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Lord Jones: In his last remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, with some resignation and, I believe, some regret, quite fairly said that perhaps there were too many teachers participating in this debate. If I misrepresent what he said, I apologise. However, if the noble Lord were to visit the Tate Britain gallery tomorrow, he would see there a portrait by Allan Ramsey, a noted rational man, who painted the House of Hanover—namely, Queen Charlotte and several young Hanoverians. At the corner of this very large painting there is a very learned treatise, entitled, Some Thoughts concerning Education 1693, by John Locke. Perhaps such thoughts would enhance this debate.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I shall try to address the issue properly. For noble Lords who are unfamiliar with the position, the national curriculum consists of the core and the foundation subjects. The core subjects are maths, English and science; and the foundation subjects include design technology, modern foreign languages, ICT, geography, history, and so on. I believe it necessary to place that on the record. I do not know whether the noble Baroness had the same problem, but when I became a Minister it took me some time to work out the difference between the core, the foundation, and the basic subjects.

I apologise for not recognising the nature of the noble Baroness's question. We have said that earned autonomy—Clause 5—means that schools are exempted from the provisions of Clauses 77 to 85. However, I have made it clear that we are not talking about exemptions from curriculum subjects; we are talking only about changes in the programmes of study. Therefore, although the subjects will be compulsory, the programmes of study will be varied under the regulations that we propose to make under Clause 6. I hope that that clarifies the position, and that we can move on to consider further amendments.

Lord Northbourne: I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

28 May 2002 : Column 1173

[Amendment No. 276 not moved.]

Clause 80 agreed to.

Clause 81 [Curriculum requirements for fourth key stage]:

[Amendment No. 277 not moved.]

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 278:

    Page 54, line 36, at end insert—

"(f) at least one of the following—
(i) history,
(ii) geography, and
(g) at least one of the following—
(i) art and design,
(ii) music."

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 279, 288 and 289, all of which were initially to be included in an earlier group of amendments that was not moved. The purpose of these amendments is to ensure curricular breadth and balance at key stage 4, the first two for England and the second two for Wales.

Clause 81 lists the compulsory core subjects of the national curriculum but does not include any of the humanities such as geography and history nor the creative arts, despite the fact that these are popular and valued subjects. There is evidence that geography graduates are among the most employable of new graduates. However, the Green Paper assured us that,

    "we are determined to preserve access to a broad and balanced curriculum for all".

In view of the Government's declared intention it is surprising that those subjects have been left out. Amendment No. 278 seeks to reintroduce them.

Amendment No. 279 is crucial. It seeks to ensure that whatever flexibility is introduced in key stage 4, young people will be guaranteed a broad and balanced curriculum. While my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford has advocated that schools should have flexibility on 20 per cent of the curriculum, the reference to a "broadly based curriculum" is important to ensure that students are well prepared for life in the 21st century. For example, making a modern foreign language optional could be seen as a retrograde step given the UK's membership of the European Union, with all its diversity, particularly in the light of the ever-increasing educational and job opportunities in member countries.

Last week the TES reported that some schools are jumping the gun and making modern foreign languages optional. The different pathways that are to be on offer to young people could start them off in what turns out to be the wrong direction. We seek reassurance that students will be able to move easily between the academic, vocational and occupational pathways. The Green Paper did not specify how that would be achieved. Will the Minister put some meat on the bones?

28 May 2002 : Column 1174

Research shows that students from certain minority ethnic groups and socially disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately represented in vocational and occupational courses. It is vital that they have the opportunity to move easily if the chosen path turns out not to be the best route for them as they develop. Many young people still do not have a clear idea where they want to go by 14, and employment trends are currently shifting rapidly. That makes the Government's pathways less important than a good broad core curriculum, giving young people the basic skills, understanding and knowledge to benefit from other courses later and to respond to changes in the workplace.

There is evidence of continuing gender bias in the vocational courses, which could be detrimental to girls' career choices. We also need to ensure that children with special educational needs are not unintentionally all encouraged into the same sort of courses. I can envisage nightmares ahead for whomever is responsible for timetabling in secondary schools—usually one of the poor, benighted deputy heads—and also for staffing, professional development and funding issues in relation to creating these pathways, with sufficient opportunity for switching. All those considerations make the core curriculum vitally important. All students, including those with special needs, should receive the same opportunities.

Amendments Nos. 288 and 289 seek similar provisions for Wales. It is of concern that Clause 102, which separates the national curriculum subjects at key stage 4 for students in Wales, has even fewer foundation subjects than the list for England. That is despite the declaration by Jane Davidson, the Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning in the National Assembly for Wales, that she has consulted widely with stakeholders and will,

    "develop the best practice already in place and identify innovative ideas for widening development".

None of the subjects set out in our amendments is mentioned on the face of the Bill. Are students in Wales not entitled to study information and communications technology, for example? What about citizenship? Amendment No. 289 seeks to ensure that whatever flexibility is introduced, the entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum remains. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Lucas: I apologise to the Committee for the inconvenience caused by my not being here to move the first amendment in what should have been this group. I got myself in a mess.

I support a number of the noble Baroness's points. The core foundation curriculum is a deficient set of subjects. It contains almost nothing about people. We spend most of our lives with people. Understanding them is one of the most important things we can do. Understanding how to work with people and what motivates them has long been one of the notable deficiencies in British management. If we are looking for subjects we should be teaching, it comes down to the likes of history and geography.

28 May 2002 : Column 1175

Art and drama enlighten people and increase their appreciation of what they can do and of working with others. They are important parts of basic education, but we are leaving them behind in favour of the driest subjects. At the foundation of the core level are mathematics, English and science. We all use English every day. The better we speak it and the more we know about it, the better. It is a vital tool. But maths and science?

One of the many achievements of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was to bring back mental arithmetic. We use that kind of arithmetic every day, but do we have to calculate angles and triangles and bearings? Do we have to deal with quadratic and simultaneous equations in everyday life? I am a science graduate, and I have used mathematics in science, but not in ordinary life. I understand why those are useful tools for academics and economics professors. They are useful too for those aiming for the new baccalaureate. I do not know why the Government have to invent a new baccalaureate rather than use the IB, which was invented in England, but that is a side issue.

I understand why it is important to build a broad base for someone going on to university and higher things, and that mathematics and science are a necessary element, but to elevate their knowledge above that of people seems profoundly wrongheaded. That attitude, which has been with us for a long time, results in people who are a little disenchanted with school growing extremely disenchanted and finding academic learning difficult.

My son has just been through key stage 3 science, so I have been taking him through it. By and large, it is "Trivial Pursuit". I enjoy facts, and knowing what an architrave is, but they are not the foundation of learning and appreciation of the world. Does any Member of the Committee suffer from not knowing the difference between a pistil and a stamen? It is nice to know, but it does not alter the way one relates to life and to other people. Is it important to know the reactive order of metals, the periodic table, or how rocks weather? Is it important to understand what particles are and how they interact?

Science is fascinating stuff; I learnt and enjoyed it, and I still enjoy going through it. But it should not be a foundation or core subject. Core subjects should be those necessary to enrich our lives as foundations for whatever we choose to do. I place history and geography top among those. Historians have shot themselves in the foot by turning history from a fascinating subject into a scientific investigation, but at the root of history are the most wonderful stories; the reasons why we are a country.

Those are the reasons why my noble friend Lady Blatch and the noble Lord, Lord Peston, would like citizenship taught, and so they should be, but they are also a great route to understanding people: what motivates them, how they work and what we as people are about; the possibility of greatness, self-sacrifice and courage. They are all best learnt through history and the stories of others.

28 May 2002 : Column 1176

It is important that we gain an appreciation of the world. We are one planet and in almost every aspect of our lives we interact with people a great distance away. When I buy beans from Sainsbury's, I buy those from Kenya, Zimbabwe or some such place. To be ignorant of how the world works and of how people, economies and structures work and interact would be terrible. The decisions which we as citizens of this country are asked to take when we have the chance to vote in general elections, when we have the opportunity to express ourselves in newspapers and in support we give to political parties have an effect on the way in which the world works. Not to understand that is to leave us deficient as citizens of the world.

How we can believe that learning that is less important than learning the order of the reactivity of metals or the structure of a flower leaves me completely flabbergasted. I believe that we have got our order of priorities completely wrong and I therefore hope that the amendment will be accepted. It will be a step back in the right direction and will introduce the study of man into our basic education and ensure that it stays there.

I do not suppose that the noble Baroness will press the amendment to a vote at this stage, but I hope that we will have a chance to vote on it at a later stage. I shall certainly support her.

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