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Lord Roberts of Conwy: Before the noble Baroness sits down, I draw her attention in particular to Amendment No. 289 which relates to Clause 102 and the curriculum requirements for the fourth key stage in Wales. I draw her attention in particular to subsection (3) of that clause where it is clearly stated:

(a) physical education, and
(b) Welsh, if the school is not a Welsh-speaking school". It seems to me that that subsection makes those particular subjects exclusively the foundation subjects in Wales. I do not know whether the noble Baroness will be able to answer me now, but I am happy to tell her that there is a later amendment which we shall discuss shortly where the same problem arises.

Baroness Blatch: I also ask the noble Baroness for clarification. My understanding was that the noble Baroness said that the foundation subjects which are set out in the clause constitute an obligation as regards a school teaching them but not as regards children studying them. My understanding is that if they are listed in this clause they are subjects that young people have to study at that key stage.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The Bill does not change the current position; the noble Baroness is absolutely right about that. However, with regard to our deliberations on key stage 4, the clause provides an opportunity to make changes, should we so wish, under the affirmative resolution procedure. Members

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of the Committee have discussed the existing consultation process as regards the role of modern foreign languages and design and technology. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, that I shall respond to his points later when we discuss the relevant amendment. I hope that that is satisfactory.

Baroness Blatch: I am sorry but that response does not clarify the position. The noble Baroness argued that there was an obligation to make certain subjects available, but not an obligation necessarily for each pupil to study those subjects.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I referred to changes that may be made under key stage 4 by the affirmative resolution procedure. What we described in our Green Paper constituted an entitlement. That is a different situation from that which is currently in place.

Baroness Walmsley: I welcome the Minister's comments on the lack of hierarchy among the proposed pathways and also her reassurances on the Government's attitude towards a broad and balanced curriculum. One of the many reasons I wish that I were younger is that I wish that I had been educated under the national curriculum. I believe that I would have followed a much broader and more balanced curriculum. I specialised in the sciences at far too young an age. I missed out on the humanities. That is one of the reasons that I think it is so important that one of the humanities subjects—I emphasise this to the noble Lord, Lord Peston—and one of the creative arts subjects should be included in the national curriculum. However, we shall undoubtedly return to the matter on Report. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Brightman moved Amendment No. 278A:

    Page 54, line 36, at end insert ", and

(f) geography"

The noble and learned Lord said: I shall be as brief as I can. The purpose of Amendment No. 278A is that a school should have to offer geography as an optional foundation subject up to school leaving age instead of stopping two years earlier as at present, and under the Bill. I do not seek to make geography a core foundation subject and therefore compulsory in the final stage.

In approaching the amendment, the questions which need to be answered are, what is meant by geography and what is its importance in the national curriculum? Geography is not, of course, just a matter of knowing the countries of the world, where they are and what are their towns, rivers and mountains. The science of geography is far wider than that.

The dictionary definition of geography, which I take from The Concise Oxford Dictionary, is the following. Geography means,

    "The science of the earth's surface, form, physical features, natural and political divisions, climate, productions, populations, etc".

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The importance of geography and the reason why it should not be lightly dismissed from the national curriculum before school leaving age lies in the fact that so many of the problems which beset us today fall within the scope of that definition. We need people with a knowledge of geography to help us to understand and to cope with those problems. We shall not have those people if we remove their interest at too early an age. The sort of problems which I have in mind, all of which fall within the scope of the dictionary definition of geography, are the following. I give a few examples not in any particular order: climate change; retreating ice caps and glaciers and the effect on ocean levels; environmental degradation; racial conflicts; economic migration; coastal erosion; destructive dams, disappearing rain forests; landfill sites and the safe disposal of nuclear waste. The science of geography encompasses or touches on all those problems.

If we do not encourage the study of geography at school and if we dismiss it too early from the national curriculum, we shall end up with fewer trained geographers. If we have fewer trained geographers, we shall be less well equipped to deal with the problems that I have outlined. I should therefore like to see geography not only in the first, second and third key stages of the national curriculum but also in the fourth key stage, but not, as I said, as a core foundation subject.

I have a duty to declare an interest. I have the privilege of being an honorary fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, which was founded by Royal Charter many years ago.

An event has recently occurred which I believe indicates the importance that the Government attach to geography. Last year, the Privy Council approved the introduction of the status of "chartered geographer", which could be awarded to geographers with the requisite academic and field experience. I was told that that approval was granted by the Privy Council only after consultation with the relevant government departments. In my submission, that event gives some indication of the importance that those in government attach to geography.

I obviously do not intend to divide the House on the amendment. However, I should be immensely grateful if the Minister would allow me to meet her and discuss in a little more depth the possibility of retaining geography in the national curriculum until school leaving age instead of two years earlier than that.

I want to add a few words on a matter that puzzles me. Neither I nor the legal department of the Library have been able to find a statutory definition of "core foundation subject" or "non-core foundation subject". My understanding is that core foundation subjects have to be offered, taught and taken by students in a school and that non-core foundation subjects have to be on offer if there is a demand for them but that they are not compulsory subjects. I beg to move.

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5.30 p.m.

Earl Jellicoe: I must admit that history has for a long time been my favourite subject. However, this afternoon, I speak for geography. I must declare an interest as a former president of the Royal Geographical Society, with which I maintain a keen interest these days. I only regret that two other former presidents of the Royal Geographical Society are not able to be present this evening—the noble Lord, Lord Chorley and the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. They would have spoken with far more authority than this elderly gentleman!

However, we had a powerful, balanced and extremely well-informed speech from one of the society's most distinguished fellows: the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. The noble and learned Lord—perhaps I should refer to him as the noble and learned fellow—made a powerful case for geography as a foundation subject. It is a popular subject and most geography students find that employment is pretty easy to secure following graduation because of their attainments. Like history, it is a civilising subject in the curriculum. Moreover, it has great relevance to many of the problems and challenges that we face in our present-day world.

I very much hope that we can return to this subject at the Bill's next stage. I strongly support what the noble and learned Lord said. If geography is to be retained as a foundation subject at the 14 to 16 year-old level, there is a case for ranking it as an alternative to history. I do not know what the rights and wrongs would be in that regard. That possibility was raised in relation to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I shall be extremely brief. I have no qualifications to speak about geography but by chance and coincidence I was educated at the same school as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, who moved the amendment. At the age of 13, I was confronted in a geography paper by the question, "Is the Thames deep because it is slow or slow because it is deep?". Fortunately, the questions were optional and I did not essay that question. However, 35 years later, I discovered that I knew well the person who had set it, and I asked him what the answer was. He said, "I haven't the faintest idea. I just wanted to see what you would say". Apart from the benefit to which the noble Lord, Lord Peston, alluded—that of bringing logic into the process—any subject that sets questions in that manner is likely to excite the young.

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