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Lord Jones: To marshal arguments against the teaching of citizenship and social responsibility would be very hard indeed. None of those words is overtly political. I have a brief question for my noble friend. How will the Government ensure that the teaching of citizenship, and, I hope, social responsibility, is impartial?
Lord Peston: I hope with ease. I am obviously very sympathetic to what the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, have said. My difficulty is that I am a traditionalist with regard to education. I want our young people to be good citizens. Clearly, we all believe that social responsibility should permeate everything that goes on in the school. Indeed, these are matters regarding the ethos of the school. But my difficulty isand this is a pass which I imagine that we have sold beforethat I simply do not see citizenship and social responsibility as subjects. I hate to emphasise this to Members of the Committee, but, as a conservative person, with a small "c", I think that children go to school to learn and that teachers work in schools to teach.
We should like those concepts to permeate what goes on in the schools. The Bill refers to "foundation subjects". The use of that language makes no sense to me, even though it is in the Bill. It refers to "foundation subjects". I repeat, citizenship and social responsibility do not seem to be subjects. So, I appreciate that the pass has been sold. The Government have bought all these ideas and so on, but someone has to utter a semi-academic traditionalist viewI should like schools to teach subjects so that young people leave knowing something about them, I hope in depth rather than superficially. Therefore, not only am I not sympathetic to extending the concept heremuch as I am totally in favour of that happening as part of the schoolbut, if I could find a way, I should like the citizenship part taken out as well.
Lord Dearing: I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for the way he enlivens our debates. I do not know what we would do without him. But his suggestion that citizenship is a subject without substance surprises me. Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, gave a lecture some years agoI cannot precisely recall whenin which he derived the roots of our civilisation from the Greeks as a political entity founded and expressed through law on the one hand, and from Hebrew culture, based on family and shared obligationswhat we might call social responsibilityon the other.
It matters in a societya western civilisation increasingly based on the individual that we should emphasise as a complement to that our relationship with society and how the quality of our civilisation matters to our individual well-being. It helps our children to get more out of life if they leave school with a better understanding of how our society works. If I have one regret about the amendment, it concerns its use of the word "and" rather than "including". In my view, any course of learning that does not comprehend social responsibility does not teach citizenship.
Lord Hylton: I should like to argue for the widest possible interpretation of the word "citizenship". It includes much more than just the democratic process, important as that is. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that the ethos of the school is important and that the total behaviour in a school and how it is run are vital. If that degrades, overall results will be poor. But I hope that the noble Lord, the Government and your Lordships generally would agree that how to make a moral choice, for example, can be taught as a methodology. Health and personal hygiene can be taught with a highly factual content. Those should lead first to self-respect and then to respect for others. If they were more emphasised, we might have rather less vandalism, anti-social behaviour, road rage and so on.
Baroness Blatch: First, I do not know what it will do for the reputation of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, but I must agree with an awful lot of what he said. I hope that that does not disturb his afternoon too much.
Secondly, my understanding of the amendment is that it would remove "history" and "in relation to the third key stage"; in other words, the insertion would apply to all key stages, 1, 2, 3 and 4. I wish to make two points.
I want to ask the Minister a question about the whole of Part 6, which concerns the national curriculum. In earlier debates, the noble Baroness told us that exceptions under Clause 5 would not freely allow exemption from these clauses. If we start to add up what is in these clauses and this part of the Bill, there is not much from which to be exempted. It would be helpful if by the end of this debate, we could be told where the freedom for exemption lies. If these clauses apply come what may, irrespective of Clause 5, it would be helpful to know where exactly is the freedom of movement for those schools that earn autonomy.
My other point is a plea on behalf of those teaching key stage 1. The national curriculum was introduced under the 1988 Act. When I was a Minister, schools were greatly concerned that there was too much cramming into the curriculumin particular, into key stage 1. So, as an exercise as a fairly junior Minister in the department, I asked my officials to put on my desk every day what literature went to schools for key stage 1. When the pile became taller than me, I had to admit that it would be impossible for any teacher who taught the same children in one classroom eight, nine or 10 subjects, sometimes for more than a whole year, to be fresh and to approach that curriculum in any effective
We appear to be turning the clock back. My concern about making citizenship a formal subject in the curriculumfor any key stage, but especially for earlier key stagesis that the moment it is part of the formal curriculum it will have formal parameters, schemes of work and central direction and people such as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who did such sterling work, will be beavering away writing prescriptive literature for teachers. Teachers have these great tomes in one hand while teaching the children on the other.
I absolutely agree that we want our children to be good citizens. Personal responsibility and understanding of democratic institutions permeates the best schools. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that the subject goes wider than that and includes understanding of global issues, which will occur in a small way at early key stages but in more depth later. That is taught through geography, history, English, drama, musicthrough so many subjects in the curriculumbut the moment that it is introduced as a subject in itself, we lay on teachers a burden that they will find unhelpful at the early key stages.
I do not know whether I represent the noble Lord, Lord Peston, well, but the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, accused the noble Lord, Lord Peston, of arguing that citizenship was a subject without substance. I do not think that that is what he was saying. Citizenship has great substance, but it really should permeate everything that children do and learn in schoolthe ethos of the school; the way that the school is layered; how teachers behave and interact with children; how teachers proactively involve parents in that process; and how the school relates to the local community. Some schools do that exceedingly well.
So on the one hand, I ask a straightforward technical question about the status of the clauses in the Bill, but on the other, my point is that we must remember that at the end of the day teachers must interpret what we say in rather stratospheric terms in the Chamber. If citizenship becomes a practical subject in the classroom, it will make teachers' lives difficult.
Baroness Walmsley: I should be very concerned if the amendments meant that history were removed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, fears. I do not see it that way, but no doubt the Minister will enlighten us.
I both agree and disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I disagree with him about citizenship. It is appropriate that it should be taught as a subject that can be examined and monitored. There are many issues to do with our rights and responsibilities as citizens that we should formally teach our children. However, I agree with him on the issue of social responsibility. Yes, it should permeate the ethos of the school, but I would go further. We can teach social responsibility in every single subject: socially responsible history, biology, drama, geography, every
Lord Alton of Liverpool: In speaking to Amendment No. 275, in the name of my noble friend, Lord Northbourne, perhaps I may draw the Committee's attention to my interest. I am a director of the Foundation for Citizenship at the Liverpool John Moores University.
I have much sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, but she made one statement that is not correct. Citizenship will not be examinable. However, I agree with what she said about it being a subject that should permeate the teaching of all subjects and that it should be part of the ethos of schools. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, was echoing sentiments expressed recently by Chris Woodhead in the Sunday Times when he cast some doubt on whether it should be a stand-alone subject. He may find himself in interesting company this afternoon for a variety of reasons.
Your Lordships will recall that the genesis of the debate began in 1990 when our noble friend Lord Weatherill, a former Speaker of the House of Commons, chaired a commission which looked at the issue of citizenship. The right honourable David Blunkett was a member of that commission and brought these issues to the table when he was Secretary of State for Education. I made representations at the time that it was not a good idea to make it a mandatory subject for the national curriculum as I had memories of the teaching of the British constitution and dry-as-dust physics. If the subject is in that sort of category, people will avoid it like the plague. The fact that it is not examinable will mean that it may be disregarded by some students as something in which they need not participate.
In any case, I have reservations about making subjects mandatory in an already overcrowded national curriculum. Only in this country would we turn community service, which is a perfectly good objective towards which people should be encouraged, into a punishment that is dispensed by the courts. I recently heard a Minister talking about the wonders of voluntary endeavour and the hope that it could be encouraged by making it compulsory. I thought that that rather missed the point. Volunteering is to be encouraged, but it should not be made compulsory. Citizenship is for everyone; it is not a spectator sport. We all have to participate in it.
I wonder whether it would be better for Ofsted inspectors to look at the ethos of the schools they visit to ensure that our responsibilities to form good citizens are met. My noble friend Lord Northbourne and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, referred to that issue and how it was being achieved.
My noble friends were right to emphasise the need to balance the classic language of rights and entitlement, about which we hear so much today, with the richer language to which the noble Lord, Lord Dearing,
Teachers complain that we are overloading the national curriculum and that we do not give them the necessary resources. They say that people have not been trained properly and that from September they will be responsible for something they do not feel competent to do. I hope that that will not bring the concept of citizenship into disrepute.
We have had extensive debates in Committee about faith schools and we have discussed issues such as quotas, admission systems, and so on. The worry about faith schools stems from the question of citizenship. Will those schools encourage a love of our civic or civil societythat no man's land somewhere between the state and government? Will they encourage a love of our democratic institutions, the upholding of the law and the commonly held values that we have in the secular part of the society in which we live? It is through citizenship and through its monitoring and teaching that we can reassure ourselves about the objectives of those schools. I, for one, would be very concerned if schools that are inspired by faith were not seeking to form good civic citizenspeople with a proper appreciation of issues such as social responsibility, to which my noble friend referred.
Before the Committee met last week, on Thursday morning I attended an event at Brentwood Cathedral where Catholic schools from the east end of London and Essex were taking part in their school citizenship awards. I have a copy of the brochure that was handed out. I was deeply impressed by the numbers of children involved. They came from many different racial backgrounds and were singled out for all the things that they had been doing as good citizens. They ranged from a young man who had been voted by his compatriots for standing up to school bullies through to a young woman who raised a substantial sum of money to help with an AIDS project in west Africa.
Good citizenship is going on anyway. It is best experienced rather than taught. We must be careful not to put the dead hand of the state on to the issue, which, like volunteerism or community service, would perhaps kill it.
I have a final point to make regarding primary schools. Curiously, it will be a mandatory subject in secondary schools where young people are already being put through the "Gradgrind" of highly pressured programmes on which they will be examined. It is yet another requirement on those young people, but it will not be mandatory in primary schools. Thematic teaching has been referred to. Looking at issues such as slavery, the holocaust or the Irish famine and relating it to contemporary issues can be done much more easily in primary schools. Perhaps that is the place in which to crack this nut rather than in secondary schools.
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