amendments take a threefold approach to confirming the significance within the curriculum of pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, an annual statement by the governing body, the annual parents' meeting and the home-school agreement. Before I go further in discussing the amendments, I should like to say how grateful I am to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and to the right reverend Prelate for what they have said about the government amendments that come later to Clause 59.
Many of your Lordships have spoken in favour of at least some of these amendments so I fear that I shall disappoint many of those who have spoken in support of them, not I think because of any difference in principle about the value of what lies behind them or their intent but more because of a difference in terms of the approach that is entailed. They do add weight but also, if I may say so, quite a lot of significant detail to the existing statutory requirement. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, is right. The 1988 Act included clauses on this matter. More recently, Section 351 of the 1996 Act provides that the governing body and head of every school shall exercise their functions with a view to securing that the curriculum,
Perhaps it would be a little foolhardy for me to get into debating the meaning of all these terms, but I simply want to say that the Government attach great importance--when I say "great importance" I really mean "great importance"--to pupils' spiritual, moral,
Shortly after taking office the Government approved a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority pilot of the draft guidance that it had prepared on the whole school approach to spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. That guidance is now being piloted in 150 schools. The pilot is very important from the point of view of informing the national curriculum review which is being undertaken by the QCA; specifically, the focus that that review gives to preparation for adult life. The QCA's recently published advice on the scope of the review notes:
However, it concludes that it will not be possible to decide the best way forward until we have considered the recommendations of a range of advisory groups covering areas such as PSHE, if I may use the acronym, creative and cultural education, and sustainable development education, which I know is an interest of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has agreed this advice and the QCA will provide him with further recommendations in September. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that it will be rather easier for me to give a definitive government response to his first two questions then.
As part of its review, the QCA will also be developing a statement of the core values and aims which should underpin the school curriculum and identifying aims and priorities for each key stage. We would expect the spiritual, moral, social and cultural aspects of children's education to be reflected in that work. So this area is very firmly on the Government's agenda, with the possibility of more explicit statutory provision in due course. However, at this stage, the Government feel, given the work that is going on in this area, that it would be premature to put such amendments into law. Moreover, significant as this issue is, the approach taken in the amendments is rather prescriptive and detailed. They would put extra pressure on schools. I am sure many Members of the Committee would agree that we want to avoid the danger of threatening to overburden the vehicles which carry them.
Perhaps I may deal with each of the amendments in turn. With regard to Amendment No. 156, we do not want to be unduly prescriptive about the items for discussion at annual parents' meetings. That could possibly divert governing bodies from their main
I turn to Amendment No. 157. Similarly, we see no need for the governors to publish a curriculum statement akin to that which they are required to produce on sex education, but with much greater specificity as to content. Indeed, the Bill actually removes the existing requirement for the governors to produce a general statement on the secular curriculum because we judge that to be unnecessary.
I also have some sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and my noble friend Lord Desai had to say about targets in this amendment. If what is meant by "targets" is broadly expressed good intent, all well and good, but the normal use of that word in educational law and in all the guidance that is given to schools these days, is much more precise than that. It is about being able to measure a particular objective and set a goal for schools to achieve. Perhaps the disagreement here is simply a matter of definition.
I turn to Amendment No. 236. Clause 103 defines a home-school agreement as a statement specifying the school's aims and values and the responsibilities which the school intends to discharge in connection with the education of pupils who are of compulsory age. I believe that this definition covers the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. We have made it clear that home-school agreements should include expectations regarding the ethos of the school and we shall reinforce this in our guidance to schools. However, we do not want to be too prescriptive about the content. Schools and parents should be free to determine the detail of their agreements.
The Bill really requires that a home-school agreement should specify the school's aims and values and that the instrument of government for a school with a religious character should include a statement of the school's ethos. Governing bodies are already required to publish in the school's annual prospectus a statement on the ethos and values of the school which underpin the spiritual, moral, cultural and social development of the pupils through the curriculum and any other activities that the school may provide.
We are currently consulting on proposals to give governing bodies more freedom to determine the content of prospectuses that propose to retain the requirement for a statement on ethos and values. So parents who want to discuss the school's aims and values at the annual meeting can do so in the context of the prospectus, the instrument of government or the home-school agreement.
I know that what I have said may be disappointing to some of those who have participated in this debate, but in the light of what has been said I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that the Government are very
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|