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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for providing some more helpful information on the record than was available in Committee. We shall still disagree on the fundamentals. She quite rightly told the House that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee did not agree with me on this occasion. However, on occasion I do not agree with the committee and still wish to press a matter. However, this is not one of those occasions. I agree with all that my noble friend Lord Carlisle of Bucklow said. We remain concerned about the lack of advance thinking on some of these schemes. However, like my noble friend Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, I recognise the importance and, I hope, the value of this particular scheme. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving this Motion, may I suggest that the Report stage begins again not before 8.36 p.m.

Moved, That further consideration on Report be now adjourned.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

Lord Ackner: My Lords, I wish to raise a point. Amendment No. 221 is still a long way down the Groupings List and it is the amendment which was moved at 7.15 p.m. on a previous occasion to make the penalty for murder no longer mandatory but discretionary. There was a plea that we—I was conjoined with the noble and learned Lord,

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Lord Lloyd of Berwick—should not press the amendment to a Division. That was at 7.15 p.m. on that occasion. I respectfully inquire whether it is proposed to reach the same amendment, Amendment No. 221, much later tonight. If so, I should tell the House that I shall not move it. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, has had to leave. I shall seek to table the amendment again at Third Reading. It was not proceeded with on the previous occasion following a plea to bring it back so that the House could reconsider this important matter. It is quite clear that there will not be many noble Lords to consider it at about 9.30 p.m. or 10 p.m. when we reach it.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am in the hands of your Lordships' House. Speaking on behalf of the Government there is nothing I can do to ensure that the amendment is dealt with any earlier. Looking at the clock and the number of groups of amendments before us, it is not a particularly considered view but my suspicion is that we may not reach Amendment No. 221. When we return from dinner there will only be one hour and 20 minutes before 10 o'clock. I am afraid that I can say no more that that.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: My Lords, will the Minister say that we shall not go further than the amendment before Amendment No. 221?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is not for me to say. It is very much a matter for the House and the way in which it conducts itself.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, before we move on, I inform the House that I shall not move Amendment No. 221. If it is not reached, I ask that I come back to it at Third Reading. That will stop people staying behind unnecessarily for it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Education (Amendment of the Curriculum Requirements for Fourth Key Stage) (England) Order 2003

7.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th October be approved [30th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move that the order be approved. The order is made under Section 86 of the Education Act 2002. It is designed to provide greater flexibility in the curriculum at key stage 4, so that schools can offer programmes that better meet young people's individual needs and strengths.

Our Green Paper, 14-19: extending opportunities, raising standards, set out why we need to change the 14 to 19 year-old phase of education and training in England. Too many young people continue to drop

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out at 16, and only three out of four 16 to 18 year-olds were in education and training in England at the end of 2000, well below European and OECD averages. If young people are to be motivated to continue in learning after the age of 16, they must be able to follow courses in key stage 4 that meet their aspirations and match their abilities. We have high expectations of young people, and in order for us to meet their and our expectations we need a curriculum that is more flexible and responsive to students' individual needs.

At the same time, we set out a clear rationale for the new requirements for 14 to 16 year-olds. Subjects should be mandatory at that stage only if they meet one of two overlapping criteria: they provide an essential basis for progression, or are essential for personal development. In our strategy document, we confirmed our intention to amend the statutory requirements at key stage 4 to enable schools to put our Green Paper proposals into effect. That is what the order now does. It amends Section 85 of the Education Act 2002 by substituting new provisions in respect of the requirements for the fourth key stage of the national curriculum for England.

The order removes design and technology and modern foreign languages from the compulsory foundation subjects, to enable schools to offer greater flexibility and choice to students. It also introduces a new category of entitlement areas. Those include design and technology and modern foreign languages, as well as the arts and humanities. Schools must ensure that they make courses in those areas available to any student who wishes to study them, including the opportunity for students to take a course in each of the four areas should they wish to do so.

The order specifies the entitlement subjects falling within each of the new entitlement areas. In relation to arts, those are art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts. In relation to design and technology, that means design and technology. In relation to humanities, they are geography and history. For modern foreign languages, that means a European Union language. To meet the entitlement, a course must give students the opportunity to obtain an approved qualification. That requirement emphasises the significance and substance of the new entitlement areas at key stage 4.

The order also introduces a requirement for work-related learning within the curriculum. Schools will determine the nature of their provision, but a non-statutory framework has been developed which sets out the minimum experience that schools should provide. The legislation requires the local education authority, the governing body and the head teacher to have regard to guidance issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority relating to the provision of entitlement subjects and work-related learning. It also removes the requirement to specify attainment targets and assessment arrangements in relation to each of the core and other foundation subjects at that stage.

That explains the main functions of the order, which is to come into effect in schools in the academic year beginning in September 2004. Let me add that the

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QCA consulted a wide range of stakeholders on the details of the key stage 4 proposals and their implementation. Overall, the proposals received a positive response. We have taken steps to prepare schools for the changes, to ensure that they are supported in their implementation. Essentially the changes are enabling. They allow schools greater flexibility to meet the individual needs of their students and to keep young people at the centre of their curriculum development. Therefore, I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th October be approved [30th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for explaining the order. In the Government's own words—she repeated them tonight—the percentage of our 16 year-olds leaving school is disappointing. As has been said, between 25 and 30 per cent of our 16 to 18 year-olds were not involved in education and training at the end of 2000. That record compares very poorly with other EU and OECD countries. It is therefore essential to get education for 14 to 16 year-olds right, and to stop that awful waste of talent.

Flexibility for students, especially after the ages of 13 and 14, is good when it allows a student to exploit their aptitudes and talents by making appropriate choices. However, one must have an eye to balance, and on how in practice flexibility will work. For example, the very real practical issue is that it could create havoc in schools, which face the challenge of staffing, resourcing and timetabling very uncertain class sizes. When choice of such magnitude is introduced, it is not easy for teachers to know whether they will have a class at all in some subjects.

The order and the wider strategy of which it is part are not the right way to introduce flexibility. It reveals the most extraordinary priority when one considers that they are the end of a very long process in the department since the Act was passed.

I shall turn specifically to the order. We are told that targets and assessment arrangements will disappear for the courses. My understanding is that all the courses are defined as leading to a qualification. Does that mean that there will be no assessment arrangements, or that the assessment arrangements will not be prescribed? Does it mean that the department's targets will be abolished, which most of us would welcome? Nothing in the order specifies that targets and assessment arrangements are removed. Do I assume that the result of the substitution means that Section 85 of the Education Act 2002 falls? If not, nothing in the order abolishes targets and/or assessment arrangements.

I want to comment on some of the compulsory subjects. Of course it is welcome and absolutely right that maths, English and science should remain core subjects. I shall not comment on information and communication technology, physical education and, outside all that but compulsory nevertheless, religious

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education, but why is citizenship compulsory for every child in all our schools? For many of our schools, citizenship is implicit in the way they run the schools and the way they teach the subjects. It does not necessarily have to be a subject on its own. Why is it more important than, for example, studying a humanity, whether geography or history? A child could grow up studying citizenship from no choice at all of their own—they would be compelled to study it.

The next compulsory subject that I have a question about is work-related learning. Everyone welcomes work-related learning. It was pioneered many years ago and takes many forms in some schools. It can be anything from time out of school to visit local companies and factory places, to having really good and concrete vocational courses in school. A definition of a work-related learning place would be helpful. Why should the subject not also be from choice? Why should someone who is entirely given to an academic curriculum have to be forced to give time up in their curriculum for work-related learning? It seems an extraordinary choice to make that a compulsory subject.

My next point is on an absurd matter. The order mentions any pupil who "so elects", so a pupil who does not elect to study an art, design and technology, humanity or modern foreign language can opt to do nothing. They can do the compulsory elements of the national curriculum and other foundation subjects, but they do not have to choose any. They can elect not to choose a subject from sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d) in paragraph (6).

Secondly, why are the pupils restricted to one choice from each of the sectors? If it is possible for them to choose no subjects from any of the sectors, why can they not choose two from one sector and not be restricted, as they are in paragraph (5)(b)? That sub-paragraph states:

    "in relation to any pupil who so elects, one subject from each of such one or more of the four entitlement areas"—

that is, only one subject from art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts. Design and technology is a single subject in one area of entitlement. They cannot study geography and history; they must choose geography or history because one subject must be taken from each area. Then they must choose one modern foreign language. That seems extraordinary.

It may have been better, and would have made more sense, to list all the subjects from sub-paragraphs (a) to (d), including all the different options for modern languages, and to have left young people to choose one or more of the following subjects. There is no requirement that they must study humanities, arts, modern foreign languages or design and technology. Therefore, the order seems to place an incredibly incomprehensible restriction on what is meant to be the area of flexibility in the curriculum.

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Paragraph (8) states:

    "A pupil in the fourth key stage shall, if he so elects"—

if he elects not to do so, it does not matter—

    "be entitled to follow a course of study in a subject within each of the four entitlement areas".

However, it also states that,

    "this entitlement is satisfied where one subject within each of those entitlement areas is made available to him by or on behalf of the school at which he is a registered pupil".

That means that the teacher makes the choice. The order does not say, "subject to the choice of the child not being met". That means that if a choice is made available to the child and he does not accept it, the school will have honoured its entitlement liability. It will have offered the child an entitlement, although the child may not take that choice. That seems extraordinary.

The order may not state this but it is my view that if some children, for one reason or another, are unable to make a choice and do not receive the kind of help at home that would help them to make that choice and the schools want to offer a guided choice, that is one thing; but it is another to say that if a school teacher makes the subject available to the child, the school is then deemed to have met its obligation under the law. That is what the order states. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, is looking puzzled, but I repeat that the order states,

    "this entitlement is satisfied where one subject within each of those entitlement areas is made available to him by or on behalf of the school at which he is a registered pupil".

Paragraph (9) states that a school,

    "shall have regard to any guidance relating to work-related learning or the entitlement areas",

which will come from the QCA. I wonder whether we need the interference of the QCA. Cannot schools now be trusted to get on with this matter? It seems to me that this is an unnecessary piece of direction that will come from the QCA because the order states that schools must have regard to it. I believe that that is one area where the Government could have given some power back to schools. That would be very welcome to many professionals in our schools.

My next point concerns the definition of "work-related learning" as it appears in the order. There is not one mention of the words "vocation", "skills course" or "practical activity". However, the order states that,

    "'work-related learning' means planned activity"—

not a course in vocational education or in basic plumbing, electrics or bricklaying—

    "designed to use the context of work to develop knowledge, skills and understanding useful in work, including learning through the experience of work, learning about work and working practices and learning the skills for work".

It would have been lovely if some plain English had been included there to give an idea of whether that means courses in plumbing, bricklaying or other work-related practical courses planned for in schools.

That leads me to a point raised by the longer explanatory note given to me by the Government Whips Office. The information relating to the cost-assessment of this order is that some slight costs arise

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in the production of new guidance and the Government will meet those costs. I am sure that that will be welcome to schools. However, the note then goes on to say:

    "No new costs to the public have been identified".

That means that if there are to be more vocational options, those will incur costs and schools will be on their own. They will have to provide for those because the Government have said that there are no new costs and therefore they will not provide funding. It would be helpful to know whether, where schools do not currently provide very practical courses for 13, 14 and 15 year-olds, those courses will be available.

My final point relating to curriculum subjects concerns languages. In this respect, the order seems extraordinary. Alongside the curriculum subjects it would have been very good to introduce languages at the ages of six and seven so that children studied languages up to the age of 13. After that, the likelihood of a considerable number of them opting to study languages post-14 would have been greater. However, if children start to learn a language at the age of 11, there is no obligation whatever to continue with that beyond the age of 14. I fear for the future of languages. I fear also for the subjects of history and geography in the curriculum.

I agree with Damian Green, my honourable friend in another place, who said:

    "The down-grading of language teaching is a backward step. Is this really the part of the curriculum that is least useful? At a time when the Government is cramming citizenship lessons into an already overcrowded curriculum, dropping languages is an act of educational vandalism. It sends a signal to the rest of the world that Britain intends to be more aloof than ever before".

European ambassadors claim that UK-based businesses are losing one in 10 contracts as a result of a lack of languages. In Germany, it is compulsory to learn English from the age of seven, a second language at the age of 12 and a third at the age of 14. Yet, as I said, we are making it an option not to study a language as well as an option to do so.

If the order is a culmination of all the discussions that have taken place in the department, I find it singularly unimpressive.

8 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for explaining the order to us. As she said, it implements the 14-to-19 proposals set out in the Green Paper. In that, we support the Government in many of their proposals. We also recognise that, in some senses, the current proposals rest on those that will be put forward by Tomlinson when he reports on the whole question of A-levels and the alternative to A-levels, which will have repercussions on the key stage 4 curriculum.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, I have a number of detailed questions for the Minister about the order. Many of them echo ones that have already been raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. My first point concerns the whole question of dropping modern foreign languages as part of the core

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curriculum. When we have discussed that matter in the past—it has been discussed at considerable length in this House on a number of occasions—the trade-off has always been that we shall see the introduction of a modern foreign language at the age of six or seven within the primary school curriculum. It would be useful if the Minister could tell us how those proposals are proceeding.

If we succeed in ceding modern foreign languages at that stage, then the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is right that we shall not see many children enthused with learning languages and continuing to study them. That is desperately important. In a sense, at present it is sending out all the wrong messages to say that we can drop modern foreign languages at key stage 4. We should be placing more emphasis on them rather than the reverse. I believe that, without the complementary emphasis in primary schools and the development of that curriculum, the wrong message is being sent out.

Secondly, I also have questions about the whole issue of work-related learning. I had not realised or appreciated that that was to be a compulsory part of the key stage 4 curriculum for all pupils. I thought that it was to be a selective issue. I do not object to it being compulsory, but I question what it will mean. Perhaps the Minister will explain the definition, given that "work-related learning" is in the text of the order. I gather that the order applies to all pupils. Is there to be an equivalent amount of time for all pupils or will the time that they spend on work-related learning vary from pupil to pupil? Will it apply to work experience only? Clearly, for some pupils they will learn the skills and technical knowledge associated with work, but for other pupils that will not be so. It may be just work-related learning. Will the Minister explain a little more of the thinking behind the concept of work-related learning? It is a broad concept as defined in the text of the order. Will it mean different things to different pupils?

Am I right in interpreting the wording,

    "one subject from each of such one or more of the four entitlement areas",

as one subject from one or more of the entitlement areas? If so, does the "one subject" mean just a minimum entitlement to one subject that schools have to provide and that there is nothing to stop students from studying, for example, in the area of arts, both art and design and music and drama, if they want to do so? Can the Minister say why the order states,

    "design and technology (comprising only that subject)",

when we may have within design and technology such matters as textile technologies? Will it be broken down into different areas? There may be manufacturing technologies and textile technologies.

It seems to be very unsatisfactory to have one area where many different subjects are identified but another area that is limited to one subject only. Can the Minister say what is meant by "media arts"? That is a very broad term so what precisely is meant by it? Can the Minister tell us the implications for teacher training targets of the inclusion of such subjects as dance and media arts in the list of the arts subjects,

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when neither is a recognised subject for teacher training? If we are to offer this curriculum, will people be available to teach those subjects? Has any labour market research been undertaken to see whether people are available to teach them?

At present, subjects such as psychology, law, economics and sociology are offered within key stage 4 and yet they do not appear in any of the entitlements within the regulations. What will happen to them? Are they now being cut out of the curriculum?

What about religious education? As we understand it, at the moment it is part of the compulsory element within the curriculum, but it is not mentioned as such. We recognise that it has been written into various education Acts over the course of time and that it is part of the basic curriculum, but if that is so, why is it not included as part of the national curriculum? Surely it is unsatisfactory that it is not mentioned anywhere in this order.

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