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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: There have been some fascinating contributions. I start by saying that we are seeking to ensure that all children—I include mine—have the opportunity in their education to explore ideas to enable them to cope with the world that they will find themselves in as adults, a world infinitely more complicated and complex than at the time I became an adult.

There is a place for education that goes beyond the academic. I am talking about the opportunity for young people to think, inquire, debate and understand the importance of making decisions about their lives and some of the great issues that will affect them. I can only gaze into a crystal ball and imagine what those issues will be, but some of them, such as the more complicated world in which we live, science and technology issues, the changing pace of the world, and so on, are as important to all children as ensuring that they have the right level of academic ability and attainment at the end of their education.

I greet the arrival of citizenship in the secondary school curriculum with nothing short of delight. It is extremely important. If I may tease my noble friend Lord Peston, I wonder whether he would remind us when economics became a secondary school subject. If we go back far enough we will discover that it was not always such.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, opened up this extraordinarily interesting debate. I am sorry about the website, but I am not allowed to design one or to get anywhere near them—for good reasons, I can assure the noble Baroness.

My noble friend Lord Jones asked about impartial teaching. That is what all teachers do. We have a fantastic cadre of teachers in this country and I should not want anyone to believe that the teaching of this subject, or any other—history, science, or whatever—is done by anyone other than teachers who are willing to give children opportunities to learn. I hope that all noble Lords will join me in echoing those sentiments.

I recognise from the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Hylton and Lord Alton, the desire for the subject to permeate and come within the context of every subject. I do not disagree with that. It is important that our children are given every opportunity to debate, inquire, learn and understand all that we see as part of the curriculum and for them to see the link with their role in a wider society. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said about faith schools. I would not wish citizenship teaching to go the way of the British constitution, although there were occasional flashes of inspiration from certain teachers in my experience.

We need to look across to ensure that the curriculum is appropriate. The reasons why citizenship has been included will have been debated in your Lordships' House before and I do not want to dwell too much on how we arrived at this point. I shall say why we believe that the three strands are very important. First, due to

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the role that we play, I believe that all Members accept the importance of political literacy for all our children and young people. We must ensure that our children understand the role and importance of democracy in our society. They should also understand its underpinning as regards our future, as well as the role and nature of the political parties and democratic institutions that operate within its scope.

Community involvement is very important. "Volunteering" has always been described to me as the essential act of citizenship. Through volunteering, many noble Lords—and, indeed, many other people—acknowledge the fact that they learnt not only a huge amount about some of the social issues in this country but also about their own place and role within it.

Secondly, noble Lords have pointed out the difference between primary and secondary provision. It is in secondary provision that we are seeking to ensure that children receive such opportunities—the kind of opportunities where they can consider certain issues: for example, investigating crime and its consequences; looking at issues relating to imprisonment; and, indeed, understanding many social issues that are most important.

The third inter-related strand is social and moral responsibility. Social responsibility is very clear, and very key to the role that citizenship will play. I accept entirely what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, said about the value and importance of responsibility, as well as rights. We must give our children that sense of responsibility and ensure—as with the PSHE curriculum—that people understand that parenting carries with it huge responsibilities. We need to help people learn and develop that understanding.

We have made our commitment to citizenship clear within the framework that we have established. As I said, under the 14 to 19 Green Paper, we propose to retain it as a statutory requirement. In the light of my response, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Before I conclude, I should deal with the specific question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I have not, as yet, addressed. The clauses affected by earned autonomy are Clauses 77 to 85. In my reply to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, I talked about the programme for study being the area in which we would be looking to examine earned autonomy in more detail. I shall return to the matter at the next stage of the Bill to discuss it at length.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Northbourne: Before I withdraw my amendment, I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and other Members of the Committee, that the trouble with education debates of this kind is that too many noble Lords are teachers, or at least academics. Teaching is, therefore, perceived as standing at the front of a classroom of children with chalk in one's hand. I perceive this citizenship curriculum as being a led discussion where young people are led to think for themselves and encouraged to make intelligent choices, and, indeed, to assess risks. That concept cannot be examined, as was determined by our discussion.

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I shall read the Minister's response before I decide whether or not to return to the matter at the next stage—

Baroness Blatch: Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, I should point out to the Minister that my question was not about Clause 5, although there is a connection. My question is: what is the status of these clauses? If approved, would the provisions in these clauses be compulsory, irrespective of Clause 5? Can the Minister tell the Committee the status of the clauses that we are currently discussing?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I must apologise to the noble Baroness, but I do not think that I understand her question.

Lord Peston: Perhaps I may ask the same question in an effort to be helpful. I thought that foundation subjects were compulsory. Am I right in that assumption? I have never fully understood the position, because the national curriculum was introduced by the then government all those years ago. I thought that a foundation subject was something that you had to teach, and that you could not suddenly announce that you would not teach, for example—to take the obvious one—citizenship. You have just got to teach it. I really do not understand the position.

Baroness Blatch: The precise point is that both the core and the foundation subjects are subjects that must be taught. However, another part of the Bill allows earned autonomy or exemption from the national curriculum, as set out in these clauses. We were told earlier in our debates that these clauses were inviolable; in other words, that there could not be exemptions. I am simply asking about the status of these clauses.

Lord Northbourne: I believe that the noble Baroness has rather hijacked my amendment. It seems to me that she has raised quite a different point and one that might perfectly well be raised in a separate amendment. We are discussing whether or not citizenship is about social responsibility, and, if so, whether young people should be encouraged to understand such social responsibilities—

Lord Peston: I am sorry, but I am not convinced that the noble Baroness has hijacked the noble Lord's amendment. If you do not have to teach citizenship as a subject, but you do teach it as part of the rest of the curriculum—which was my view—it meets both the noble Lord's requirements, as just outlined, and my own. However, it is a different matter if you have to teach it as a subject. That is the question that we are asking.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: Perhaps I may refer to the Written Answer I received on citizenship education last month, which concluded by saying:

    "This allows schools flexibility in how they deliver the subject, for example, as a discrete subject or through other subjects".—[Official Report, 17/4/02; col. WA 160.]

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It seems to me that that meets the point raised by the noble Baroness. If it is allowed to be taught, there should be flexibility for teachers as regards how it is taught—either as a "discrete" subject of their choice, or, indeed, "through other subjects". However, I have no answer as to whether or not the subject is to be examined.

Baroness Blatch: I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, if he believes that I have hijacked his amendment. However, if the noble Lord's amendment is accepted, "social responsibility" would become a compulsory subject, whether applied in a free way or as a self-contained "discrete" subject. If it is included as a compulsory subject, I want to know where it stands in terms of the status of these clauses vis-à-vis exemption and/or earned autonomy.

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