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Lord Jones: My noble friend was very persuasive. I shall follow her on these amendments. It was good to hear her praise for the teachers of Wales in our primary schools. Only yesterday I spent the morning in the Welsh primary schools of Bronington and Hanmer, the "two church in Wales schools". The work in progress there was splendid. It was superb. The young children were having a wonderful start. They were being led by dedicated and superb professionals. It was clear that both schools were happy and successful.

But it is reasonable at Committee stage to pose a question. My simple and innocent question involves quoting my noble friend who said that for the first time there is a national curriculum for Wales. I take my thoughts some years on, say, to the end of the decade. I seek my noble friend's opinion. Now that we have the likelihood of curricula in Wales and England, will it still be as easy for teachers to move easily, as they do now, from England to Wales and from Wales to England? I do not know whether my noble friend has an opinion on that.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I cannot think of anything in this Bill which would in any way inhibit the ability of teachers wishing to leave the beautiful Principality of Wales to live in England. It is my experience that many people in schools in England have had the pleasure of being taught by teachers educated in Wales and who were Welsh. I hope that answers my noble friend's question.

I must make it absolutely clear that the national curriculum for Wales is already different from that of England and has been since it was instituted under the provisions of the Education Reform Act 1988. It is important to get that on the record.

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Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am most grateful in the first place to the noble Lord, Lord Jones, for his kind remarks about my extended tour of office.

Lord Jones: But we often disagreed quite violently at times.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I do not believe that the noble Lord need remind me of that. I am also very grateful—

Lord Jones: Perhaps I may also say that the day after I was catapulted from office, I noted that the noble Lord's salary had doubled!

6.30 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I had forgotten that. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. I shall be brief in my comments on it.

I certainly appreciate that the National Assembly has a lot of work to do on the foundation stage. I am reassured that key stage 1 will be preserved while that work continues. But there is some danger that there will be a delay in Wales. I do not want to see Wales lagging behind in its education reforms.

As regards the foreign language issue, I believe that the noble Baroness is right that it would be wise to have a pilot system working so that we can grasp what is required. Wales, with its Welsh language, is already familiar with teaching that language to non-Welsh speakers. Therefore, I believe that we start with a slight advantage in terms of learning yet a third language.

As regards the core subjects, I believe that the noble Baroness agrees with me that they are vital. I certainly cannot foresee a situation where any of them would be abandoned. Nevertheless, such a change is possible under this Bill. But on the assumption that the change will never be made, which is my best hope, I am quite happy to leave that particular subject.

As regards Amendment No. 287 and the position of the curriculum at key stage 4, I say to the noble Baroness that I believe that Clause 102 reads very badly at the moment if it is to be understood in the way that she described.

Clause 102(1) states:

    "For the fourth key stage, the National Curriculum for Wales shall comprise the core and other foundation subjects".

Subsection (2) spells out what the core subjects are. Subsection (3) states:

    "The following are the other foundation subjects".

The suggestion is that those "other foundation subjects" are the only subjects that can be taught under the clause, whereas we know that schools can make choices from the other foundation subjects and possibly also vocational courses. Perhaps the noble Baroness will take another look at the wording of the clause. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 100 agreed to.

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Clause 101 [Curriculum requirements for the first, second and third key stages]:

[Amendments Nos. 283 and 284 not moved.]

Clause 101 agreed to.

Clause 102 [Curriculum requirements for the fourth key stage]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 285:

    Page 66, line 41, after "fourth" insert "key"

The noble Baroness said: Perhaps I should place on record that I did not compliment those former Secretaries of State for Wales in your Lordships' House. Were I always to do that, it might add considerably to the length of the proceedings. We are blessed with many former Secretaries of State, none more important than those who have spoken.

In moving Amendment No. 285, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 286. They correct two minor and obvious drafting errors by adding the word "key" in the two references to the fourth key stage in the clause. I trust that the Committee will accept that these simple drafting errors should be corrected. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 286:

    Page 67, line 2, after "fourth" insert "key"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 287 and 288 not moved.]

Clause 102, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 103 [Power to alter or remove requirements for the fourth key stage]:

[Amendment No. 289 not moved.]

Clause 103 agreed to.

Clause 104 [Establishment of the National Curriculum for Wales by order]:

[Amendment No. 290 not moved.]

Clause 104 agreed to.

Clause 105 [Implementation of the National Curriculum for Wales in schools]:

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 291:

    Page 69, line 7, leave out "subsisting" and insert "it exists"

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 291, I shall speak also to Amendments No. 292 and 293. They are all drafting amendments. It sounds strange to my ear to hear of the national curriculum as "subsisting" at a particular time, when it exists. So far as I am aware, the national curriculum's subsistence does not have a particular meaning apart from existence. It does not have to be fed and watered in that sense of the word.

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With regard to Amendment No. 294, Clause 107 deals with development work and experimentation in schools. Subsection (1) is quite specific. It refers to a,

    "particular maintained school or maintained nursery school",

where the national curriculum may be disapplied to a greater or lesser extent by a direction from the Assembly. That is all well and good. However, in subsection (2) the power of direction becomes more general. It is unclear what it means. It could mean a general disapplication of the national curriculum with or without modifications throughout Wales or in a significant cluster of schools. We should not be prepared to give such a general power even in the name of development work and experiments because it runs contrary to the whole idea of having a national curriculum in the first place. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I confess that I was rather puzzled by Amendments Nos. 291 to 293, to which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, has spoken, in the sense that while I understood what they said, I was rather less than clear about what they hoped to achieve. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his clarification.

In everyday speech, the noble Lord is right. There is no significant difference between "subsist" and "exist". However, in a legal context "subsisting" has a different shade of meaning from "exists". "Existing" conveys the notion of physical existence whereas "subsisting" conveys the notion of legal requirements in force at a particular time. In short, the words "as subsisting" in this clause mean "as in force".

The idea of a national curriculum "subsisting" is not new. It is on the face of the Education Reform Act 1988 and of the Education Act 1996. It is an accepted and well-understood term. I was not aware, before the noble Lord moved his amendment, of any confusion about its meaning which would require the use of different words—whether "it exists" or some other construction.

The provisions of Clauses 105 and 106, to which these amendments relate, are plain enough. They place a duty on the local education authority, the governing body of a maintained school and its head teacher to exercise their respective functions so as to ensure that the national curriculum in place in Wales at the beginning of each school year is implemented.

My conclusion, therefore, is that the current wording expresses the proposition more clearly than the alternative suggested by the amendment. It has the merit of consistency with the wording of Clauses 84 and 85. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will accept that explanation.

I turn to Amendment No. 294. Clause 107 deals with the procedure for disapplying or modifying the national curriculum for Wales, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, recognised, to enable development work or for experiments to be carried out in particular maintained schools or particular maintained nursery schools. In Clause 86 there is an equivalent provision.

28 May 2002 : Column 1205

Both clauses simply enable the Welsh Assembly and the Secretary of State to make directions which may apply in general as well as specifically.

The intention of the amendment could be to prevent in Wales a "general" direction in the sense that it might apply to all schools or all schools of a particular type. In those circumstances, it would be a misconceived amendment because subsection (2), on which the amendment operates, is an elaboration of subsection (1). The use of the word "particular" in subsection (1) already precludes a direction being given by a reference to a type of description of school. In any case, that outcome could still be achieved simply by individually listing the schools to which the direction applies. Subsection (2) makes it clear that a direction given to specific named schools may be given in general terms—for example, disapplying or modifying the national curriculum as a whole—or in specific terms—for example, disapplying or modifying the national curriculum in relation to a particular subject or key stage.

The provisions of Clause 106 do not confer any new powers on the Welsh Assembly in respect of maintained schools. I think that that was the reassurance sought by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. Under the devolution settlement, they are available to the Assembly by virtue of Section 362 of the Education Act 1996. Clause 107 re-enacts Section 362 and extends the provision to maintained nursery schools.

The existing provisions have not been widely used in Wales. Indeed, I am not aware of a single occasion on which they have been used by either the former Welsh Office or the National Assembly. But it would be inappropriate to constrain the Assembly's ability to implement its vision of flexibility as set out in The Learning Country.

I hope that my reassurances that we are not extending the Assembly's powers in any way and that the provision is a re-enactment will reassure the noble Lord and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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